Government to aid broadband infrastructure in sparsely populated areas

JIJI

The government will boost financial assistance to municipalities that construct high-speed broadband communications networks in sparsely populated remote island and mountain areas, according to sources Saturday.

Promoting broadband infrastructure is intended to improve the lives of residents in out-of-the-way places by facilitating Internet communication with government offices, medical institutions and educational facilities.

Currently, about 570,000 households representing about one percent of all households across the nation, mainly on remote islands and in mountain areas, have no access to fixed-line broadband communication networks.

Private-sector businesses generally do not offer broadband services in such depopulated areas because they are not profitable. The ministry, therefore, believes local governments should take the initiative to build the networks, the informed sources said.

Providing broadband infrastructure requires not only the construction of optical fiber cable networks but also a way to provide long-term maintenance. As cables can be damaged by typhoons, animals and other means, the maintenance costs can be heavy, sometimes discouraging municipalities from building the networks.

To address the problem, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications plans to make grants designed to finance broadband network maintenance available for use in a wider range of projects beginning in fiscal 2016.

In addition to local governments that offer such services, the grants will be available to those municipalities that entrust private sector entities to operate their networks, the sources said.

Also, under a state subsidy program for the construction of cable networks, the ministry will raise the upper limit of funds given to financially strapped local governments from one-third to one-half of a project’s cost, according to the sources.