Broadband: Rural Areas

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered on 11th April 2019.

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Photo of Trudy Harrison Trudy Harrison Conservative, Copeland

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps his Department is taking to improve rural broadband.

Photo of Margot James Margot James The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

The Government’s policy is to ensure world-class broadband and mobile connectivity across the UK. We are currently implementing a number of policies to achieve this in rural areas.

£1.8 billion of public money is being invested to support vital improvements in superfast broadband coverage across the UK, including in rural areas. In December 2017, we met our target to extend superfast coverage to 95% of UK premises, and we expect to reach at least 97% by 2020.

DCMS has also put in place legislation to create a new Universal Service Obligation (USO) giving every household and business the right to request a broadband connection of at least 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) by 2020, to ensure access to decent connectivity. Ofcom are now responsible for implementing the USO. Further details, including how to apply are expected to be announced in the summer. In addition, the Better Broadband Scheme provides voucher funding to UK premises that do not have access to affordable broadband service delivering at least 2Mbps.

DEFRA has allocated £75 million of grant funding from the Rural Development Programme for England, targeted at helping to connect businesses with superfast broadband in hard to reach rural areas.

Looking forward, we want to provide world class digital connectivity that is gigabit-capable, reliable, long-lasting and widely available across the UK. We have set ambitious targets - for 15 million premises to be connected to full fibre by 2025, with nationwide coverage by 2033. In the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review, we set out our long term national strategy to meet these targets, and to ensure that rural and remote areas are not left behind. Critical to delivering this ambition, is the “outside-in” approach set out in the review, which seeks to ensure that the harder to reach, mostly rural areas which are not viable for commercial investment - are addressed at the same pace as the rest of the country.

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