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BBC licence fee to help fund superfast broadband rollouts

Spending review: Government reveals £530m cash pot for universal 2Mbps service and superfast broadband in rural areas
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor

Spending review: Government reveals £530m cash pot for universal 2Mbps service and superfast broadband in rural areas

The government has revealed that £530m of public money will be invested in expanding the UK's broadband footprint over the next four years.

Chancellor George Osborne said today the cash will help fund the government's universal service commitment of 2Mbps broadband by 2015, and help roll-out superfast broadband out to rural regions which might otherwise miss out.

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said that £300m of the £530m will come directly from the BBC licence fee, with the remaining £230m funded by underspend in the UK's digital TV switchover fund.

"[The BBC] will contribute to the £530m we will spend over the next four years to bring superfast broadband to rural parts of our country that the private sector will take longer to reach," Osbourne said.

The government wants to encourage public-private partnerships - between local authorities, broadband suppliers and community groups - to bid for chunks of the £530m to help roll-out superfast broadband to areas currently languishing at the bottom of the broadband pile, the DCMS spokesman added.

Broadband: £530m to help fund USC and superfast

The government has announced £530m to help fund broadband rollouts
(Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Osborne also detailed the locations for four rural superfast broadband trials that will test the commercial viability of deploying high speed broadband in remote parts of the country.

"[Superfast broadband] pilots will go ahead in the Highlands and Islands, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Herefordshire," said Osborne - upping by one the tally of trials from the original three "market testing pilots" announced back in June.

Responding to today's announcement of a new licence fee settlement for the BBC, Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust, said in a statement: "[The licence fee settlement] brings with it new obligations for the BBC, but importantly they are all obligations that are relevant to the BBC's mission and purpose - to be a public service broadcaster of the highest quality that serves all audiences."

The spending review document also confirmed the government intends to auction the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum - which is suitable for mobile broadband - in 2011/12.

It will also release at least 500MHz of public sector spectrum below 5GHz over the next 10 years for "new mobile communications uses".

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