Devon, Norfolk, Somerset and Wiltshire get faster broadband

image captionEighteen bids were received for this round of funding.

Homes and businesses in four rural English counties are to get superfast broadband connections.

Devon and Somerset will share £30m of government funding for the roll-out, Norfolk will get £15m and Wiltshire £4m.

Each area will also get cash from their council and private investors.

A further announcement is expected later this year on superfast broadband funding for every local authority in the country.

The Devon and Somerset bid, with support from Plymouth, North Somerset and Torbay Councils, was one of only three to get the go ahead from the government's Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) Unit.

At the moment, the average speed of broadband in Somerset is 3MB per second, whereas superfast broadband is at least 10 times faster.

The money will go towards upgrading the network so 85% of residents and businesses will have speeds of 16-20 Mbps (megabits per second).

Will Mumford of Devon County Council said: "Government funding, along with our own resources will help us secure the private finance we need to begin a massive investment programme.

"Superfast broadband for rural businesses will give them a level playing field with our urban counterparts."

'Digital divide'

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

"This is part of our plan for virtually every community in the UK to have access to superfast broadband."

The next step is for each local authority to tender for contractors to carry out the work. It is anticipated the necessary infrastructure will be in place within a year.

The government has pledged to make the UK the best place for super-fast broadband in Europe by 2015.

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