County to seek funds to improve broadband links for rural business
LANCASHIRE County Council is to bid for funding to improve broadband connections for rural businesses.
The authority’s cabinet has agreed to bid for £3m from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
If successful, £2m would be added from the county council’s own funds, and private sector contributions would also be sought.
County Councillor Michael Green, cabinet member for economic development, environment and planning, said: “For local businesses, broadband connects them with new customers and opens up new markets, and creates new jobs for local residents. It also reduces the difference between companies, giving them a more level playing field, regardless of where they’re based.
“If our bid for funding is a success, it will bring increased coverage and increased speeds in harder to-reach and more isolated rural areas. These areas tend to be avoided by commercial providers due to cost, and are also more likely to have poor mobile phone 4G service connectivity.
“While this scheme is mainly aimed at helping business, superfast broadband in rural areas provides important connections for people and access to services that they couldn't find locally.”
Lancashire has already been at the forefront of superfast broadband delivery in the UK, and the first stage of the programme in the county is now complete.
The superfast broadband programme is designed to provide investment in areas which aren’t included in any commercial plans. It has already delivered superfast speeds to 136,000 premises and is scheduled to provide them to another 11,283 by the end of this year.
According to Thinkbroadband.com, 95% of the UK has superfast broadband coverage, compared to 97% of Lancashire.
Once stage two has been completed, around 17,000 properties will still be without superfast broadband access.
The outcome of the bid is likely to be known in autumn 2018.