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Rural broadband scheme extended

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Households across three more areas will be able to access superfast broadband in the latest phase of a government scheme to connect rural homes and businesses.

The £50m funding package for Devon and Somerset (£30m), Norfolk (£15m) and Wiltshire (£4m) will aid the roll-out of superfast broadband services unable to be reached by the market alone.

Areas will also receive financial support from their local authorities and private investors, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport said.

The announcement follows existing pilots already being set up in North Yorkshire, the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, Cumbria and the Herefordshire borders.

Local authorities and their delivery partners were invited to bid for a slice of the £530m funding allocated in the chancellor’s spending review.

A total of 18 bids were received, with further funding for the other bids expected to be given during the remaining Parliament.

An announcement is also expected later this year on funding for other local authorities across the country.

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, left, said: “Broadband is becoming just as essential to homes and businesses as electricity and telephone lines and it is now only a matter of time before people in these three rural areas have access to the connection speeds more commonly associated with towns and cities.”

Local authorities across the three areas are expected to tender for contractors to carry out the work of upgrading the broadband infrastructure.

It is hoped suppliers will then start rolling out upgraded infrastructure within a year, with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) using the networks to offer services to households.

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman added broadband was vital to the economic and social growth of rural communities.

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