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March 25, 2015

Gov’t trumpets ‘Superconnected Cities’, but rural broadband still trails

14,000 small businesses have received grants.

By Alexander Sword

The Government has announced that its Superconnected Cities programme has provided 14,000 small businesses with grants.

Under the programme, businesses can receive grants of up to £3000 to enhance their broadband infrastructure. The initative has also seen over 1000 buildings fitted with free public wi-fi, as well as buses, trams and trains throughout the UK.

In addition, Cardiff has seen the creation of an internet exchange to improve broadband resilience and Brighton the launch of a Digital Exchange to connect high-tech digital clusters on the south coast.

The broadband grant element of the programme, previously due to finish on 31 March, has now been extended due to popularity. It will be offered to 28 more UK cities.

In its five-year term the Tory-Lib Dem coalition has announced several initiatives to extend broadband coverage, with the Broadband Delivery (BDUK) initiative aiming to bring 95 percent coverage by 2017.

However, research from the County Councils Network suggests that rural areas are still underserved. Its members expected the BDUK initiative may fall short of its target of 95 percent coverage. This is because of "a clear demarcation between broadband speed and access available in rural and urban areas."

BDUK has also seen accusations from the Public Accounts Committee that it is not sufficiently competitive, granting an effective monopoly to BT in rural areas. The CCN survey found 29 percent of respondents believing that the market and delivery process were sufficiently competitive, with 44 percent believing it was not.

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Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said: "It’s vital that our cities have the digital infrastructure like superfast broadband and wifi in place to deal with the demands of the digital age. Our investment has delivered a welcome boost to the local economies, and is all part of our long term economic plan."

Adrian Baschnonga, Lead Telecoms Analyst at EY, commented on measures to support technology in the UK: "Britain is already ahead of many neighbouring markets when it comes to super-fast broadband coverage and plans to extend ultra-fast broadband to nearly all homes represent a strong statement of additional intent."

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