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November 21, 2012

European Commission approves UK’s £530m rural broadband development project

The approval follows a direct intervention from the Culture Secretary in Brussels

By CBR Staff Writer

The European Commission (EC) has approved the UK government’s £530m scheme to improve the country’s broadband performance in rural and remote areas.

The Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme intends to deliver super-fast (24Mbps or above) connectivity to 90% of the country and at least 2Mbps to everyone by 2015.

According to the Commission, the total value of aid to be delivered by the scheme is estimated around £1.5bn which will most likely enable the UK to achieve the objective of the EU Digital Agenda of coverage of 30 Mbps networks for all European citizens.

EC vice president in charge of competition policy Joaquin Almunia said that BDUK, as a national competence centre, will assist local granting authorities in designing and implementing broadband support measures in line with EU competition rules.

"The umbrella scheme will be a big step towards the achievement of the EU Digital Agenda targets and a strong impetus for growth in the UK," Almunia said.

The commission said that the scheme contains a number of best practices that would lead to more effective, better targeted and less distortive public interventions.

UK aims to support around 140 local projects in the so-called final third areas which are typically low-density, rural areas, where commercial operators are unlikely to invest in high quality broadband networks.

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Wales and Surrey will be the first to commence superfast broadband projects and Cumbria, Rutland, Hereford and Gloucestershire are anticipated to follow soon while the rest are expected to complete their procurements by summer 2013.

UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Maria Miller said: "Finally getting the green light from Brussels will mean a huge boost for the British economy.

"Superfast broadband is essential to creating growth, jobs and prosperity and the delay has caused frustration within Government. Today’s announcement means that we can crack on with delivering broadband plans, boosting growth and jobs around the country," Miller said.

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