More communities to be connected in latest broadband rollout

Work has been launched to connect the first 21 communities in Devon and Somerset to a new *ultrafast fibre broadband network that will deliver some of the fastest speeds in the UK.

It’s a key milestone for the local government-led Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) broadband programme which has already provided the infrastructure to enable 282,000 homes and businesses to access superfast broadband, and overall more than 327,000 can now access improved broadband.

New partner, Gigaclear, an award-winning supplier of full fibre broadband to rural locations, has launched pre-construction survey work for a major new engineering project across the region – building an entirely new full fibre network that will connect direct to homes and businesses with the capability to deliver speeds of up to 1000Mbps (1Gbps).

Work to lay the new cables is due to start in November to initially provide almost 9,000 homes and businesses in the first communities with access to the ultrafast network by February 2018. The first Somerset communities to benefit from this latest of phase of CDS are Rooksbridge, Lympsham, Brean, Weare, Crickham, Ashill, Roundham, Merriott, Over Stratton, Dowlish Ford, Isle Abbotts, Corfe, Blagdon Hill, Buckland St Mary, Bradford on Tone, and Wadeford. In Devon, this will start in Yealmbridge, Noss Mayo, Newton Ferrers, Aveton Gifford, and Ashford.

The first communities chosen to be connected have been selected based on their location near to existing connections to main broadband cables.

This latest phase is part of a new £62.25million rollout by CDS, the biggest public-funded broadband programme in England, including a substantial investment by Gigaclear. In addition Gigaclear is also extending its network across the region through commercially funded infrastructure.

By the end of 2019 over 40,000 more homes and businesses in the CDS region will have access to ultrafast broadband in the biggest single investment in fibre connections in the UK.

Coupled with the new superfast wireless broadband network that Airband will be building under contract to CDS across northern, western and central Devon, it will mean overall more than 60,000 additional homes and businesses across the region will be able to access superfast or ultrafast broadband by the end of 2019. The Airband network will also have the future capacity to deliver ultrafast speeds.

The CDS programme is supported by funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the EU’s European Regional Development Fund, the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership and local authorities across the region.

Around two thirds of all broadband infrastructure built or planned in the region is wholly commercial. CDS fills the gaps in rural communities and businesses where the commercial market will not provide the infrastructure. It does this by awarding public subsidised contracts to companies through competitive tender to build the infrastructure needed, such as fibre or wireless connections.

Minister for Digital Matt Hancock said: “We want everyone in the UK to have access to fast and reliable broadband, and the Connecting Devon and Somerset project has already made this a reality for more than 320,000 local properties who would otherwise have been left behind. But we know there’s still more to do, and I’m delighted that our investment will now take gold standard, full fibre broadband, to over 40,000 extra homes and businesses across the region.”

Councillor David Hall, CDS board member and Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Resources and Economic Development, said: “We have already dramatically improved broadband speeds across Somerset and I’m delighted with Gigaclear’s plans to extend this further. It’s great news for homeowners and the Somerset economy as a whole. Broadband connectivity is a vital part of the infrastructure that helps current businesses grow and attracts new entrepreneurs to the county.”

On behalf of the four Somerset district councils in the CDS partnership (Taunton Deane, Sedgemoor, West Somerset and Mendip), Councillor John Williams, Leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council, said: “It is truly an exciting prospect that the majority of our previously ‘too hard to reach’ rural homes, businesses and settlements are now going to be served by a dedicated ‘fibre to the premises’ delivering up to 1,000 mbps. CDS and Gigaclear are to be applauded for securing what has the ability to be a life changing service for our communities. A decent broadband service is now regarded by most as an ‘essential service’ just as water and electricity services are a necessity.”

Councillor Stuart Barker, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “The new fibre network which Gigaclear is building for Connecting Devon and Somerset represents the biggest single investment in full fibre connections in the UK. This programme is good news as it will ensure that vital infrastructure is put in place over the next few years for many of our harder to reach communities in the county to have the opportunity to access broadband, thus enabling people to access important services and helping companies to boost their business online. This is in addition to the Airband system which is reaching many areas that cannot be reached by cabling.”

