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Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) has today launched a fresh procurement to find new contractors to roll-out superfast broadband across the two counties.

CDS is working closely with Building Digital UK (BDUK) agency on the new procurement process. It follows confirmation of the Government’s funding extension for the programme in Devon and Somerset – helping to provide a £38 million public investment in the region’s broadband, with funding also coming from the Heart of the South West LEP, CDS local authorities, European Regional Development Fund and the Rural Development Programme for England.

An Open Market Review (OMR) and public consultation was carried out by CDS last year to map areas where broadband infrastructure already exists and where it is planned for the next three years. Investment from CDS can only take place in areas where there are no current or credible future plans to deliver Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband infrastructure capable of download speeds of at least 30Mbps.

Following the OMR, CDS has carried out extensive early market engagement with a wide range of potential providers to establish interest.

Matt Warman, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, said: ”I’m delighted that we’ve been able to secure funding and get back on track to bringing the benefits of faster and more reliable broadband to people and businesses in Devon and Somerset.

“We’re absolutely committed to levelling up the country with better infrastructure, and have recently pledged a further £5 billion so that hard-to-reach areas will get gigabit-capable broadband at the same time as the rest of the country.”

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills and CDS board member, said: “CDS is working hard to find alternative broadband providers for our residents and businesses. BDUK has always stated its commitment to extend the funding for the programme, and it has backed us by doing exactly that.”

Councillor David Hall, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure, said: “These contracts will deliver connectivity to some of the hardest to reach premises in the CDS region, ensuring future-proof broadband infrastructure which is critical for residents and businesses alike. In an increasingly competitive market, I look forward to seeing proposals from a range of providers to maximise coverage for those premises that are yet to benefit from decent broadband speeds”

CDS has delivered superfast access to more homes and businesses than any other broadband programme in England. Nearly one million homes and businesses in Devon and Somerset now have access to superfast broadband thanks to the Government supported CDS programme and stimulation of the commercial market which is an important element of CDS’s role. Of these, over 300,000 homes and businesses have access to superfast broadband as a direct result of investment by CDS.

The whole Connecting Devon and Somerset programme is expected to deliver an £800million boost to the regional economy.

Final bids from qualified bidders in the procurement process are expected to be received by CDS by late Summer, and contracts are due to be awarded in December.