Mapping digital infrastructure

Lockdown measures and the increase in home working and study as a result of Covid-19 have underscored our reliance on digital infrastructure to work, communicate, and connect. They have also exposed the UK’s sharp digital divide, defined by steep inequalities in access between regions and incomes.

Full-fibre networks uses fibre optic cables to connect premises to the Internet, instead of 20th century copper wire infrastructures. While its roll out is not yet complete, full fibre broadband is currently the fastest and more reliable broadband technology, and will also serve as the foundation for 5G cellular networks.

In Democratic Digital Infrastructure, a joint report between Common Wealth and The Democracy Collaborative, we argue that delivering a 100% full fibre network by 2030 should be at the heart of a just recovery after Covid-19. But this will require a new approach: market-led development has led to slow rates of connection, with only 13.7% of premises in the UK connected via full fibre, far behind other European and OECD economies. And the government’s own commissioned analysis shows competition will deliver a full-fibre network slower and at a higher cost than a monopoly alternative.

We need a new public infrastructure company with a mission to build a 21st century digital infrastructure. This map of full fibre coverage investigates different examples of how the broadband upgrade has been rolled out across the UK.


Kingston Upon Hull East


Just 33 constituencies in the UK have full-fibre connections for more than 50% of premises. The constituency of Kingston upon Hull East leads the UK with 99% full-fibre coverage. A number of factors have made for favourable conditions in Hull. Among them is the city’s historic telecoms independence from BT, with the city granted license to manage its own telephone network in 1904. KCOM, which operates a local monopoly, has led the successful roll-out.

Toggle local maps

Lancaster and Fleetwood


The community-led Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN) project is leading the way on last-mile broadband coverage in the North West. By enlisting local residents to lay fibre cables across farm fields rather than roads, B4RN is reaching homes and villages that profit-driven broadband providers have failed to connect because doing so is not sufficiently profitable.

Toggle local maps



Balquhidder, a small village in the constituency of Stirling, has recently embarked on its own community-led full-fibre rollout, citing a lack of cooperation from BT and government in pursuing broadband coverage for the rural area. It receives funding from Stirling Council, the European Union, local contributions and a commercial partner, as well as support from volunteers from the surrounding area.

Toggle local maps

Torridge and West Devon


In recent years, Devon has suffered from a slow rollout of full-fibre in rural areas. The Connecting Devon and Somerset project, which manages public funding for full-fibre upgrades, has been marked by delays from both BT and Gigaclear.

Toggle local maps



The small internet service provider Community Fibre have concentrated on installing full-fibre services to tens of thousands of council housing units across London, including a large portion of council flats in Battersea and Wandsworth. Public funding from the Treasury’s Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund is dispensed to infrastructure groups and met with private funding, primarily from the Railways Pension Scheme, to back Community Fibre, who in turn charge affordable rates to residents.

Toggle local maps

Upper Bann


Northern Ireland has the highest rate of full-fibre coverage out of all the countries of the UK, thanks to a recent spike in public investment. Following the 2017 general election, a deal between the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) included £150m for upgrading broadband infrastructure in Northern Ireland.

Toggle local maps

North Warwickshire


Many parts of the Midlands suffer from low rates of full-fibre connectivity, which has small businesses calling for upgraded infrastructure to help grow companies and increase productivity. Failing to connect cities, towns and rural communities holds back local prosperity and undermines efforts to ‘level up’ regional economies.

Toggle local maps