Rural areas see new link as vital

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Remote parts of Yorkshire are now pushing forward with their own efforts to bring next-generation internet to their area.

With firms such as BT only prepared to roll out fibre optic networks where they consider it to be profitable – generally in densely-populated areas – more distant communities will require sizeable Government subsidies to ensure the technology reaches them.

Leading the pack in this region is North Yorkshire, where the county council was successful in its bid to be made a pilot area for Whitehall’s £530m rural broadband programme.

Earlier this month it was revealed the council has won an allocation of more than £16m. Through its Connecting North Yorkshire campaign it is now bidding for match-funding from the EU, and believes that if the full £30m public investment can be secured, every home and business in England’s largest rural county could have access to high-speed broadband by 2015.

Superfast broadband is seen as being more valuable to rural communities than it is to urban areas, allowing people to work or access services remotely from the most far-flung corners of the country.

County Coun Carl Les, chairman of Connecting North Yorkshire, said the social and economic effects could be transformative – particularly for the one in eight county residents who work for themselves.

“The ability to offer services such as remote access to computers and servers, video-conferencing, web meetings and access to a company telephony system will put North Yorkshire on a level playing field with major cities such as Leeds and London,” he said.

The procurement process for North Yorkshire’s £16m contract is expected to take up to 12 months. The authority will have to choose between large corporations such as BT and Fujitsu, and smaller local firms who are also likely to bid for the work. In the meantime, the council has said it will spend £750,000 of its own funds to roll out next-generation broadband to 15 more towns and villages.