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By: MarkJ - 10 March, 2011 (11:48 AM)
cable ductuk farming and rural broadbandThe UK governments Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has today announced the establishment of a new £20 Million Rural Community Broadband Fund, which aims to help end the Digital Divide by delivering faster ISP internet access services to rural areas and uplands hill farmers.

The money, which will come from the Rural Development Programme (RDP) for England and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), will mostly (£20m) focus upon funding smaller scale broadband projects. An additional £6m of the allocated funds will also be targeted specifically towards hill farmers for environmental stewardship schemes.

Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, 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."

Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, added:

"England’s uplands communities face difficult challenges, as do other remote parts of rural England, yet these are places with a remarkable range of human and natural assets and they can have a bright future. I am determined that these areas will not be overlooked and that is why I will champion their interests right from the centre of Government.

Making a living as a hill farmer can be very difficult without the payments which reward the valuable environmental contribution they make, and unless farmers get help to innovate and diversify. The range of measures announced today will help hill farmers become more competitive and take advantage of new opportunities to grow their businesses. They will also help rural communities to thrive."

The majority of the English uplands, a somewhat general description of topographically higher / economically disadvantaged farming communities (Lake District, North Pennines, Yorkshire Dales, Peak District, North Yorkshire and South West Moors and Welsh Borders), can be largely found in the north and south-west of England.

Sadly no further details about how the fund will actually operate, or even how to apply for the money itself, will be revealed until "later in the year".
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