AN extra £1m to help the county’s hard to reach communities gain access to high-speed broadband has been pledged by Shropshire Council.

The cash has been set aside to top up the national broadband voucher scheme, and is in addition to the £1m already available from Shropshire Council to boost community-led broadband schemes.

It means homes and small businesses can now claim up to £4,000 (homes) or £7,000 (small businesses) to cover the costs of building high-speed broadband networks to serve some of the hardest-to-reach Shropshire communities.

Rob Gittins, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for digital, technology, data and insight, believes that the initiative will encourage providers to connect isolated areas.

“I’m pleased that Shropshire Council is backing its communities by adding extra funding to make it more attractive to broadband suppliers to build networks in our most rural areas,” he said.

“If we don’t do this then many community-led broadband schemes would be financially unviable, meaning that communities most in need would continue to be stuck in the digital dark ages.

“Improving broadband connectivity has always been a priority for Shropshire Council, but it’s become even more important during the pandemic, when greater demands are being placed on broadband networks by users.”

Since 2020, 36 projects across the Shropshire Council area have been approved for delivery by four different broadband infrastructure suppliers. All schemes are led by community representatives who have approached suppliers to use vouchers and build new networks in their communities.