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Socitm Report Says UK Councils Lack Cash to Support Rural Superfast Broadband

Posted: 25th Jan, 2012 By: MarkJ
uk rural broadband mapfibre_optic_broadband_internet_cable.jpgSocitm, an association of public sector ICT professionals, has warned in its latest briefing - 'Rural broadband: superfast or superslow?' - that many hard pressed local councils will face a "big ask" to find additional funding for supporting the rollout of superfast internet access into rural areas.

The governments Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office has so far set aside £530m (rising to £830m by 2017), which must be matched by money from the private sector, in order to help 90% of people gain access to superfast broadband (24Mbps+) ISP services by 2015 (the last 10% will have to make do with at least 2Mbps). But this is only part of the picture.

Local councils have also been told to try and match BDUK's funding with their own cash, which is easier said than done if you rule over one of the UK's many hard pressed rural areas. Socitm's briefing encourages councils "not to give up on the national broadband programme" and to instead build on it by making "what money there is stretch much further".

Socitm's Briefing Summary

Public sector agencies must work together, says the briefing, to make the most of existing assets by overcoming legal and commercial barriers. Re-use of existing infrastructure, including ducts and public service networks will be essential to drive down costs and to make the limited investment go further. Exploitation of new technology, reuse of analogue signal, 4G, higher take up, and satellite, can all be deployed as part of the local mix.

Certainly the pressure is now well and truly on after last week's lashing by the DCMS Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt MP, whom threatened to withdraw BDUK funding from councils that failed to meet its deadline (here). Hunt expects local authorities to have signed their broadband contracts by no later than the end of 2012.

The recent situation in Bath & North East Somerset, where the local council initially rejected the BDUK scheme as being too expensive, is one example of how solutions can be found within even the smallest of budgets.
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