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UK Gov pledges £26m for hill farmers' broadband

The government has pledged funding of up to £26 million to bring better broadband to rural communities - more specifically, to get hill farmers connected to the World Wide Web.

The Rural Community Broadband Fund, expected to be worth up to £20 million, is to be joined by funding of £6 million specially earmarked to offer hill farmers environmental stewardship schemes.

The project will be funded by the Rural Development Programme for England and Broadband Delivery UK, the group which has been given the task of upgrading the UK's woeful national network infrastructure to something world-leading by 2015 - a monumental task if ever there was one.

"Making a living as a hill farmer can be very difficult without the payments which reward the valuable environmental contribution they make, and unless farmers get help to innovate and diversify," claimed Environmental Secretary Caroline Spelman in a statement. "The range of measures announced today will help hill farmers become more competitive and take advantage of new opportunities to grow their businesses. They will also help rural communities to thrive."

"This new fund will enable some of the most remote communities in England to bring broadband to their homes and businesses," enthused Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt. "Remote and rural areas have the most to gain from access to broadband but these are the communities currently missing out."

The fund will be used to support small-scale broadband projects which would otherwise be economically non-viable for large telecommunications companies to implement: the cost of running fibre-optic cabling to a small village would be difficult to recoup, even if all that village's population signed up to the service.

At a time when the government is making swingeing cuts across the board, it's good to see that the internet is still being considered an essential resource - although it's a drop in the ocean of the £530 million funding announced for Broadband UK in the last Spending Review.