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Government opens £10 million fund to crack rural broadband challenges

The government has invited bids for its £10 million fund to find new ways of delivering broadband to the remotest parts of the UK. 

The cash will be given to schemes to enable trials for satellite, 4G and fixed wireless links to see how remote communities can be best served. 

The fund will also be used to test new operating models such as joining smaller networks together into a common larger network as well as trialling innovative public/private funding models that could bring in new investment. 

Culture secretary Maria Miller said the focus was now shifting to the hardest to reach premises in Britain as part of the government’s broadband to deliver superfast speeds to 95 per cent of the UK by 2017. 

“These pilots will be instrumental in helping us understand how to overcome the challenges of reaching the most remote areas of the UK and I hope to see a wide range of suppliers coming forward with innovative proposals,” she said. 

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced the fund in December 2013, officially launched it in January, and confirmed that it would be open for bids from 17 March. 

Broadband delivery technlogies will have to deliver superfast broadband – defined here as more than 24Mbps – and list FTTH, satellite, wireless and improvements to the existing BT fibre-copper hybrid network as potential candidates.

Smaller privately owned or community-funded networks could operate in partnerships or be reconfigured to make them more financially sustainable.

New finance models could include leasing network infrastructure after it’s built, community social funding or micro-finance loans.

There’s a £3.3m cap for each group of pilots (technology, operation and funding), with individual pilots expectd to receive from £500,000 to £3.3m each, and the DCMS expects to fund between five and 10 pilots in total. Bids must be tendered to the DCMS by the end of April 2014.

The rural affairs minister, Dan Rogerson said: “The aim of this fund is to help people living in very remote areas secure the benefits of superfast broadband.

“Fast and reliable broadband coverage is crucial in building a stronger economy and fairer society for farmers and all rural businesses to be able to compete and grow.”

Image: Images Money/Flickr


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