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Government satellite scheme to boost rural broadband speeds

Monday, December 7th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Homes and businesses in “the most remote areas with the slowest speeds” are to get help funding the installation of satellite broadband.

Up to 300,000 homes that struggle to access speeds of more than 2Mbps will be eligible for government funding for the installation of satellite broadband services as part of the government's drive to give everyone in the country basic broadband of 10Mbps.

The scheme, due to go live this month, is the result of a new contract between satellite company Avanti and BT.

Part of the government’s Universal Service Commitment, the plan will be directed by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).

Digital minister Ed Vaizey said: “Our rollout of superfast broadband has already reached an additional 3.5m homes and businesses who would otherwise have missed out.

“We are making tremendous progress, but it’s a massive engineering project and won’t happen overnight.

“This scheme offers immediate assistance to those homes and businesses in the most remote areas with the slowest speeds and is all part of our transformation of the UK’s digital landscape.”

Homes and businesses without access to speeds of more than 2Mbps will be get a contribution from the government to fund the satellite installation but will have to pay the monthly charges themselves.

The contribution is likely to reduce the cost of installing the service by around £350.

David Williams, chief executive of Avanti, said: “We welcome this significant intervention by government to ensure that the Universal Service Commitment is met and we are pleased to serve the best interests of the UK consumer.”

'Absolutely fundamental'

Last month, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged that everyone in the country would have the legal right to a broadband connection of 10Mbps as part of the introduction of a new Universal Service Obligation (USO).

Mr Cameron said: “Access to the internet shouldn’t be a luxury; it should be a right – absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century Britain.

“Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we’re going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it."

Last week Cable.co.uk reported that Ofcom’s Connected Nations 2015 report – an in-depth look at the telecoms and wireless networks of the UK – found the coverage and quality of fixed broadband services across the UK had increased markedly over the past year.

It said more than a quarter of homes (27%, or 7.5m) now have ‘superfast’ broadband – defined in the report as a connection of 30Mbps or faster – up from 21%, or around 6m homes, a year earlier.

Ofcom said superfast broadband is now available to more than eight in 10 UK homes (83%, almost 24m) – up from 75% last year.

But it also identified challenges in improving coverage across the UK.

Around 8% of UK homes – some 2.4m – are currently unable to receive speeds of 10Mbps or above. This jumps to nearly half (48%, or 1.5m) in rural areas, where speeds are often affected by premises lying further from the network’s local street cabinet or telephone exchange.

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