£5m fund promises fast rural broadband to bridge UK digital divide

Ending the disparity between Internet speeds in the UK’s rural and urban areas is often seen as a problem more talked about, than actually tackled and fixed.

But a new £5 million investment into the Community Broadband Scotland organisation has brought renewed hope for countryside-dwellers enduring sluggish connectivity - north of the border, at least.

The fund comes as part of the Scottish Government’s plan to give the country a world-class broadband infrastructure by 2020, reports the Press Association. Community Broadband Scotland offers advice and solutions to those with limited or no broadband available in their area, to “show how barriers can be overcome” by people setting up their own broadband networks.

Part of the new scheme allows communities to apply for “seed funding” to improve their access, and it is hoped these applicants will serve as an example for others to take action. Alex Neil, Infrastructure and Capital Investment Secretary for Holyrood, Edinburgh, spoke of the "importance of access to broadband to ensure that our local communities flourish".

Neil added, "Broadband should not be considered a luxury in rural areas. It is essential to enhance the quality of life and stimulate the growth of the local economy. This investment of £5 million over the next three years will see targeted support being provided to community projects to enable them to deliver broadband solutions for their areas."

The rest of the UK will be looking on with interest as Scotland aims to boost rural connectivity. Westminster has promised major investment into such projects, but its broadband strategy has been criticised for focusing too heavily on super-fast speeds and not enough on ensuring a wide spread of good Internet access to close the digital divide.

Reports last month said further delays to the rural rollout were expected, meaning it would not meet its 2015 deadline. Those awaiting the development were left further disheartened by the fact that £3 million of the government’s money for the project had been splurged on consultants alone.

Image: Harrogate News