Confusion over Rural Community Broadband Fund highlighted in new report header image

Published: 18th Nov 2014

Confusion surrounding the government's oft-criticised Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) has led to only a small handful of projects receiving support via the project.

A recent freedom of information request has led to the government submitting a breakdown of both successful and unsuccessful bids to the controversial £20 million scheme, revealing that only five projects have actually received funding through this channel, reports ISPreview.

In total, 118 expressions of interest for RCBF funding were received, but 46 were unsuccessful, with 23 being at least partially approved. However, the majority of these were ultimately absorbed into local Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) projects instead.

The entire RCBF initiative has been dogged by problems for some time, due in large part to the conflict over BT’s coverage data for the BDUK programme, which made it difficult to ascertain where the two schemes might overlap.

As such, an update in August revealed that only 3,269 premises were anticipated to have the potential to gain access to superfast broadband as part of the RCBF scheme, which could eventually reach over 20,000 once all of the related RCBF projects are completed. This is substantially less than the original target of 70,000 by mid-2015.

Meanwhile, Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN) said the status of its RCBF bid was now effectively stuck in limbo due to a conflict with Lancashire County Council, which has expressed a preference to partnering with BT on a BDUK-supported superfast broadband rollout - even though this would mean using a less effective technology platform.

B4RN chief executive officer Barry Forde said: "We are not in the least worried about the competition as such, but not too chuffed at our taxes being used to fund an inferior product when we had to raise 100 per cent of our costs from within the community."

The ongoing complications surrounding the rollout of improved broadband services in the countryside could lead many to opt for satellite broadband as a more reliable, flexible and immediate solution.