Joe Frost, Business Development Director at Gigaclear, said: “As part of the CDS and Gigaclear ultrafast broadband transformation, some of the hardest to reach rural areas of Devon and Somerset will be able to access the UK’s fastest broadband speeds through full fibre. The first Gigabit enabled residents and businesses will soon be able to do whatever they want to do online, regardless of their location or the amount of people using the service simultaneously. We are proud to be working with CDS on this project and look forward to being part of this rural broadband revolution to future-proof the area’s digital economy.”

Steve Hindley CBE DL, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership said: “The LEP’s Growth Deal Funding supports projects that help generate prosperity, and because our area has had pockets of poor broadband service, the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme was set up to address the gaps not serviced by the commercial market. We are very pleased with the impact of our investments so far, it’s part of our overarching strategy to create the right conditions for prosperity, and this latest phase of LEP investment will help open up many more opportunities for businesses in previously disadvantaged areas.”

Local information and demonstration events will be held in all of the areas where the roll-out has been announced. Those not in the initial wave of connection will be kept informed as the programme is updated.

For more information about broadband in the rest of the region visit
www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk/

*Broadband speed definitions

Ofcom defines the following services:
• Standard broadband services have download speeds of between 10 to 30 Mbps;
• Superfast broadband services have download speeds of 30 Mbps or more; and
• Ultrafast broadband services have download speeds of 300 Mbps or more.

 

About Connecting Devon and Somerset

Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) covers Devon and Somerset County Councils, Bath & North East Somerset and North Somerset councils’ areas.

The total budget for phase one and phase two of the CDS programme is £171 million. Funding comprises contributions from the Government, European Union, local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnership and private sector investment.

Funding support for phase two includes important contributions from: Mendip, Sedgemoor, Taunton Deane, Teignbridge and West Somerset councils.

Further investments are planned including public funding returned by BT under a gainshare agreement when take-up of the new broadband service passes 20%. The money will be reinvested by CDS to expand broadband coverage to areas without a service and who will not be connected by commercial investment alone.

By December 2019 CDS aims to have provided at least 380,000 homes and businesses across its region with access to better broadband in areas where the commercial sector will not deliver on its own. Government targets for broadband coverage remain dependant on the private sector maintaining its commercial roll-out. (See note about Broadband Delivery UK)

For more information about broadband in the rest of the CDS region visit
www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk/

About Gigaclear

Gigaclear is dedicated to building and operating ultrafast, full fibre-to-the-premises broadband networks in rural Britain. It offers Gigabit services to over 50,000 homes and businesses to date across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Gloucestershire, Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland and Worcestershire. Gigaclear builds networks using commercial investment but it has also been awarded contracts in 2017 as part of the Government-subsidised BDUK rural broadband programme in Devon, Essex, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Northamptonshire, Somerset and Wiltshire.

Gigaclear was named Best Rural Broadband provider in the 2017 IPSAUK awards.

https://www.ispa.org.uk/ispa-awards/enter-and-award-categories/best-rural-broadband

For further information about qualifying communities go to
www.gigaclear.com/cds

Heart of the South West LEP

This phase of the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme is part-funded with £2.5m from the first round and £6m from the second round of the Heart of the South West (HotSW) LEP’s Growth Deal with Government. Over the lifetime of the Growth Deal: 2015 – 2021; part-funding 50 projects throughout Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay; HotSW LEP estimates the investment will create up to 22,000 new jobs and 18,000 new homes.

European Regional Development Fund

Connecting Devon and Somerset has received £4.625m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.

For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding

Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK)

BDUK, a part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is responsible for implementing the Government’s policy on superfast broadband roll-out which consists of three stages:

• to provide superfast broadband coverage to 90% of UK premises by early 2016 and access to basic broadband (2Mbps) for all from December 2015 – “Phase 1”

• to provide superfast broadband coverage to 95% of UK premises by the end of 2017 – “Phase 2”

• to explore options to provide superfast coverage to the hardest to reach parts of the UK – “the final 5%”

The BDUK coverage targets include the commercial roll-out, however, the BDUK programme and funding is focused on those areas that are not reached by the commercial roll-out.

For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/broadband-delivery-uk

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