Engineering a solution to help bridge Dorset’s digital divide

Pictured from left, Cllr Jill Haynes, portfolio holder for Corporate Development and Transformation, and Rachel Howarth and Catriona Fountain from the council’s Digital Place team

DORSET Council has been awarded £20,000 towards developing a pilot training programme for fibre engineers and help boost broadband provision in the county. 

Nationally, 63% of premises now have gigabit capable broadband whereas in Dorset the figure is just 15%.

One of the factors affecting this is a lack of fully trained fibre engineers. It is estimated in Dorset the county needs around 300 engineers to fulfil the government’s full-fibre roll out ambitions. 

The council is looking to develop a pilot fibre engineer training programme and has been awarded funding from the Local Government Association Digital Pathfinders to help get things off the ground. 

A consortium of stakeholders from the private, public, and voluntary sector will come together to develop the plans and attract further investment. 

Cllr Jill Haynes, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for Corporate Development and Transformation, said: “In Dorset 97% of premises now have access to superfast broadband but the future is gigabit-capable, and for that we are far behind the rest of the country. 

“A huge factor affecting this is the national shortage of fibre engineers and in Dorset we want to take matters into our own hands and train people locally to fulfil these essential roles. 

“Having enough fibre engineers in Dorset, will help broadband suppliers access the expertise needed and roll out full fibre to more of our premises in the county.”

The government has set out ambitions to roll out full fibre to 85% of the country by 2025.

Dorset will also be one of the first areas to benefit from the national Project Gigabit programme, which will see around 7,000 premises in the country get full fibre broadband installed via state funding.

Various suppliers plan to roll out fibre commercially across Dorset too, over the next three years.

And rural premises not in commercial plans or Project Gigabit can apply to the government’s UK Gigabit Broadband Voucher scheme.

All of this will require trained fibre engineers to ensure the rollouts can be completed. 

Dorset Council will now invite key stakeholders to join the consortium that will develop the fibre engineer training pilot programme. 

Anyone interested in finding out more about the fibre engineer training project, or would like to get involved, can email connectingdorset@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk  

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