Fund available to boost broadband
£20 million of government funding has been made available to help rural communities across England access faster broadband.
Although the Government has promised that everyone in the country will have access to broadband by 2015, it is thought that superfast broadband will only reach 90% of the population.
The Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF), jointly funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), is aimed at the 10% hardest to reach rural areas which are unlikely to receive superfast broadband under the county level rollout plans. Under these plans the hardest to reach rural areas are likely to only receive standard broadband with a minimum speed of 2Mb/s (Megabits per second).
The 10% hardest to reach areas in Hampshire equates to around 50,000 households and 7,000 Hampshire businesses, some of whom currently find themselves in broadband ‘not spots’, with very slow broadband speeds or even worse no coverage at all.
These rural communities will see an improvement over the three-year lifetime of the Hampshire County Council led broadband project, getting at least the minimum speed of 2 Mb/s. Nevertheless these communities may well feel left behind when they see how the rest of the country benefits from the economic, social and cultural advantages that much faster broadband brings.
The £20m Rural Community Broadband Fund, which was launched in November 2011, is aimed at these communities who wish to explore small projects to boost that minimum provision to 24-30Mb/s. These enhanced speeds are now necessary for seamless streaming of films, downloading of music, internet banking, shopping, teleconferencing, and other health, social and cultural activities that are increasingly available online.
A second round for Expressions of Interest in the RCBF is expected to open in May 2012 and this will be confirmed during March.
Communities can bid for any amount of funding by working together to establish demand, identify solutions and can get help from a number of sources:
· Hampshire County Council can help you find out if your area is likely to be in the final 10%. Email your full address and postcode to firstname.lastname@example.org
· Local RDPE delivery team can help you decide whether your project is viable. Contact Joe Ling on 01905 768 854 or email email@example.com
· Broadband Delivery UK can help you understand the funding options. Contact Adrian Wooster on 07788 167 776 or email Adrian@wooster.org.uk
· Community Action Hampshire can help with bringing your community together, establishing a constituted body, and advice on engaging your neighbours. Contact Joanna Dixon on 01962 857 354 or email Joanna.firstname.lastname@example.org
· Use the Go ON campaign to build skills in using the web, alongside work to establish improved infrastructure. Contact Natasha Innocent on 07917 174 205 or email Natasha@raceonline2012.org
Cllr George Beckett, Leader of Winchester City Council is encouraging rural communities in Winchester District to apply:
We are working with Hampshire County Council to roll out better broadband across the area. The RCBF can enable even our most isolated communities to further boost the minimum 2Mb/s connections to superfast broadband speeds. Bids for funds such as this do take a lot of work, but the rewards are potentially life changing, not only for the business community wanting to work in rural areas, but to enable all sections of our society to get online, and access the services they need.”
For more information about Winchester City Council’s involvement in improving broadband in the area, contact Kate Cloud, Head of Economy and Arts on 01962 848 563 or email email@example.com
Communities wishing to explore this funding option can find out more http://rdpenetwork.defra.gov.uk/funding-sources/rural-community-broadband-fund