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Labour reaffirms £75 million rural broadband plan at Party Conference

The Labour party has once again announced that it’d spend £75 million on improving the UK’s creaky rural broadband connections. 

At the party’s 2013 conference in Brighton, Labour shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh has announced plans to connect those homes and businesses which won’t be covered by the current government’s 95 per cent by 2017 plans

Creagh said: “We understand the challenges of rural living. We know that isolation can be a major problem. The frustration that farmers and businesspeople feel from poor mobile phone signals. 

“This government’s botched rollout of broadband means people in the countryside are twice as likely to be offline as people in cities. A One Nation Labour government will extend broadband access so everyone has broadband.” 

Labour reaffirms £75 million rural broadband plan at Party Conference
The view is idyllic, but the broadband speeds aren’t

Read our guides to the Super Connected Cities Urban Broadband Fund and Rural BroadbandThis echoes similar comments made by shadow minister for culture, media and sport Helen Goodman, who said that Labour would take £75 million from the current UBF (Urban Broadband Fund) pot, also known as Super Connected Cities, and spend it on superfast countryside connections.

Goodman said back in May: “The previous Labour government had a target of ensuring that everybody had two megabits per second by 2012. The government abandoned that target and probably will not achieve it until 2016. At the moment, 2.6 million households, mainly in rural areas, have no possibility of accessing broadband.”

The Urban Broadband Fund is currently in a trial phase. Part of the fund will help businesses will be able to apply for vouchers that will cover the cost of superfast broadband installations, delivered by technologies including FTTP (Fibre to the Premises).

ISP’s including the London-based Hyperoptic, which provides speeds of up to 1Gbps, are involved in the trial. The trial phase will be over at the end of the month and is taking place in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester and Salford. Once the trial is over, it’s expected that all cities involved in the UBF will be able to apply for funding.

Assuming that Labour comes to power after the next general election, by that time all of the Super Connected Cities will have been allocated funding and will have spent it. Whether or not getting £75 million once it’s been spent is possible is another question.

Recently, Liberal Democrat MEP Phil Bennion called for plans to provide rural locations with at least 2Mbps by 2017 to be revised, arguing that speeds should be at least 10Mbps at all times of day.

The Welsh Government has relaunched a rural scheme where properties not covered by the BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) project Superfast Cymru will be able to apply for grants of up to £1,000 per location to pay for superfast broadband installations.