The government is to set up a rural 'Community Broadband Fund' which will be used to help provide opportunities to rural communities such as the upland areas to apply for funding for community broadband projects. £20m of funding will be made available through the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) and Broadband Deliver UK (BDUK) to help small communities develop ideas for broadband services into a working solution that can get people online. The RDPE programme is set to run until 2013, and it is through this that funding will be granted.
"Fast reliable broadband is one of the biggest problems that many rural areas face. Local communities have long been setting up their own schemes in the face of apparent indifference from BT and a sometimes patchy response from the public sector.
The Uplands Policy Review rightly points out these initiatives are a valuable part of the broadband picture and £20m for community initiatives is welcome [but] is a comparatively small amount when compared to the scale of the rural broadband problem, so it needs to be carefully focused.Malcolm Corbett, (Chief Executive) Independent Networks Cooperative Association
Last month the Commons environment and audit committee recommended that bringing faster broadband to farmers would help them run their business and encourage young people to stay involved, whilst also helping to keep these vital communities running which are a great aid to our tourism industry.
Rural areas such as the upland areas fall under the 'final-third' category which private firms are unwilling to provide broadband to due to the high cost of investing there and low return that would be seen. Subsidies are needed to get things moving and it is great to see that some money is being funnelled this way. BDUK has £530m to spend in this parliament to help broadband roll-outs, with some of this money already allocated to pilots or as grants to local authorities. Any investment specifically focused towards rural areas will help bridge the broadband divide and help ensure that the final-third do not get left behind whilst the rest of the country sees next-generation broadband coming to fruition.