The UK Government’s Rural Development Programme for England has today committed an extra £45m to their existing Rural Broadband Infrastructure Scheme (RBIS), which is intended to help rural businesses and communities to build new 30Mbps+ capable superfast broadband ISP networks in poorly served areas. The additional funding is on top of last year’s original £30m investment (total £75 million) and forms part of the department’s wider plan to invest at least £3.5 billion into rural economies by 2020, supporting the third of businesses in the UK which are based in the countryside. Nearly a fifth of people also live in the countryside. Lord Gardiner, who is visiting the North York Moors National Park today, has confirmed that North Yorkshire is one of the local authorities to receive funding through the scheme with a grant offer of over £11 million. Sadly exact details of how this will be invested remain unclear.
Lord Gardiner, Rural Affairs Minister, said: “I am delighted to announce today that North Yorkshire has been awarded a grant of £11 million towards improving its broadband infrastructure. Rural areas should not be left behind in the connectivity slow lane, missing out on the opportunities high speed broadband can bring. The funding made available through the Rural Broadband Infrastructure Scheme champions our countryside communities and businesses by opening up access to broadband of at least 30 Megabits per second, in some of the most hard to reach areas.”
The scheme itself will be delivered by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) and supports those rural areas which are not currently scheduled to receive better connectivity as part of commercial delivery plans or under the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme, which expects to extend access to superfast broadband to around 97% of UK premises over the next few years (previously they said 98% but this could be due to using the higher definition for “superfast” of 30Mbps+ instead of the older 24Mbps+ one). One interesting point is that the funding must be “used to support full fibre [FTTP] wherever possible,” which would be in keeping with the Government’s new “outside-in” approach to ultrafast fibre optic network deployments as part of their recent Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (here). In other words, while network competition serves the commercially viable areas, the Government will support investment in the most difficult to reach areas at the same time.
By Mark Jackson Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments.