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Rural superfast broadband needs an extra £50 million injection says CBI

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called for more money to be spent on rolling out superfast broadband to rural areas. 

The government’s Spending Review published last month revealed that £300 million more cash could be spent on getting UK homes and businesses connected to upgraded broadband lines, providing speeds of least 25Mbps. 

It was revealed that just £250 million was actually going to be spent on improving broadband connections and the CBI wants the remaining £50 million to be used as well. 

Rural superfast broadband needs an extra £50 million injection says CBI
Fibre broadband might be here, but it’s not everywhere

Read Recombu Digital’s report on Fibre Broadband and BDUKKatja Hall, chief policy director for CBI said: “We cannot wait another two years for this investment to start flowing and we need clarity on the further £50m originally set aside, which still remains uncommitted. It will be far quicker to invest in existing innovative, ongoing local and industry schemes now to unlock economic and social benefits.” 

By 2017, the government hopes that 95 per cent of the UK will have access to superfast broadband. Originally, the Broadband Delivery for the UK (BDUK) projects were due to be finished by 2015, albeit with a smaller coverage target of 90 per cent. 

Hall is worried that the wait will see small and medium businesses suffer and argues that more should be done to explain the benefits that superfast would bring: 

“You can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink and we’ve seen the impact of even well-established high street firms not moving with the times. Both industry and government must work harder to give smaller firms the confidence and skills to shift online, where their customers are. We must make sure all the upgrade work does not go waste if we want to stay ahead of the rest of the world.” 

The CBI’s report Let’s Get Digital! says that the UK is missing out on a potential £18.8 billion a year of untapped revenue from off-grid businesses. 

As an example of how superfast broadband can change things for small and medium firms, our visit to Superfast Cornwall last year introduced us to Arcol, a manufacturer of resistors based in Threemilestone. Co-founder Alun Morgan told us of plans to launch a cloud-based catalogue, allowing company reps to show off and sell wares at international trade events and mentioned that the option of working from home – previously not even on the menu – has given staff a new lease of life. 

Some efforts to accelerate rollout of superfast broadband across the UK have already been made. The Growth and Infrastructure Act passed this year will sidestep red tape that could have slowed rollout in urban and rural areas. Over half of the BDUK contracts have now been signed and BT’s tests of vectoring could make superfast viable in more areas. 

Image credit: Flickr user ell brown 

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