Funding plan to build fibre optic cable network will bring superfast broadband to city dwellers as countryside lags behind
News that the Government will be taking a further £14m from the £830m broadband pot to give to UK cities has been called "deeply dispiriting" by campaigners for rural broadband.
The news of the extra cash, on top of the £100m already earmarked for these cities, to allow them to install fibre-optic infrastructure in urban areas is seen as a blow by rural campaigners.
The extra funds will be taken from the £830m that is already allocated for cities, rural areas and mobile broadband projects and it is feared that some other project may now lose out.
Charles Trotman of the Country, Land and Business Association (CLA) said: "Why are they concentrating on providing speeds of up to 80 to 100 Mbits/sec in urban areas when so many places in the country struggle to get even 500 Kbits/sec?
"There is a huge disparity and it suggests that the Department of Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS), which said originally that it was vital to provide rural areas with at least a universal commitment of 2 Mbits/sec, no longer thinks this is important."
The CLA lobbies Government on behalf of businesses and people in rural areas. It recently released a report outlining its concerns about the Government's focus on speeds currently available only through fibre.
The organisation is calling on the Government to agree to a legally enforceable Universal Service Obligation rather than a Commitment to ensure rural areas do not miss out on faster broadband services.
It stressed that local authorities continue to face difficulties getting funding from the Broadband Development UK (BDUK); a unit of the DCMS which manages the broadband funds.
The extra funding for the cities comes from the £830m announced in the Comprehensive Spending review and TV licence settlement. In November last year, £100m was allocated to major UK cities. Now the DCMS has announced that the ten cities would get a further £14m.
But this will also have to be found from the original £830m, according to the DCMS, which rural campaigners fear means another broadband project funded through this pot is likely to lose the cash.
Mr Trotman said: "This is very disturbing and dispiriting news and we will be speaking to the DCMS."
However the DCMS told us that "no project would lose out" as the extra money would come from underspend in projects.
A DCMS spokesman said: "No one is going to lose out and no money will be taken from other projects. The money for rural broadband has already been allocated and giving extra money to cities will not change this. We don't even know if the cities will need all the money they have been allocated."
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