The CLA said it was ‘great news’ Defra had recognised the importance of resolving rural broadband issues.
Defra has announced it will invest £45 million in rural broadband to prevent rural areas being ‘left in the connectivity slow lane’.
The boost comes as part of the government’s Rural Broadband Infrastructure Scheme delivered by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to support rural areas not so far on the list to receive broadband as part of commercial delivery plans.
Rural Affairs Minister Lord Gardiner, who announced the funding at North York Moors National Park yesterday (July 26), said: “Rural areas should not be left behind in the connectivity slow lane, missing out on the opportunities high speed can bring.
“The funding made available through the Rural Broadband Infrastructure Scheme champions our countryside communities and businesses by opening up access to broadband of at least 30 Megabits (Mpbs) per second, in some of the most hard to reach areas.”
Money from the now £75m fund will be made available through grants to local authorities which have already applied for funding – including North Yorkshire, which has been granted £11m – in areas where broadband services at speeds of 30Mpbs or faster are not available or planned.
Defra said the funding would be used to ‘support full fibre wherever possible’.
It follows the launch of the government’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review this week which outlined plans to prioritise hard-to-reach rural areas for roll out of full fibre connectivity.
The CLA, who this week said rural areas were at risk of being ‘side-lined by the insistence to rollout 5G over 4G mobile coverage’, said the £45m additional funding was ‘great news’.
The CLA’s Dr Charles Trotman said: “It is great news that Defra recognises the importance of resolving rural broadband issues and is providing extra cash to connect the countryside.
“Digital connectivity is vital to boosting rural economic growth and this new funding will go towards projects which should lead to the deployment of fixed broadband in the hardest to reach areas.
“We will continue to press the Government to ensure that the rural/ urban digital divide is finally closed.”