Ukraine’s dominant fixed line operator Ukrtelecom has announced on its website a proposed project to narrow the digital divide by connecting 8,000 villages to broadband internet, via UAH2.8 billion (USD106 million) of its own funding alongside UAH3.2 billion in investment from ‘the state or international donors’. According to a study by Ukrtelecom, fixed internet in Ukraine currently reaches 98% of the population in cities and 44% in villages; broadband access is available to residents of more than 1,000 cities and 4,100 rural settlements, but 8.3 million people living in 21,700 villages remain unserved. Ukrtelecom’s own fixed broadband network currently reaches more than 2,200 settlements, including 1,350 villages, and it has proposed the new investment partnership programme to enable amongst other things the connection of all rural schools, with 6,900 of the newly targeted villages having schools.
In total the UAH6 billion public-private project envisages 58,000km of new fibre-optic deployment to connect six million people in 8,000 villages, ‘reducing the digital gap by four times’, resulting in 85% of Ukraine’s rural population having internet access. Yuriy Kurmaz, director of Ukrtelecom, declared in a press release: ‘International experience shows that public-private cooperation allows for the construction of an internet infrastructure for rural areas in the short term,’ adding that the project timescale would be ‘two and a half years’.