A new £10m fund for pilot projects to bring superfast broadband to the most rural parts of the UK, has been announced by the government.
The scheme is aimed at alternative technology providers who can come up with solutions that can be trialled in the most difficult areas to reach nationally.
The government claims to be on target to have 95 per cent of the UK able to access superfast broadband by 2017, at an estimated cost of £790m, but has had problems with the remotest five per cent. The new fund is inviting applications from March 2014 for a range of pilots which will take place up and down the country to help find the most effective way of bringing broadband to all, not just those in well-populated areas.
Potential technologies that could be piloted under the new fund for remote areas are expected to include:
· Using 4G mobile signal to deliver fixed wireless superfast broadband
· Using fibre direct to premises
· Taking fibre from broadband cabinets to a distribution point further down the network, increasing speeds by reducing the reliance on copper
· Satellite technology
The government believes superfast broadband is vital to all homes and businesses and has committed to ensuring that no one is left in the ‘digital slow lane’ simply because of their post code. It also claims that every £1 spent on the superfast rollout will bring back £20 to the British economy.
Maria Miller, Secretary for State for Culture, Media and Sport, said: Our nationwide rollout of superfast broadband will benefit everyone from school children to business owners, parents to patients. 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 per cent of premises.
The £10m will be made available to fund projects that will provide answers to several key questions, including identifying which technologies will be most cost effective and commercially acceptable, as well as how they will ultimately be funded.
Suppliers will be able to bid for funding and will need to provide a description of their proposed project, including the costs and the outputs.
Broadband Delivery UK, which is responsible for delivering the rural programme, will evaluate proposals on the basis of criteria such as the quality and prospect of solutions being able to scale to address the final five per cent, for the timeliness and usefulness of the learning that the projects provide, and also the level of funding requested.