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Government announces new £7m fund for rural connectivity

Malham Cove in Yorkshire

The government has unveiled a new £7m fund to support the most remote areas in the UK and provide them with better access to wireless networks which will support the wider mission of growing the rural economy.

The new fund will involve testing new ways of bringing together satellite, wireless and fixed line internet connectivity with the aim of providing fast and reliable connectivity to remote areas for the first time, helping to support the likes of farmers and tourism businesses.

The investment follows the government’s £8m grant scheme, announced earlier this year, which committed to delivering improved, high-speed broadband via satellite connectivity to up to 35,000 homes in the most rural areas of the UK, speeding up broadband by 10 times.

Rural areas currently contribute 15 per cent to the UK’s economy and the government hopes to support these communities in all areas, including housing, transport, digital connectivity and jobs, with the goal of providing improved opportunities.

Elizabeth Anderson, interim chief executive officer at the Digital Poverty Alliance (DPA), said: “It is fantastic to see the government taking further steps to support the drive of providing connectivity and digital access for everyone. For some, access to wireless networks is an everyday norm, however, for millions, this is currently out of reach, leading to exclusion and acting as a key barrier when looking for jobs, or attempting to use services which are now commonly online as well as many other tasks that require digital access.”

The release of the new fund coincides with the DPA’s launch of the National Delivery Plan, which sets out six core missions to end digital poverty, and Anderson sounded a note of caution about seeing funding as a done deal: “While it is great to see the government making steps in the right direction, we must all do more to support those who lack access with the hope of a fully connected UK in years to come. We must also remember that digital inclusion is about more than just connectivity, with devices, skills and trust in online services all vital,” she said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “I have pledged to build a better future for people in this country, and our rural communities are right at the heart of that promise. That’s why I’m determined to make sure that their interests are front and centre of all our work to grow the economy and strengthen our communities – so that every part of our country gets the support it needs to thrive.”

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