Government allocates £250m rural broadband cash

By Sooraj Shah
26 Feb 2014 View Comments
A view of UK countryside

The government has allocated the £250m budget that was set aside to develop broadband services in rural areas.

Whitehall has so far invested £1.2bn in remote areas for broadband, and it hopes that the additional £250m will ensure that it can reach its target of delivering "superfast" broadband to 95 per cent of the country's homes and businesses by 2017.

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England will get the vast majority of the funds – £184m – while Scotland will receive £21m, Wales £12m and Northern Ireland will get just over £7m.


A further £25m has been put aside for contingency spending, which the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said was standard for any project of this nature.

The money will be invested in particular local projects, and local authorities will have to match the funding they receive - meaning another £250m will be contributed to the rollout.

Culture secretary Maria Miller said that superfast broadband will "benefit everyone".

"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," she said.

According to the DCMS, the programme will contribute £20 to the economy for every £1 invested. Officials hope that better connectivity will also create another 56,000 jobs in the UK by 2024.

But the rural broadband project has been blighted by controversy - particularly because BT has won all of the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) contracts, and has not revealed the 10 per cent of the UK in which smaller providers can operate without the threat of competition from the telecoms giant.

At a House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing last summer, Malcolm Corbett, CEO of the Independent Networks Co-operative Association, slammed BT for withholding information on the last 10 per cent of rural broadband projects.

"There are many future proof networks today that are trying to provide broadband [to areas that could be part of that remaining 10 per cent], such as the community organisation B4RN. All of those face being overbuilt with BT turning up with public funding.

"For those providers, BT does not like the big friendly, cuddly giant British Telecoms that we all know, it looks more akin to a predatory organisation going after them - it is much more like they are facing a vampire death squid waiting to gobble them up and destroy them," he added.

The PAC said that BT had "exploited its quasi-monopoly position" as the main provider.

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