£20 million of government funding has been made available to help rural communities across the UK access faster broadband. Applications for the second round of funding closed in July 2012. A third round may be announced on the Defra website.
The Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF), jointly funded by Defra and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), is aimed at the 10% hardest to reach areas which are unlikely to be upgraded through the commercial market and may only receive standard broadband with a minimum speed of 2Mbps (Megabits per second).
Although the Government has promised that everyone in the country will have access to broadband by 2015, it is thought that superfast broadband will only reach 90% of the population.
Rural communities will see an improvement over the three-year lifetime of the Hampshire Broadband Programme, getting at least the minimum speed of 2Mbps. Nevertheless these communities may well feel left behind when they see how the rest of the country benefits from the economic, social and cultural advantages that much faster broadband brings.
The Rural Community Broadband Fund, which was launched in November 2011, is aimed at these communities who wish to explore small projects to boost that minimum provision to 24-30Mbps. These enhanced speeds are now necessary for seamless streaming of films, downloading of music, internet banking, shopping, teleconferencing, and other health, social and cultural activities that are increasingly available online.
Information about how to apply is provided by Defra. Eligible communities can bid for funding by working together to establish demand, identify solutions and can get help from a number of sources:
Hampshire County Council can help you find out if your area is likely to be difficult to reach. Please use our post code checker.
Local Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) delivery team can help you decide whether your project is viable. Contact Joe Ling on 01905 768 854 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Broadband Delivery UK can help you understand the funding options. Contact Adrian Wooster on 07788 167 776 or email email@example.com
Community Action Hampshire can help with bringing your community together, with identifying an appropriate legal organisational structure, business planning and advice on engaging with your neighbours. Contact Joanna Dixon on 01962 857 354 or email firstname.lastname@example.org