Chancellor George Osborne has opened the bidding for an initial £50m for high-speed broadband projects as part of a four-year, £530m plan to extend broadband access to rural areas of the UK.
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Local public authorities will be able to apply to Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) for this funding to improve broadband in their area. The funding announced on Friday will benefit up to 800,000 premises, Osborne said.
BDUK previously announced that it would consider project proposals from four areas: Highlands & Islands, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Hereford. It intended these as pilots for rural and "not spot" broadband projects elsewhere in the UK.
The government has earmarked £530m over the next four years to install high-speed broadband in so-called commercially uneconomic areas.
Broadband infrastructure investment was vital to support the government's overall growth agenda, and is a central strand of its current growth review, Osborne said.
While visiting Bristol, Osborne said, "Broadband is crucial for the country's economic future. That's why the coalition government is investing over half a billion pounds in its infrastructure."
The government aims to have the "best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015", but has not defined what "best" means.
Osborne said the present initiative was "very much a locally driven process". He added, "We encourage bids from all local people with plans for improving broadband in their local area."