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Islington Council has announced that it has partnered with gigabit service providers Hyperoptic and Community Fibre to become one of the best-connected boroughs in London, and indeed across the UK.
Islington Council describes itself as a small, densely populated, inner London borough with a growing, diverse and relatively young population – and a borough of stark contrasts. There are high levels of deprivation, with associated long-term benefit dependency, worklessness, high levels of chronic ill health and premature mortality. The borough also contains small areas of great wealth.
The council’s stated mission is to provide connectivity to level up this disparity. “Fast, reliable internet is essential in our increasingly digital world and better broadband for council homes is an important part of our work to make Islington a more equal borough,” said Una O’Halloran, executive member for homes and communities at Islington Council.
“We are bringing the benefit of superfast broadband to people living on our estates and in our council homes. We are also pleased that this partnership with Hyperoptic will create apprenticeships and job opportunities in the borough.”
Hyperoptic says connecting social housing properties to its full-fibre broadband network has been a strategic priority since the firm’s inception, supporting its mission of alleviating digital poverty. Data from the UK Office for National Statistics has revealed that 11 million people in the UK are digitally excluded and of those, about one-third are living in social housing.
In a recent survey commissioned by Hyperoptic to 254 decision-makers at social housing organisations, the most common challenge to addressing digital poverty was a “lack of infrastructure” (46%). The research uncovered the top three negative impacts of digital poverty on a person’s life as the ability to access education (50%), to claim benefits (50%) and to access employment opportunities (45%). Other impacts noted were the ability to access health and wellbeing support (44%), affordable energy bills (42%), affordable food (34%), and the ability to connect with the local community, family and friends (40%).
Under its contract with Islington, Hyperoptic will connect 90% of the council’s housing portfolio, which includes more than 30,000 residential homes, with more than 90% of the borough’s homes and businesses set to receive a full-fibre broadband connection within the next three years. The Clerkenwell area will receive access to Hyperoptic’s gigabit network within the next three months, with the rest of Islington connected on a three-year delivery programme, completing in August 2025.
Hyperoptic will also connect more than 50 community hubs across Islington, ensuring that members of the community have access to a convenient and free broadband connection. As part of the partnership, Hyperoptic is supporting Islington Council’s “100 hours of work” scheme, working with the council to drive employment opportunities across the borough.
Hyperoptic will work with the council to offer its Affordable Product Scheme, committing to fund free connections for 12 months for 10% of the borough’s homes. “This partnership will make a huge difference to people living and working in Islington,” said Hyperoptic CEO Dana Tobak. “We are working with Islington Council to ensure that the right broadband plan is available for all of its residents. Many will now be able to choose gigabit speeds at unbeatable prices, or take advantage of our social tariffs, and some will benefit from free broadband for a year through our Affordable Product Scheme.”
For its part, the Community Fibre network build will be part of a custom-built installation that will provide thousands of residents, businesses and communities with full-fibre broadband. Community Fibre builds, operates and owns its dedicated 100% full-fibre network and does not rely on BT Openreach’s or any other provider’s cables to deliver fast and reliable 100% full-fibre broadband directly into individual properties.
Planning surveys have already begun in the area of St Mary’s and over the next three years, Community Fibre will roll out its fibre broadband in partnership with Islington Council to deliver its network to 36,000 properties across the borough. Community Fibre’s team of Digital Ambassadors are on hand to provide local, digital skills training workshops.
To provide support and education to those who require new digital skills, Community Fibre trains members of the community to become qualified Digital Ambassadors, to digitally empower people within the community. Skills taught at local sessions can range from the basics of how to use email and social media, to website building and helping residents stay connected.
“At Community Fibre, we believe that everyone should have access to the best internet to ensure growth and greater opportunities for all,” said Community Fibre CEO Graeme Oxby. “Closing the digital divide is our priority. Therefore, we are focused on accelerating our full-fibre roll-out to facilitate better internet for everyone supported by our Community Investments and Digital Ambassadors programme. We are pleased to be working with Islington Council.”