ARCHIVE: Rural broadband
The Government recognises how crucial an accessible, reliable and affordable broadband service is to all communities and businesses. It is committed to extending broadband access to virtually all people and places, and to ensuring that the next generation of high speed broadband is available to the largest number of people across the wider possible network.
Broadband reception in some rural areas is a significant issue. Over 99% of households in England are connected to a broadband enabled telephone exchange. However, the current telecom copper network was not built to take new technologies such as broadband hence the problems with broadband reception, especially for properties that are situated far from the telephone exchange. In addition, in some more remote areas, the cost of installing the appropriate infrastructure far outweighs the return from the investment, making it uneconomical for Internet Service Providers to invest in these areas.
The Government’s Digital Britain Report, published in June 2009, set out an ambition to strengthen and modernise the country’s communications infrastructure so that the UK could compete and lead in the global digital economy. This included the plans for a universal service commitment of 2 megabits per second and the roll out of next generation access broadband.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) leads on digital communications for the Government. Information on all aspects of the digital work programme can be found on their website. Defra works closely with BIS and other Departments to ensure that rural broadband needs are understood and reflected in policy development and implementation.
While it is principally for commercial providers to deliver broadband services, the Government is providing support for regional and local broadband initiatives through the Regional Development Agencies, who are able to provide some funding through the Rural Development Programme for England and the European Economic Recovery Plan. It also welcomes the initiative of community and third sector bodies to develop their own community broadband schemes to meet local need and demand.
In addition to promoting the spread of broadband provision, the Government is also committed to addressing the challenges of digital inclusion and participation, by encouraging greater take up of the opportunities available online by all citizens, including those in rural areas.
Dan Norris, Minister for Rural Affairs, met with Stephen Timms, Minister for Digital Britain, on 24 February. The Ministers agreed that it was vital that the needs of rural people should be equitably reflected in all mainstream Government policy-making and delivery, and that every effort should be made to ensure that both existing and new broadband policies and programmes are properly rural proofed, including the work of Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), which is to deliver the Government’s broadband policies set out in Digital Britain on Universal Service Commitment and roll out of Next Generation Access broadband.
Page last modified: 23 March 2010
Page published: 23 March 2010