Local authorities that want to get government funding for broadband rollouts will have to have their draft plans for the deployments submitted by the end of February, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has announced.
Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday that, if local authorities did not submit their proposals for getting their share of the £530m Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) pot on time, there was no guarantee that they would get any share at all.
"Superfast broadband is fundamental to our future economic success. Businesses need it to grow, the public will need it to access new services," Hunt said. "Some local authorities will find these to be challenging targets. But I will not allow the UK to fall behind in rolling-out superfast broadband."
Hunt added that he was "confident local authorities will be able to meet the timetable and provide their businesses and residents with the broadband access they need".
The BDUK fund is intended to make sure everyone in the UK has access to basic broadband download speeds of at least 2Mbps, with 90 percent of homes and businesses being able to get super-fast speeds.
Once local authorities have submitted their draft local broadband plans by the end of February, a final plan will have to be agreed with the government by the end of April. In the following three months, the authorities should be prepared for the procurement phase.
The local authorities will have to be able to match whatever funds they get from BDUK with equivalent amounts. Possible sources for this match-funding include the authorities' own coffers, or those of the European Union.
DCMS said it would publish details of the progress made by each local authority in January.