Devon and Somerset, Cumbria, Norfolk and Lincolnshire are set to receive the biggest boost in funding to facilitate the roll-out of broadband in rural areas.
This week (16 August) Jeremy Hunt, culture secretary announced that £363m was to be allocated to local authorities across England and Scotland to improve broadband in the countryside.
English counties are set to receive £294.8m and Scotland £68.8m. Most counties will be given between £1m and £10m, with funds based on estimated costs of delivering fibre-optic and wireless broadband networks. Devon and Somerset will receive the largest allocation at £31.3m, followed by Cumbria with £17.1m. The West Midlands, Tees Valley and Greater Manchester will each receive less than £1m.
According to the department for Culture, Media and Sport the investment will ensure that the UK has “the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015, with 90 per cent of homes and businesses having access to superfast broadband and for everyone in the UK to have access to at least 2Mbps.” County council or local enterprise partnerships will take responsibility in England for the roll-out of broadband in their area. This will involve devising an effective delivery plan, and match the Government’s investment with European, their own or private funds.
Mr Hunt said: “Fast broadband is absolutely vital to our economic growth, to delivering public services effectively, and to conducting our everyday lives. But some areas of the UK are missing out, with many rural and hard-to-reach communities suffering painfully slow internet connections or no coverage at all. We are not prepared to let some parts of our country get left behind in the digital age.”
Mr Hunt urged those suffering the frustration of slow internet connections to “make it clear to your local elected representatives that you expect them to do what is needed to access this investment and to deliver broadband to your community.” The private sector on its own will take superfast broadband to around two-thirds of UK households and businesses – this funding will be used to help take broadband to the remaining third by making it viable for business to invest. Funding allocation announcements have already been made for Wales and Northern Ireland.