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The Government’s latest Project Gigabit announcement has today (Monday 2 August) confirmed that it is in discussions with Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) on where “Local Supplier procurements” could bring forward the rollout of Gigabit capable broadband.

The Project Gigabit summer update from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport states that preparations for the first Local Supplier and Regional Supplier procurements are well advanced, with over 70 telecoms providers registering their interest.

As part of the Government’s £5 Billion commitment to delivering next generation broadband throughout the UK, work has already started on selecting suppliers for initial Local Supplier contracts in Dorset and Essex which are due to get underway this year.

These contracts will be geographically focused, targeting between 1,000 and 8,000 premises in hard to reach areas. It could connect communities where some infill is needed which is more substantial than vouchers could achieve, or where innovative engineering may be needed to make a scheme viable.

CDS and BDUK are currently working together to identify opportunities where gigabit capable broadband can be delivered in relatively short timescales.

CDS has also welcomed that the Government is making up to £90 million additional funding available to extend contracts awarded under the previous Superfast Broadband programme, which are already delivering gigabit access to some of the hardest to reach premises that cannot currently get superfast speeds (30Mbps).

Further investment in the CDS region is scheduled through the third tranche of the Project Gigabit programme and more details will be announced in due course.

The report states that –

39% or premises across the UK have access to gigabit capable broadband, and the Government estimates that will increase to 60% by the end of this year;
UK Gigabit Voucher projects, in the first year of the scheme, are expected to result in additional coverage for around 75,000 premises, attracting about £75 million of UK Government funding and around £26 million of local and devolved government funding;
The first Project Gigabit contracts announced in March are expected to commence from May next year. This includes 349,000 premises in Essex, Dorset, Cumbria, Cambridgeshire, Northumberland, Durham, Tyneside, Teesside and Cornwall.
Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, admits in the foreword of the report that the final 20% of premises in hard to reach premises targeted by the project will be “challenging”.

He says: “Preparations for the first Local Supplier and Regional Supplier procurements are well advanced and projects are getting started across the UK.

“We are determined to support the most in need communities and as such, are allocating up to £90 million to extend the reach of remaining Superfast contracts already delivering gigabit.

“We can be increasingly confident in exceeding total gigabit coverage for 85% of UK premises by 2025 and push towards 100% nationwide coverage as soon as possible.”

CDS is in the vanguard of the Government’s ambitions to build a Gigabit capable network across the entire country through its contracts with Airband, Truespeed and Wessex Internet, which will install full fibre broadband across Devon and Somerset to more than 56,000 rural homes and businesses by the end of 2024.

CDS has delivered superfast access to more homes and businesses than any other broadband programme in England, with over 300,000 homes and businesses receiving access to superfast broadband as a direct result of investment by CDS.

For more information visit the Project Gigabit Delivery Plan summer update.