Environment Secretary creates new contract to empower rural areas
The Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has published on the Defra website a statement setting out how critical growth in the rural economy is for the nation as a whole. Part of this growth being the digital economy, which has a £20m boost to superfast broadband coverage via the joint Defra/BDUK Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF).
While the much larger BDUK funding of £530m is charged with getting superfast broadband to the 25% or so homes that commercial operators have said they are unlikely to cover in the next three years, this means that only around 90% of the UK will have access to superfast broadband in 2015. The BDUK funding will also deliver the much criticised 2 Mbps Universal Service Commitment, that should result in all properties in the UK connecting at 2 Mbps or faster.
The RCBF system is taking a different approach, rather than just devolving responsibility to local authorities, projects run by communities can also apply. The RCBF system is starting to produce results, while Mr Paterson is in Cumbria he is visiting one of the two first communities to receive their pre-contract agreement.
The pre-contract agreement, means that in principle funding has been approved. For one project this means £157,500 of investment will be available. The Fibre Garden community-led project aims to deliver superfast fibre optic broadband to 525 properties in Garsdale and Dentdale. The project website confirms that the goal is for full fibre to the premises.
In theory if all the projects that are planned both RCBG, BDUK, projects totally independent of these and enterprising firms that raise their own capital go ahead in the three years, the possibility of the UK being the fastest major nation in Europe in relation to broadband may come to fruition. Public confidence is very low, but that is perhaps down to the lack of information flowing out from the larger projects, and commercial roll-outs doing what any commercial company tends to do, and not flag post to competitors what it is doing.
Every week we can feature a new fibre roll-out we are a step closer to being the best and not just listening to politicians saying we will be.