The government is set to announce how it will distribute its £530 million rural broadband fund, it has been reported.
Earlier this year – after allocating the first £50 million in public funding to projects in Norfolk, Wiltshire, and Somerset & Devon – Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that all local authorities could expect some state support for their digital plans.
The Minister will this week announce exactly where funding will be targeted – with many of the UK's most remote communities keeping their fingers crossed for broadband investment, reports the Guardian.
Under current plans, every UK community should have access to a minimum of 2Mb broadband by 2012.
However, the Con-Lib coalition is aiming to go further than this, by delivering super-fast broadband – with download speeds of greater than 24Mb – to 90 per cent of the population by 2015.
Investment from private sector broadband providers such as BT and Virgin Media is having a positive impact on UK broadband in terms of increasing average download speeds.
However, such firms have tended to concentrate their investment on urban areas where they are able to generate the greatest return on investment.
As such, the digital divide between households and businesses in the main towns and cities, and those based in the countryside, has continued to grow.
The government's £530 million broadband fund is geared at improving broadband services for rural communities, however the coalition has already admitted that additional funding will be needed to deliver high-speed internet services nationwide.
A further £300 million has been pledged by the government after 2015, but greater private sector investment could be needed to meet the government's speed targets.
The private sector has shown some willingness to work with the public to improve broadband coverage – but it remains to be seen how much commercial organisations are willing to invest in low-profit rural regions.
A number of broadband providers, including BT and Fujitsu, have pledged to create nationwide broadband networks, on the proviso that they receive a large share of the £530 million broadband fund.
However the Culture Secretary could announce a number of smaller funding awards for small, localised projects, rather than allocating the majority of the finance to a single broadband provider.