China to invest $22 billion to extend broadband to 50,000 villages

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will invest an estimated 140 billion yuan ($22 billion) by 2020 to expand broadband Internet to remote and underserved parts of the country, the government said Wednesday.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, said more than 30 million households will gain improved Internet service as part of the plan, which covers 98 percent the country’s villages and includes some 50,000 villages which currently do not have access to broadband.

The rollout targets were outlined in a memo published on Wednesday following a State Council meeting headed by Premier Li Keqiang, who has repeatedly urged China’s state-owned telecom carriers to improve their service and reliability as China moves toward a more digitized economy.

The government also said it would further open up the domestic express logistics market, including lending support for mergers and acquisitions in the sector and allowing all types of capital to invest in it.

Reporting by Gerry Shih; editing by Jason Neely