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Rural superfast broadband: UK government offers up to £300 per premises for community projects

Community-based superfast rural broadband projects can win up to £300 per premises they reach with the government’s Rural Community Broadband Fund.

The RCBF has opened the second round of bidding for communities outside their local authority’s superfast broadband coverage plan – the ‘last 10 per cent’.

The fund has £20million to cover up to half the costs of locally-driven projects to give their community of at least 24Mbps, and ideally more than 30Mbps.

It’s intended to help projects with the start-up costs of building superfast broaband networks and setting up their administration, but they’ll also have to show how they can keep going for at least 10 years.

Farm internet by EIFL: knowledge without boundaries

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “This new fund will enable some of the most remote communities in England to bring broadband to their homes and businesses.

“Remote and rural areas have the most to gain from access to broadband but these are the communities currently missing out.

“The whole of the UK should be able to share in the benefits of broadband and we are determined to make this happen by the end of the Parliament.”

The government expects most projects to use ‘fibre-rich’ broadband technology, such as fibre-to-the-cabinet or fibre-to-the-home, but wireless technology will be considered if it can deliver consistently high speeds.

How to apply for rural broadband funds

The application window for expressions of interest is open until July 6, 2012, with projects expected to win approval by Autumn 2013 after submitting detailed plans, and contracts will be expected to be handed out for work to start by the end of 2013.

Potential applicants can find a toolkit and other useful resources can be accessed from the RCBF page: http://rdpenetwork.defra.gov.uk/funding-sources/rural-community-broadband-fund.

They’ll have to demonstrate a local demand for superfast broadband and show how it will help their community.

Applicants will win points for involving other community groups and being in particularly remote areas such as upland farming communities.

Who’s paying to speed up rural broadband?

The RCBF funds come from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs through the Rural Development Programme For England, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport through Broadband Delivery UK, and the EU through the Rural Development Programme for England 2007-2013.

The other half of any project’s funding is expected to come from private donations from the community, connection fees and investment by commercial partners.

Other public cash such as European Structural Funds (ERDF), National Lottery and Local Authority cannot be used to top-up the RCBF. 

Images: ryochiji/Flickr and EIFL: knowledge without boundaries/Flickr

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