December 22, 2016 / 8:21 AM / 8 months ago

Britain to fund broadband for extra 600,000 rural homes

Britain's Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Karen Bradley arrives in Downing Street for a cabinet meeting, in London, November 15, 2016.Peter Nicholls

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will spend 440 million pounds to roll out superfast broadband to 600,000 extra homes and businesses in rural areas that suffer from poor coverage, the government said on Thursday.

In a bid to boost the economy during Britain's negotiations to leave the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May's government has targeted faster broadband networks, particularly in rural areas.

The new cash will come from funds returned by telecoms firm BT (BT.L) after strong take-up in the first phase of a government-backed programme to improve connections, as well as efficiency savings, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said on Thursday.

The government has provided 1.7 billion pounds to help boost broadband speeds in remote parts of the country where it is not profitable for commercial providers to invest alone.

It said more than 1.5 million homes and businesses had signed up for superfast broadband under the scheme, enabling it to claw back 292 million pounds of funding from BT.

The rest of the extra money would come from savings across the 44 projects in the first phase of the roll out, it said.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said people in rural areas needed to sign-up to the scheme to unlock extra funding for more connections.

"Increasing take-up is a win-win-win: consumers get a better service, it encourages providers to invest, and when more people sign up in BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK) areas, money is clawed back to pay for more connections," she said.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Mark Potter

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