Funding boost for broadband in rural areas

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INTERNET users in rural areas around Ripon frustrated with slow download speeds can look forward to a massive upgrade following the award of a multi-million pound grant.

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), which leads the Connecting North Yorkshire project, has confirmed the scheme has received funding of up to £16.4m to bring high-speed broadband to households and businesses in the region by 2017. The funding has been granted by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), a Government organisation given the task of ensuring all areas of the UK can receive broadband access by next year and high-speed broadband in six years’ time.

NYnet, the county council’s broadband company, is also working with the European Regional Development Fund to secure match funding to bring the total investment to £25-£30 million.

Ripon MP Julian Smith – who organised the Broadband North Yorkshire conference at Ripon Racecourse in February to promote the vision of broadband access for all – has welcomed the announcement.

“I am delighted that the final figure from Government has been announced for the Connecting North Yorkshire project,” he said.

“North Yorkshire MPs will continue the campaign for further funds and I am currently working with the council and Government to ensure that we secure matched funding for this project from Europe.

“I hope NYCC can ensure the procurement process is as speedy as possible so that communities across the Skipton and Ripon constituency and beyond can finally move into the broadband fast lane.”

North Yorkshire is England’s largest rural county with a population of just under 600,000 spread over roughly 3,000 square miles and the remoteness of the region has previously resulted in limited broadband access.

In October, the county was chosen as one of four areas for a pilot rural broadband project by the Government.

The pilot project made a funding pot of £530m available to bring next-generation internet to rural parts of the UK where it had not been profitable for private telecommunications companies to install the latest fibre-optic cables needed for faster speeds.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “This pilot has made real progress and the funding allocation marks an important step in taking superfast broadband to the homes and businesses of North Yorkshire.

“The internet has become an integral part of our economy and our everyday lives. It is essential that all homes and businesses in the UK have access to decent broadband.”

NYnet said a procurement process was now underway for the building of the new network. It is expected to take 12 months and should be completed by June next year.

Coun Carl Les, chairman of Connecting North Yorkshire, said: “We are determined to ensure businesses and the people of North Yorkshire continue to thrive and high-quality broadband is essential to thriving communities.

“The ability to offer services such as remote access to computers and servers, video-conferencing, web-meetings and access to a company telephony system, will put North Yorkshire on a level playing field with the major cities such as Leeds and London.”

He added that remote working results in many other advantages such as increased productivity, reduced accommodation costs and a lower carbon footprint.

“High-speed broadband benefits a broad demographic of people. Young people, for example, can access e-learning and a broader curriculum often unavailable to remote, rural schools,” he said.

“It also enables technology to be used to monitor and provide care direct into individual homes, allowing people to stay independent for as long as possible.”

• Are you hampered by slow internet download speeds? If so, let us know about your difficulties and how they impact on your daily life or business by writing to: The Editor, Ripon Gazette, 5A Kirkgate, HG4 1PA, or send an email to news@ripongazette.co.uk