DCMS to fund rural trials of superfast broadband

internet infrastructure

DCMS to fund rural trials of superfast broadband

Caroline Baldwin

The Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has opened up its £10m funding pot for suppliers with innovative ideas to help superfast broadband reach remote areas of the UK.

The fund is now open for suppliers to come forward with potential trials which will help deliver superfast broadband to Britain’s hardest-to-reach communities.

rural broadband.jpg

Culture secretary Maria Miller said: “Government’s roll-out of superfast broadband is already reaching more than 10,000 homes every week, but now we need to focus on the hardest-to-reach communities. 

"These pilots will be instrumental in helping us understand how to overcome the challenges of reaching the most remote areas of the UK, and I hope to see a wide range of suppliers coming forward with innovative proposals.”

The money will fund a range of trials to help the government identify the most effective way of providing high speeds of connectivity to the most remote areas in the UK.

Broadband trial categories

Suppliers can submit bids in three categories:

  1. Technology
    Testing a technology which is technically known to work, but where it is currently unknown or uncertain whether it can be used for deploying superfast broadband in the remaining unserved areas.
  2. Operating models
    Testing novel operating models that increase investment levels through standardisation or aggregation and so reducing barriers to delivering superfast broadband to the remaining unserved areas.
  3. Financial
    Testing whether there are innovative public/private funding models which will be effective at leveraging new financing investment to allow superfast broadband to be delivered in the remaining unserved areas.

Suppliers can submit their bids in three different categories – by technology, operating models or financial models. There will be a £3.3m funding cap for each supplier.

"Fast and reliable broadband coverage is crucial in building a stronger economy and fairer society for farmers and all rural businesses to be able to compete and grow,” said rural affairs minister Dan Rogerson.

Delivering broadband alongside BDUK

The government’s broadband programme – Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) – aims to deliver superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017. These trials will aid in providing connectivity to the most remote parts of the UK which make up the remaining 5%.

But smaller, local broadband providers have been facing difficulties over the BDUK roll-out, because they are unable to see what areas of the UK fall into the remaining 5%. This means they do not know whether it is worth competing with the BDUK supplier – BT – to supply these areas.

The DCMS is able to provide potential suppliers with a list of 22 local authorities which are currently willing to host a pilot for superfast broadband services. Suppliers must approach these local authorities stating an interest in doing a trial, and then the local authority will agree an area which is not included in the existing BT roll-out plans.

Local bodies willing to host a pilot

  • Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes
  • Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire
  • Cheshire
  • Cornwall
  • Derbyshire
  • Dorset
  • East Riding of Yorkshire
  • East Sussex
  • Gloucestershire
  • Hampshire
  • Herefordshire
  • Kent
  • North Lincolnshire
  • North Yorkshire
  • Northamptonshire
  • Northern Ireland
  • Oxfordshire
  • Scotland
  • Shropshire
  • South Gloucestershire
  • Suffolk
  • Wales
  • Wiltshire

In February, DCMS confirmed an extra £250m of funding for the BDUK project.

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 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.

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.

 


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