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Hill farmers to get £20m for rural broadband

Defra has announced a fund to help hill farmers set up community broadband networks, but some of the millions available will be coming from money already earmarked for rural connectivity
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

British hill farmers will get money to set up community broadband networks, after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs unveiled a new fund.

BT Openreach van

British farmers are to receive funds to set up community broadband networks, which are being rolled out by firms such as BT Openreach. Photo credit: didbygraham on Flickr

The Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF), expected to be worth up to £20m, was announced on Thursday by environment secretary Caroline Spelman.

"England's uplands communities face difficult challenges, as do other remote parts of rural England, yet these are places with a remarkable range of human and natural assets and they can have a bright future," Spelman said in the announcement, which also introduced funding of £6m a year for environmental stewardship projects.

"The range of measures announced today will help hill farmers become more competitive and take advantage of new opportunities to grow their businesses. They will also help rural communities to thrive," she added.

The RCBF scheme draws on two sources: the BBC licence fee-funded £530m pot overseen by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), which is already earmarked for rural broadband, and funding from the Rural Development Programme for England. Defra has not given details of the split, so it remains unclear how much of the RCBF is new money.

The split may be detailed later in the year, when farmers will be told how they can apply for funding, a Defra spokesman told ZDNet UK.

Cardiffian take-up

Spelman's announcement came a day after BT Openreach complained that residents of Cardiff in Wales are not keenly adopting the high-speed, fibre-based broadband connectivity that is being offered to them.

"Openreach has spent millions of pounds to ensure that Cardiff boasts some of the best access to modern broadband technology in the UK, but residents in some enabled areas of Cardiff are proving slow to adopt the service," the company said in a statement.

The one Cardiffian exception is the area of Whitchurch, which is one of the handful of neighbourhoods where BT first trialled fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) broadband almost two years ago. According to BT, 7 percent of premises in the area have adopted the service since the trial began.

"Openreach is now partnering with the local city council to raise awareness of the service so that other parts of Cardiff catch up with Whitchurch in terms of using the service," BT said. "Super-fast broadband can boost local business productivity and transform people's experience of using the internet, and so local marketing initiatives are being launched."

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