Government to fund broadband town

Projects funded from the DTI's £30m broadband fund will include wiring up a town in Devon, as well as offering subsidised services for businesses around the country

The government has released details of the projects that it will support with the £30m it recently guaranteed to spend on regional broadband initiatives.

This will include the creation a broadband-enabled town -- Buckfastleigh, in Devon -- where key public services such the local school, hospital, town hall and library will all be given a high-speed Internet connection.

The £30m was divided up between the UK's various regional development agencies, with the most money going to areas with the least access to broadband. These agencies submitted possible projects to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which has now decided which ones it will back.

Many of the successful projects hope to increase the number of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) that have embraced broadband, either by giving them free or subsidised connections or by promoting the benefits of a high-speed Internet connection.

Other initiatives will use satellite or wireless systems to take broadband to more remote areas where BT has not yet ADSL-enabled its local exchanges.

The East of England Development Agency was awarded £3.22m by the DTI, and is planning to invest a further £2.6m of its own money. It will finance research into the feasibility of "village wireless LANs" and broadband satellite for rural areas, and will also pay to give business parks in its area access to broadband.

The Yorkshire Forward agency will create a pilot broadband programme where SMEs will get access to e-business applications such as video conferencing. It also plans to spend £0.5m of its £3.1m allocation on giving broadband services to business parks in North Linconshire -- an area badly affected by the recent closure of a Corus steel factory.

In Wales, which received a total of £2.67m, some of the government's funding will be used to finance a wireless broadband project aimed at allowing online communities to create digital content.

Several agencies are also planning to spend money to make businesses more aware of the benefits of an always-on high-speed Internet connection. The regional development agency for London, where most local exchanges are already ADSL-enabled, is planning to create a "broadband bus" that will travel to firms and demonstrate the power of broadband.

In a statement, e-commerce minister Douglas Alexander said that the regional development agencies could make a significant impact on the rollout of broadband infrastructure in Britain, particularly in rural areas.

"Broadband makes a real difference, not only to successful e-commerce, but to a successful economy -- opening up brand new opportunities for businesses, leisure and lifestyle initiatives. For the individual user, broadband will offer a whole new surfing experience. Ensuring that more people can take advantage of this -- regardless of where we live -- is a major priority. And these projects are making important steps in that direction," said Alexander.


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