England and Scotland get £360m to help get the countryside online
The UK government has confirmed how it will be allocating £360m to improve rural broadband access across England and Scotland.
Culture secretary James Hunt said the investment will go towards ensuring the UK has the best broadband network in Europe, with 90% of the population having access to superfast speeds by 2015. In addition everyone in the UK will have access to at least 2Mbps broadband by then, Hunt said.
England will get £294.8m, with the rest of the £362m going to Scotland. Wales was allocated just under £60m last month and Northern Ireland has also had funds allocated. The money comes from the £530m investment in the UK’s broadband infrastructure announced in the October 2010 Spending Review.
Devon and Somerset will be given the biggest slice of the English investment, with £31.2m heading there. Cumbria and North Yorkshire will both get around £17m. East Sussex, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Suffolk will also receive over £10m.
"Fast broadband is absolutely vital to our economic growth, to delivering public services effectively, and to conducting our everyday lives," said Hunt. "But some areas of the UK are missing out, with many rural and hard-to-reach communities suffering painfully slow internet connections or no coverage at all. We are not prepared to let some parts of our country get left behind in the digital age."
"I urge all those suffering the frustration of slow internet connections to make it clear to your local elected representatives that you expect them to do what is needed to access this investment and to deliver broadband to your community," he added.
BT welcomed the announcement. "BT is investing more than any other company to roll out super-fast broadband and we are keen to reach even more areas by working with the public sector. Our partnerships in Northern Ireland and Cornwall show what can be achieved when the private and public sector work together and so we will consider bidding for these funds," Ian Livingston, CEO of BT Group said in a statement.
"There needs to be a collective effort if super-fast broadband is to reach at least 90 per cent of the UK. BT is willing and able to play its part but local government and community groups will also need to get involved if rural areas are to benefit," Livingston added.