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Government confirms extra £250m for rural broadband roll-out

Bryan Glick

The government has confirmed details for providing an extra £250m towards the roll-out of superfast broadband in rural areas, with councils expected to match the funds to support local projects.

The cash was previously announced by Chancellor George Osborne in June last year, but the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has now decided how to allocate the funding.

rural-laptop-broadband-290x230-CREATAS.jpg

The money will be divided between 42 existing projects in England, plus others in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which are already spending £1.2bn provided through Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), the DCMS body set up to manage the programme to help ensure 95% of UK homes and businesses have access to superfast broadband by 2017.

English councils will receive about £184m from the new pot of cash, with £12m going to Wales, £21m to Scotland, and £7m to Northern Ireland. (See table below for full breakdown of funding allocations).

The existing investment has caused controversy, since the vast majority of it has gone to BT – the only company to win bids to support council-backed broadband implementations.

But local authorities can choose whether to use the new money to add to their existing contracts with BT or to fund additional projects that could involve different suppliers.

Figures released by the DCMS suggest that the economic payback from the new funds could be significant, with as much as £20 returned for every £1 spent.  

According to DCMS, faster broadband will create an additional 56,000 jobs in the UK by 2024, and provide a £1.5bn boost to local economies, with 35,000 job-years created or safeguarded to 2016. By 2024, DCMS said the government’s investments in faster broadband will boost rural economies by £275m every month.

“Superfast broadband will benefit everyone – whether they need it for work, to do homework or simply to download music or films. Thousands of homes and businesses now have access and it is helping people with their everyday tasks,” said culture secretary Maria Miller.

“We want to make sure that Britain is one of the best countries in the world for broadband, and the extra £250m we are investing will help ensure communities around the UK are not left behind in the digital slow lane.”

The government is also making available £10m from March to pilot alternative technologies to bring broadband communications to the 5% of properties deemed too hard to reach with conventional landline networks, such as 4G mobile, satellite, or new fibre links.

The rural broadband roll-out is connecting 10,000 homes and businesses per week, according to DCMS, but the programme has received a lot of criticism.

A National Audit Office report in July last year raised concerns over the value for money obtained from the initial £1.2bn investment, and highlighted the lack of competition that led to BT becoming the sole commercial provider to receive public funding.

A report from the Public Accounts Committee further attacked BT for alleged anti-competitive business practices – which BT has strenuously denied.

Breakdown of funds for English councils

Local authority areas - England

Superfast broadband extension 
indicative funding allocation (£m)

Berkshire Councils

3.56

Black Country

4.99

Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire

6.63

Cambridgeshire, Peterborough

0.91

Central Beds, Bedford Borough, Milton Keynes, Luton

3.18

Cheshire East, Cheshire West & Chester, Warrington, Halton

2.12

Cornwall

2.96

Cumbria

2.86

Derbyshire, Derby

2.19

Devon, Somerset, Plymouth, Torbay, 
North Somerset, Bath & NE Somerset

22.75

Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole

0.77

Durham, Gateshead, Tees Valley and Sunderland

3.90

East Riding of Yorkshire

5.00

East Sussex, Brighton and Hove

0.65

Essex, Southend-On-Sea, Thurrock

10.72

Greater Manchester excl Manchester & Salford

0.45

Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton

8.74

Hereford and Gloucestershire

10.98

Kent and Medway

5.60

Knowsley, Liverpool, St. Helens, Sefton, Wirral

0.70

Lancashire, Blackpool, Blackburn with Darwen

3.84

Leicestershire, Leicester

4.04

Lincolnshire

2.35

Newcastle upon Tyne

0.43

Norfolk

5.59

North Lincolnshire, North East Lincolnshire

1.18

North Tyneside, South Tyneside

2.18

North Yorkshire, York

4.60

Northamptonshire

3.64

Northumberland

0.65

Nottinghamshire, City of Nottingham

2.63

Oxfordshire

2.15

Rutland

0.18

Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin

12.80

South Yorkshire

10.40

Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent

1.68

Suffolk

4.82

Warwickshire and Solihull, Coventry

3.68

West Sussex

0.86

West Yorkshire, Kirklees

6.62

Wiltshire, South Gloucestershire, Swindon

4.97

Worcestershire

2.39

 


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