UK government pledges extra £250m to bring ‘superfast’ broadband to rural towns

An extra £250m of funding has been allocated to provide hard-to-reach towns and cities in the UK with access to superfast broadband.

The announcement was made as part of the UK government’s aim to give 95% of homes and businesses in the country access to superfast broadband by 2017 – and is in addition to the £1.2bn already invested by central and local authorities.

Local projects will be able to access funding from the £250m pot – with some of the most hard-to-reach locations set to benefit the most.

The £1.2bn that has already been invested has been split across three different areas. In total £790m has been pledged to extend superfast broadband, £150m to provide high-speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities across the country and £150m to improve the quality and coverage of mobile phone and basic data network services.

The bulk of the additional funding, £184.34m, has gone to English towns and cities with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland receiving no more than £20m each.

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You can see which areas of the UK have been given the most funding on the interactive map above

The UK government claims that the current rural programme will deliver returns for £20 for every £1 invested and says that faster broadband will create an extra 56,000 jobs by 2024.

It claims that more than 10,000 homes and businesses are now gaining access to superfast broadband every week, with the ambitious figure of 40,000 per week being the target for just a few months time.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said the government wants to ensure that Britain is one of the best countries in the world for broadband and make sure the country is not “left behind in the digital slow lane.”

She said: “Superfast broadband will benefit everyone – whether they need it for work, to do homework or simply to download music or films. Thousands of homes and businesses now have access and it is helping people with their everyday tasks.”

However figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown that in 2013 there were four million homes in the UK that are still not connected to the internet – let alone having access to superfast broadband – proving there is a long way to go if the 2017 target is to be met.

In total 21 million, 83%, of households in the UK have access to the internet which is 3% higher than the figures for 2012.

The ‘Superfast Britain’ initiative is being run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport with the aim of aiding business growth and job creation.

Image courtesy of the Sean MacEntee via Flickr.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg shares thoughts on future of internet at MWC

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has told the Mobile World Congress that the company purchased WhatsApp to help with the shared vision of connecting everyone in the world.

Zuckerberg was keen to promote the growing movement that is, which aims to make the internet affordable and accessible to all.

The movement says that devices as well as service plans and data are too expensive for those who are not connected to the internet.

Zuckerberg told the Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona, Spain, that there’s a set of basic services that should exist for all, such as access to weather information and Wikipedia.

He highlighted that these are all mostly text-based services which can be provided by low data plans that do not need to expensive to the customer.

He said internet growth across the world was slower than most people think it has been and in order to be able to connect everyone in the world Facebook has to connect with a lot of companies to achieve this.

Speaking at the congress he said: “Most people in the world do not have access to the internet. It’s only about a third of people that have connection to the internet.”

When questioned on the longer term promise for the operator who would be providing this service alongside Facebook and other companies, he defended the scheme by saying that by providing a basic service it would show people how data plans are “rational and good for them” and would increase their internet consumption and knowledge of the world.

He was speaking  just days after his company completed the acquisition of social messaging service WhatsApp for $19bn and the first question put to him was about Facebook’s purchase of the company.

“WhatsApp is a great company and is a great fit for us. It’s the most engaging app that we have ever seen existing on mobile so far,” Zuckerberg said.

“What we see is that WhatsApp is on a path to connecting more than a billion people.”

He said that he wanted to help WhatsApp with its dream of connecting everyone in the world.

Video still courtesy of Mobile World Live.