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Govt offers £50m to boost superfast broadband

Councils must apply to Broadband Delivery UK

The government has made £50m available to local authorities that want to apply for funding to upgrade the broadband network in their local community.

Chancellor George Osborne said: "Today's £50m will benefit up to 800,000 homes and businesses. This is very much a locally driven process and we encourage bids from all local people with plans for improving broadband in their local area.

"Broadband is crucial for the country's economic future; that's why the coalition government is investing over half a billion pounds in its infrastructure."

In December, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed the government plans to spend £830m to ensure everyone in the UK can access superfast broadband. The government will provide £530m over the next four years, while £300m will come from the BBC licence fee to upgrade networks after 2015. Hunt also revealed BT will match any funding it receives from the government itself.

It is hoped the investment will go some way to ensuring Britain has the "best superfast broadband network in Europe".

Local authorities will need to develop a strategy for rolling out superfast broadband in their community and then apply to Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) for funding.

However, work has yet to start on four trials announced by the government in October last year that planned to give North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Herefordshire and the Highlands superfast broadband. The £50m scheme would have been the first to look at the best way to deploy superfast broadband in areas deemed economically non-viable by firms such as Virgin Media and BT.

In February, Ian Lucas, Labour MP from Wrexham, called for BDUK to pull its finger out over the trials as tenders for the project had yet to be put out.

"Before we can make any progress, the pilot projects have to be commenced and assessed. At the moment they haven't even been tendered for, let alone commenced," he said at the time.

See also: Carrier pigeon faster than rural broadband

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