Everyday country folk: get set to meet the Internet -- it's great! The European Union has approved a rural broadband boost to bring the Web to areas to Britain currently starved of Internet access.
Now European officials have given le thumbs-up, councils can proceed to spending the £530m set aside for turning rural not-spots into hot spots.
"Finally getting the green light from Brussels will mean a huge boost for the British economy," said Culture secretary Maria Miller, who personally waded in to speed things along in Brussels. "Today's announcement means that we can crack on with delivering broadband plans, boosting growth and jobs around the country."
Eurocrat approval was required because the EU has a say in money spent as state aid. Local councils will also contribute funding, and the rest of the cost is chipped in by the Internet service provider that gets the contract to lay the fibre cables that will supply the Web.
So far, only BT has won contracts with councils to bring the Web to rural areas. In many cases BT has been the only applicant, and strenuously denies using that monopoly to inflate prices.
Wales and Surrey will be first to benefit, after which fibre will be laid in Cumbria, Rutland, Hereford and Gloucestershire. Other areas will follow, the plan being that by 2015, 90 per cent of the population of Britain has at least 2Mbps.
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