Rural businesses and communities have been urged to capitalise on Cumbria’s status as a priority county for a £200 million pot of Government money to boost broadband in remote areas.

Cumbria is one of four “prioritised sites” for the Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme, which was quietly launched earlier this year.

It offers small and medium-sized businesses who suffer from broadband speeds of less than 30Mbps, vouchers worth up to £3,500, while householders could qualify for a £1,500 voucher.

Both businesses and residents can also group together and combine their vouchers towards the shared cost of installation of improved connections.

The RGC programme boasts higher value vouchers than the Government’s existing Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, recognising the higher costs of improving connections in rural areas.

Interested businesses and householders are now being urged to contact local registered suppliers to capitalise on the significant pot available.

Carlisle-based Solway Comms is one such supplier.

Its managing director, Nick Kittoe, welcomed the programme and Cumbria’s status as a priority area.

“Not enough has been done in the past to bring the county up to speed, which is why we developed our own infrastructure, allowing people and businesses to compete on a national and international scale,” he said.

“I urge businesses in particular to take advantage of this funding – it really is a no-brainer to be able to improve your connection and receive a whacking great grant towards it.

“We know from previous experience that these schemes won’t last forever, and it would be a good investment to make the most of the funding now.”

Other priority areas include Cornwall, Northumberland and Pembrokeshire, with additional sites across the UK and Northern Ireland to be announced in the coming months.

Funding for the RGC comes from the Government’s National Infrastructure Productivity Fund.

Jeremy Wright MP, the secretary of state for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “Our decision to tackle some of the hardest to reach places first is a significant shift in Government policy and will be instrumental in delivering our plans for a nationwide full fibre broadband network by 2033.

“Our modern Industrial Strategy is focused on investing in the infrastructure that will make Britain fit for the future.”