Rural areas get £363m for superfast broadband

Farming areas in England and Scotland have been allocated nearly £363m to improve their broadband coverage.

The funding is to help meet the government’s target of making the UK’s coverage the best in Europe by 2015.

Local authorities and residents will decide how the money should be spent.

County councils and private enterprise partnerships will be put in charge of broadband roll-outs in their areas and will be required to draw up delivery plans and find additional funding from elsewhere.

Areas with highest funding:

Devon and Somerset: £31.3m

North Yorkshire: £17.8m

Cumbria: £17m

Norfolk: £15.4m

Lincolnshire: £14.3m

Suffolk: £11.68m

East Sussex: £10.6m

Lancashire: £10.8m

Kent: £9.87m 

Wales and Northern Ireland have already been given their share of the £530m broadband fund, which was set aside from the TV licence fee.

The Country Land and Business Association which has been a key campaigner for better rural broadband, claimed the announcement was a major victory.

The association has been calling for public sector money to provide superfast broadband in the countryside since 2003.

CLA president William Worsley said: “I am delighted the government recognises that rural areas are missing out on all the benefits broadband brings and that the countryside should not be overlooked.

“Rural areas are woefully underserved by even an adequate broadband service let alone superfast.

“The CLA has argued for eight years that a Public Private Partnership should be created to provide the correct level of investment for a superfast broadband infrastructure and today’s announcement by culture secretary Jeremy Hunt supports this.”

Mr Worsley said it was now vital that rural communities made their case for better broadband to their local authorities.

“The government has now handed the baton to local authorities so rural residents and businesses must tell their local councils if they are suffering from poor access or no broadband at all and make sure their concerns are listened to,” he said.

“Broadband is the key to unlocking the potential of the rural economy and these areas now have the opportunity to grasp the same advantages enjoyed by their urban counterparts,” Mr Worsley said.