Govt to help rural communities with satellite broadband header image

Published: 22nd Jun 2016

A scheme originally proposed by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) to help those rural communities that will be left out of the rollout of super-fast broadband to access better speeds has been approved by the government.

People living in the most remote areas of the UK that are not covered by the plan to provide 95 per cent of homes and businesses with improved connectivity will be given financial help to install satellite broadband.

The CLA-proposed scheme, which will be launched later this year, will subsidise the cost of installation and equipment, with customers just needing to pay for the monthly subscription themselves - just like they would with a traditional broadband service.

Full details of the initiative are outlined in the government's response to a report into broadband and digital-only services, produced by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee.

Plan for the 5 per cent

The government has come under fire since it released the details of its plan to roll out super-fast broadband to 95 per cent of the UK by 2017, as it appeared to leave five per cent of the country in the lurch. Many communities from the minority, which are located in the remotest parts of Britain, have campaigned about improving the provision they have, with some suffering with speeds of less than 1 Mbps, compared to the 24 Mbps that the majority will have in two years' time.

As part of the project, the government has been looking into alternative ways of improving the speeds that the final five per cent could access, particularly in those areas where fibre-optic broadband is not currently an option.

There are seven pilot projects that are live and are testing the feasibility and viability of several different solutions, one of which is subsidised satellite broadband. The government claims that it doesn't want to leave those living in the UK's most remote area[s] behind in terms of internet access.  

Welcome news

Anne McIntosh, Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton and chairperson of the EFRA committee, welcomed the government's decision to take up the CLA's proposal.

She wrote: "However, as we stated in our recent Work of the Committee 2010-15 report, we remain concerned that national figures for broadband coverage disguise considerable local variation, with some rural areas experiencing far lower levels of coverage than the national average.

"A competitive rural economy requires effective broadband and mobile services."

The decision has also been praised by the CLA themselves, with president Henry Robinson saying that when he provided evidence to the EFRA Select Committee, he highlighted that it was "fundamental" to connect the countryside to an improved internet service to ensure that rural businesses and communities thrive.

"The government’s response to the committee’s report is a major step forward for the CLA rural broadband campaign," he added.

Satellite broadband is a viable alternative to fibre optic, as it is not limited by the geographical location of a home or business and the the quality is consistent and equal between customers because the satellite is located so high up in space.