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Govt urged to speed up super-fast rural broadband plans

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10/07/2013
The Government must speed up plans to provide superfast broadband to rural households, a leading business group has said.

In a report out today, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warned it would be a mistake to push back investment until after the next election.

In 2011, the Government announced plans to give 90% of households in every UK local authority internet access to superfast broadband by May 2015 and a minimum of two megabits for others.

The programme was backed by £530m of matched funding for rural broadband projects and a further £300m, if needed, from future BBC licence fee revenue beyond 2015.

However, in a report out today called Let’s Get Digital, the CBI argued it would more cost effective to target the cash at existing local schemes and a wider range of providers to drive up connectivity now, than start again in 2015.

Katja Hall, chief policy director at the CBI said: “We must close the rural/urban internet divide. It’s a huge concern that many areas still lack the high-speed connectivity that the rest of the country takes for granted.

“We cannot wait another two years for this investment to start flowing and we need clarity on the further £50m originally set aside, which still remains uncommitted. It will be far quicker to invest in existing innovative, ongoing local and industry schemes now to unlock economic and social benefits.”

The CBI is calling on the three major parties to agree urgently on plans for the next decade and beyond – pursuing them with the same “verve” and “passion” that the Victorians electrified towns and built the first rail system.

Hall added: “Broader, faster digital networks are revolutionising how society and business operate, just as the Victorian rail and electrification systems transformed the world in the 1800s.

“The UK has a positive story to tell on digital but we cannot be complacent if we want to stay ahead.”

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