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UK government's new £10m rural broadband fund open for business from 17 March

The UK government has announced a new £10 million fund to complement the existing £1.2 billion Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) initiative aimed at bringing high-speed Internet to rural Britain.

The government has pledged to bring superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the nation by 2017, though BDUK has faced hearty criticism for failing to meet deadlines and appearing to favour national telecoms firm BT.

The refreshed programme features a new chief executive, David Townsend – formerly commercial director for the London 2012 Olympics Organising Committee - and will be focused on reaching the "final 5 per cent" of the target.

In particular, the additional £10 million is earmarked for investment in innovative delivery methods, alternative technology providers, and pilot programmes. Examples might include mobile operators provisioning 4G for connectivity, as well as FTTH and FTTC fibre optic solutions and satellite-based projects.

The new scheme will "imaginatively" improve the way broadband is delivered in rural Britain, according to culture secretary Maria Miller.

"Our nationwide rollout of superfast broadband will benefit everyone from school children to business owners, parents to patients," she said.

Miller added: "An estimated 10,000 homes and businesses are gaining access to superfast speeds every week but now we need to focus on the hardest to reach communities."

Projects must gain local council approval before being enacted, although authorities are being urged to approach proposals with an open mind. The bidding process for the new £10m fund opens on 17 March.

The government was criticised back in July after heavy delays to its UK rural superfast broadband plans.