The first government funding for rural super-fast broadband has been allocated, with Wiltshire, Norfolk, Devon and Somerset in line to each get a multimillion-pound package.
Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced the first regions to receive government funding for rural super-fast broadband. Photo credit: Conservative Party
Overall, the government has £530m set aside for funding high-speed connectivity in the parts of the country that commercial ISPs would otherwise ignore, due to their low population density and the consequent distance the fibre would have to cover. All such areas will eventually get funding, but Wiltshire, Norfolk and Devon and Somerset local authorities have won the right to be among the first.
Fibre is not necessarily the only means by which users would be connected: mobile and satellite technologies may also play a part, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said in a statement.
"Broadband is becoming just as essential to homes and businesses as electricity and telephone lines and it is now only a matter of time before people in these three rural areas have access to the connection speeds more commonly associated with towns and cities," said culture secretary Jeremy Hunt in a statement.
Although the specific figures are yet to be determined, Devon and Somerset will get around £30m in funding, Norfolk around £15m and Wiltshire around £4m. This will be supplemented with further funds from the relevant local authorities and, according to the DCMS, private investors.
Several other areas — in North Yorkshire, the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, Cumbria and the Herefordshire borders — are already piloting super-fast rural broadband.
According to the DCMS, the three areas that have won funding for their super-fast broadband rollout will now need to tender for contractors to carry out the work. The ministry hopes suppliers will start deploying upgraded infrastructure within a year, after which ISPs can start offering services to local people.
Also on Friday, BT announced 17 Cornish exchanges that will be the next in that area to benefit from the company's investment there. The exchanges will all offer super-fast connectivity by the end of March 2012, with another 26 exchanges to be upgraded by the autumn of that year. All are listed on the next page...