UK's rural broadband project gets EU approval

Fibre optics The government hopes to have best fibre network in Europe by 2015

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The UK's plans to roll out broadband to rural areas has received EU approval.

Such approval was needed because the project is partially state-aided.

The green light means councils can now begin laying cables that will bring super-fast speeds to rural areas although many are yet to choose a network provider.

Culture secretary Maria Miller intervened last week after several months of delays in Europe.

"Finally getting the green light from Brussels will mean a huge boost for the British economy," she said.

"Today's announcement means that we can crack on with delivering broadband plans, boosting growth and jobs around the country," she added.

Slow start

The government has pledged to connect everyone to speeds of at least 2Mbps by 2015.

It has set aside £530m to help fund rural roll-outs. Councils must also contribute funding as will the provider they choose to lay the networks.

Some believe the government faces an uphill job to hit its 2015 target.

Just a handful of councils have chosen a provider to roll out fast broadband. The bidding process has been open to all but, so far, BT has won in every case.

The first to start superfast broadband projects will be Wales and Surrey. Projects in Cumbria, Rutland, Hereford and Gloucestershire are expected to follow shortly.

The rest are expected to complete their procurements by summer 2013, according to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

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