The Department of Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport is to spend over a third of a billion pounds in England and Scotland to revitalise the UK's broadband infrastructure.
£295m is going to English counties, while Scotland will receive nearly £69m as part of the scheme to provide everyone in the UK with broadband speeds of at least 2Mbps, the DCMS said on Tuesday.
"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," culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement.
Private companies such as BT and Virgin Media are expected to deliver super-fast broadband to two-thirds of the UK, with the fund providing access for the final third and making it more viable for private investment in areas of low population density.
However, the DCMS said that England and Scotland's allocation is based on need, not the number of people living or working in a county. The areas getting the biggest handouts in the announcement are Devon and Somerset, with £31m, North Yorkshire, with almost £18m and Cumbria, with just over £17m. A breakdown of the funding each county in England will receive is available here.
In order to apply for a portion of the funding, county councils in England will have to propose "an effective delivery plan", and secure matching European, private or own-council investment. The Scottish government will decide how best to use the funds in Scotland.
Broadband provides a key lifeline for businesses and individuals and is long overdue in communities stretching from the Borders to the Highlands & Islands.– Michael Moore MP
Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, welcomed news of the funding and urged the Scottish government to match it.
"Broadband provides a key lifeline for businesses and individuals and is long overdue in communities stretching from the Borders to the Highlands and Islands. This government is investing in a change for the better and I hope the Scottish government will follow that example," Moore said.
On 27 July, Ofcom revealed that the average broadband speed in the UK had risen by around 10 percent over the preceding six months — to 6.8Mbps — but that there is an increasing gap between what companies promise and what consumers receive.
BT also welcomed the announcement, saying it would consider bidding for the funds in partnership with public-sector bodies.
"It is important that these funds are used wisely, and so we would encourage the government to work with private-sector partners who are in this for the long run, who are willing to invest significant funds and who can guarantee open and equal access to their networks," Ian Livingstone, BT's chief executive, said in a statement. "Open and equal access is essential if competition is to flourish and end users are to benefit from low prices. Local monopolies would benefit no one."
See page two for the full funding breakdown in England.