The National Audit Office has released its report “The rural broadband programme”. The report is highly critical of the Department for Culture Media and Sport and its handling of the process to roll out broadband to rural areas.

In polling carried out by ComRes on behalf of the Countryside Alliance last month, it was revealed that the majority of people living in the countryside think the government’s efforts to bring broadband to rural areas have been poor.

Main points:
•             Most rural dwellers (53%) rate the government’s efforts to roll out broadband into rural areas as “poor”, compared with only a quarter (26%) rating progress as “good”.

•             Nearly three in 10 (29%) rural dwellers are dissatisfied with the speed of their broadband connection, compared with only 18% of urban dwellers.

Countryside Alliance executive chairman Barney White-Spunner said: “For a long time we have known this strategy is not making the inroads it needs to make to ensure that the UK has the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015. We now know that only nine of 44 broadband projects are projected to reach their 90% superfast coverage target by May 2015 and that in June the target deadline was extended to March 2017 – the project will be nearly two years late.

“The BDUK project has only served to exacerbate BT's dominance in the market and too much pressure is being placed on the public purse to finance a superfast broadband network, with just 23% being the average proportion of private sector funding in contracts signed to date, compared with 36% modelled in the Department’s 2011 business case.”

A recent FOI request by the Countryside Alliance has shown that councils have struggled to gain public sector funding and the majority of match funding has now come from LAs and not the private sector.

“The UK needs an internet infrastructure that can meet the demands of a modern digital society and it is now time for DCMS to ensure that rural communities are included as part of the national infrastructure,” added Sir Barney.


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