Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has finally revealed how much each English county and Scotland will receive from the government’s £530 million fund for superfast broadband.
After previously announced allocations to Wales and Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK has had £363 million shared between regions. English counties are set to receive £294.8 million and Scotland £68.8 million.
These amounts are to cover the ‘final third’ of the UK that will not be covered by the private sector’s rollout of superfast broadband.
The highest amount was allocated to Devon and Somerset, which received £31.32 million to help cover the rollout of superfast broadband to 64.2 percent (564,022 of 877,220) of the number of premises in the area.
It was followed by North Yorkshire, which received £17.84 million to cover the rollout of superfast broadband to 66.6 percent of premises, and Cumbria, which received £17.13 million to cover the rollout for 96.2 percent of premises in the area.
On the other end of the scale, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Greater London and South Yorkshire did not receive any money as they are regions expected to be covered by private sector organisations, for example BT. However, the allocations for these areas are also subject to further due diligence as more information becomes available.
Unsurprisingly, as the largest urban area in England, Greater London had the smallest percentage of unconnected premises, just one percent, followed by Greater Manchester, with 5.8 percent.
However, in order to access these pots of funding, local authorities in England will have to draw up a delivery plan and match the investment with European, their own or private funds.
Meanwhile, Malcolm Corbett, CEO of superfast broadband campaigners INCA (Independent Networks Cooperative Association), welcomed the funds but was concerned that the framework to access the funding excluded smaller private sector companies from helping local areas develop the most suitable and innovative broadband networks.
Local authorities do not have to use the framework -which requires private sector organisations to meet certain criteria such as revenue in order to participate - but if they do not, they have to provide a good reason for not doing so.
“Local authorities, working with their local communities and the private sector, are in a good position to work out how best to deal with their broadband problems. However, BDUK [Broadband Delivery UK] is insisting that local authorities adopt a common ‘gap funding’ approach, which tends to work against broadband ‘localism’ – i.e. examining the local issues then coming up with funding and technology solutions that can best serve local needs.
“Many of INCA’s private sector members share these concerns, not least some of the smaller, innovative companies that are building next generation broadband networks, often in the most challenging areas. They face being excluded from the funding programme except as sub-contractors to the big players,” Corbett said.
The government hopes for the UK to have the “best” superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015, with everyone having access to at least 2Mbps broadband speeds, and 90 percent of homes and businesses in every local authority area having access to superfast broadband, at 24 Mbps or above.