Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled the next stage of his connectivity ‘levelling up’ programme, which will see over a million hard-to-reach homes and businesses equipped with superfast broadband.

The £5 billion infrastructure project will bring next-generation gigabit broadband to areas right across England. The first wave will connect some 510,000 homes and businesses in Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Tees Valley.

A second roll-out is planned for June that will cover an additional 640,000 premises, this time in Norfolk, Shropshire, Suffolk, Worcestershire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Gigabit broadband, as its name suggests, provides businesses with internet speeds of 1GB (1,000MB) per second – enough to support 100 workers without lag.

It’s hoped the scheme would help accelerate Britain’s coronavirus recovery, driving developments in some of the highest growth sectors, such as the technology and creative industries.

Currently, around 40% of homes and businesses across the UK already have next-generation connectivity – a figure that was at just 9% at the start of 2019. It’s hoped the total will tip over the 50% point this year, which would keep Britain on track to have one of the fastest roll outs in the whole of Europe.

The government has also pledged to include public sector buildings in its plans, setting aside £110 million for schools, libraries and GP surgeries to be equipped with gigabyte connectivity. There will also be £210 million in vouchers made available for those in rural areas to get the financial help they need to put this technology in place.

Making the announcement, Johnson said: “Project Gigabit is the rocket boost that we need to get lightning-fast broadband to all areas of the country. “This broadband revolution will fire up people’s businesses and homes, and the vital public services that we all rely on, so we can continue to level up and build back better from this pandemic.”