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A voucher scheme to improve broadband connectivity for rural families and boost competition in the market is being drawn up by ministers.

According to the Telegraph, the government wants to distribute cash vouchers worth hundreds of pounds to households in non-urban areas to spend on their own internet providers.

This could potentially prompt families in remote areas to band together so they spend their vouchers on companies that adopt more experimental approaches to boosting connectivity.

For instance, the Telegraph understands that the government is particularly keen on the approach taken by WiSpire, a company owned by the Church of England that operates a broadband service from 47 churches across Norfolk which offers wireless internet coverage within a 2.5 mile radius.

This means that BT could end up facing stronger competition from other, much smaller broadband providers in the future.

A senior Whitehall source commented: "There a whole load of these insurgent providers using different technologies and they are not relying on fibre.

"I can imagine 500 houses in a village and they’ve all got their voucher. The parish council comes together and says ‘we will hear from five providers and choose one of them’.”

Ministers have already pledged to implement a new broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) that ensures everyone in Britain has a legal right to request minimum speeds of 10Mbps by 2020.

However, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) recently insisted there needs to be more clarity over how this measure, contained in the Digital Economy Bill, would work in practice.

Indeed, CLA President Ross Murray stated that while the USO represents a "major breakthrough in ending the digital divide", consumer protection will only make a major difference "if people who live and work in the countryside are made aware of their rights and can exercise them easily".

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