Local authorities and communities in rural parts of the UK are to get extra time to finalise their plans for fast broadband, as the government has extended a deadline for funding applications.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has confirmed that the original cut-off point of May 24th has been extended until June 17th in order to give applicants greater time to arrange their bids for a share of a £20 million fund to boost internet speeds in remote parts of the country.
Two rounds of applications have already taken place and the latest deadline will mark the end of the third and final chance for local groups to receive assistance with broadband provisioning.
Groups including businesses, charities, community trusts and local authorities can bid for 50 per cent or more of the total cost of internet rollout projects in locations where there is currently limited service. Money awarded will be used to upgrade infrastructure and make it easier for homes and businesses in rural areas to get online.
The Rural Community Broadband Fund is administered jointly by Defra and Broadband Delivery UK with the aim of unlocking the economic potential of areas that have otherwise been neglected in the rollout of fast broadband speeds across the UK.
So far, more than 50 applications have been invited to submit final proposals to begin work on bringing high-speed internet to their local area.
Environment minister Richard Benyon said: "Rural broadband is crucial to getting the economy moving and businesses growing. Funding is still available and I don't want communities to miss out on this great opportunity."
He added: "Superfast broadband is transforming the lives of rural businesses and communities by helping them tap into new markets, get better exposure and save time in their working day."
The decision to extend the deadline comes shortly after new figures from Ofcom revealed how rural areas are underserved by broadband provisions.
While 98.3 per cent of urban areas have access to standard broadband speeds of at least 2Mbps, this falls to 80.6 per cent for rural locations.
Posted by Mark Wynn