The government confirmed today it is investing £10 million into a new scheme designed to find the next generation of rural broadband technologies as part of a bid to reach its target of 98 percent broadband coverage across Britain by 2018.
The money – first mentioned by Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, ahead of the Autumn Statement last month – will be used to fund trials based around new broadband technologies that could include 4G mobile signals, fibre connections direct to premises or closer to them and satellite broadband.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller said she hopes alternative technology providers will come forward with innovative ideas to get superfast broadband to Britain’s most remote communities.
“Our nationwide rollout of superfast broadband will benefit everyone from schoolchildren to business owners, parents to patients,” said Miller. “An estimated 10,000 homes and businesses are gaining access to superfast speeds every week but now we need to focus on the hardest to reach communities.
“If we want to ensure that that all communities can benefit then we need to think imaginatively about alternative technology, and the pilots enabled by the £10m fund will be instrumental in helping us overcome the challenges of reaching the final five percent of premises.”
The fund will open on March 17 and the Department for Media, Culture and Sport is asking local authorities to offer support to these pilot projects.
The government previously allocated £250 million in last year's spending review to provide superfast broadband to areas of the country that will not be covered by the existing £530 million Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, which is aiming for 90 percent coverage by 2015.
Critics have argued that BDUK is flawed in several ways, including the fact that all the money available under the initiative has been allocated to BT and that it is too bureaucratic.
Newly-appointed BDUK CEO said: “Ensuring that broadband can reach businesses and consumers across the country is one of the most important policies in government. Faster connections will improve the way people live, work and spend their leisure time. I look forward to starting my new role as chief executive of BDUK and building on the good work being done to get superfast broadband to people all over the UK.”