Superfast broadband cash: Use it or lose it, councils told

Timetable set out for £530m broadband fund

Timetable set out for £530m broadband fund

English councils could miss out on a share of a £530m pot of government money to fund superfast broadband if they have not completed plans for rolling out broadband in their area by April 2012.

The £530m will help fund superfast broadband access - defined by Ofcom as 24Mbps+ - for 90 per cent of homes and business in the UK, as well as the provision of internet downloads of at least 2Mbps for all premises, by 2015.

The timetable for local authorities in England to apply for the money was announced by the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday.

Local authorities have until the end of February next year to submit a draft local broadband plan showing how they would use the funds to plug broadband not-spots, and a final plan needs to be agreed with the government by the end of April. The government will not guarantee funding for any council that misses this April deadline.

Superfast broadband

Government announces timetable for superfast broadband rolloutPhoto: Shutterstock

Areas that have not completed procurement of broadband services to tackle not-spots by the end of July may also see the government step in to run the procurement in that area.

"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 in a statement.

"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. Superfast broadband is simply too important for creating the growth we need to allow the rollout to be delayed."

The £530m will help fund the rollout of broadband to those areas where the population is too low to attract private sector investment. For councils to access a share of the broadband money each local authority will need to have match funding in place.

The government said that in January next year it will publish the progress made by each area in preparing the broadband rollout.

Of the £530m pot, £294.8m will go to counties in England, while Scotland has been allocated £68.8m. The remainder of the kitty - some £105.1m - has been set aside as a contingency fund.

The £530m has to be used by 2015 so if projects are not ready in time the funding may be used to fund other broadband projects in the UK, the government said.