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Rural welcome for digital connectivity

The Rural Services Network has welcomed a government pledge to prioritise the connection of hard-to-reach rural areas to faster broadband services.

The promise is contained in a national, long-term strategy for UK telecommunications announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

Connecting hard-to-reach rural areas are key measures proposed in a national, long-term strategy for UK telecommunications, says the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review.

Key recommendations include public investment in full fibre for rural areas to begin simultaneously with commercial investment in urban locations.

Nationwide availability of full fibre is likely to require additional funding of around £3 billion to £5 billion to support commercial investment in the final 10% of areas, says the government.

These – often rural areas – must not be forced to wait until the rest of the country has connectivity before they can access gigabit-capable networks, it says.

The government says it will pursue an “outside-in” strategy, so while network competition serves the commercially viable areas, public investment for the most difficult to reach areas will happen at the same time.

It says it has already identified around £200m within the existing superfast broadband programme that can further the delivery of full fibre networks immediately.

RSN chief executive Graham Biggs said: “Many rural residents and businesses continue to face multiple barriers in terms of access to key services – including adequate broadband provision.

“This is a positive and ambitious announcement, and has to potential to have a significant and far-reaching positive impact on rural areas.

“We look forward to this pledge being honoured – it promises some long-overdue and much-needed public investment that will help to future proof digital connectivity in the countryside."

Mr Biggs said the network also welcomed the government's commitment that public investment in full fibre for rural areas will begin simultaneously with commercial investment in urban locations.

He said: “Starting with the hardest-to-reach places where there is obvious market failure is a sensible approach, rather than spending money on areas that possibly would have been broadband-enabled anyway."

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