Site navigation

Broadband on Tap? New Project to Run Internet Cables in Watermains

Michael Behr


internet cables watermains
With the UK looking to close the digital divide, the new project aims to avoid costly and disruptive installation work to reach additional unconnected premises.

The UK Government has announced a new scheme to connect premises to the internet by running fibre optic cables through watermains.

By doing so, the country’s broadband infrastructure can be expanded without having to dig up nearby roads.

The three-year project is targeting premises and mobile masts in rural areas to help close the gaps in the country’s broadband network. A total of £4 million has been set aside to fund the initiative.

When installing new gigabit-capable broadband networks, the civil works part, such as installing new ducts and poles, can make up as much as four fifths of the cost.

In addition, the project will leverage advances in smart city technology to install sensors in the water pipes. This will allow water companies to monitor water flow, spotting leaks with increased speed and accuracy and reducing wasted water.

The project will also consider the regulatory barriers facing companies looking to work on the UK’s critical water and telecoms infrastructure.

As part of a proposed expansion of the project, the government may give broadband firms access to over a million kilometres of underground utility ducts. This could include electricity, gas, and sewer networks.

Full Broadband

Connecting hard-to-reach premises is a key problem facing the UK’s broadband rollout schemes. For many commercial broadband providers, connecting isolated properties is not commercially viable for them to spend money building the required infrastructure.

While Scotland and the UK offer support, such as through voucher schemes, connecting these buildings is still a complicated, disruptive, and time-consuming business.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: “The cost of digging up roads and land is the biggest obstacle telecoms companies face when connecting hard-to-reach areas to better broadband, but beneath our feet there is a vast network of pipes reaching virtually every building in the country.

“So we are calling on Britain’s brilliant innovators to help us use this infrastructure to serve a dual purpose of serving up not just fresh and clean water but also lightning-fast digital connectivity.”


The coronavirus pandemic has proven the importance of the UK’s broadband infrastructure. Remote working and remote learning all rely on reliable, fast internet. As people moved online over the last year, more and more people use the internet for business, shopping, and pleasure.

As such, the UK and Scottish Governments have instituted programmes to connect the country to the internet. The new water pipe scheme is part of the UK Government’s £5-billion Project Gigabit and the £1-billion Shared Rural Network programme.

There are still numerous gaps – a recent Ofcom report said that 1.5 million homes still lack efficient broadband.

This has raised concerns about the threat posed by the digital divide, which mostly threatens older people and low-income households. However, the report also found that the number of houses without a proper internet connection was down from 11% in March 2020 to 6% in March 2021.

There is also a digital divide between urban and rural environments. As remote working opens up the opportunity for people to work outside of densely populated areas, a comprehensive broadband network can help take full advantage of the trend towards more working from home.

Michael Behr

Senior Staff Writer

Latest News

Business Technology
Business Data Analytics
%d bloggers like this: