National Parks set for the digital age

The roll out of the Connecting Devon & Somerset superfast broadband programme across the National Parks – the largest wireless broadband project in England –  is set to get underway as planning applications are considered from this week.

The first part of the second phase of the CDS programme to deliver the final 10% superfast coverage across the region, will connect 5,800 premises across Dartmoor and Exmoor using wireless broadband technology. The roll out is due to be completed at the end of 2016, one year ahead of the Government’s 95% target.

Last year CDS appointed Airband, a specialist in high speed wireless broadband for rural areas, to roll out the £4.6m National Parks programme. The majority of Dartmoor planning applications have been submitted and are progressing well, and once approved the first stage of the roll out will start immediately.

The Exmoor coverage and network has now been completely designed and planning applications will begin to be submitted from end of February. Once these have been submitted, there will be a validation and consultation period before being determined, with application outcomes expected to come through at the beginning of April. Once approved, connection installations will begin immediately.

CDS is also confident that the award of the contract for the remainder of the second phase of the superfast broadband roll out will take place in the last quarter of 2016, subject to EU approval of the scheme. This will mean that it could start before BT originally planned to commence this phase until the contract could not be agreed between CDS and the telecoms company last Summer on the basis of value for money for the taxpayer. There has been significant interest from suppliers in the new tender, with 30 providers taking part in market engagement activities towards the end of 2015.

The CDS programme, which commenced in 2013, is now 80% complete, with almost 1,200 cabinets live and 220,000 able to receive superfast broadband of up to 80mbps – a number which is growing rapidly.

Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council’s cabinet member for business inward investment and policy, said: “It’s great to see the CDS programme gathering significant momentum and more and more people and businesses enjoying the benefits of superfast broadband. I’m also delighted that the National Parks programme is on course to be rolled out by the end of this year, helping to transform the lives and operations of people and businesses respectively who are located in the area. ”

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, cabinet member for economy and growth for Devon County Council, added: “These are exciting times for the programme as more and more people are taking up superfast broadband –  40% in some rural areas – and an increasing number of places now having the infrastructure in place. The National Parks programme, represents one of the most challenging projects across the UK and once completed will provide 96% superfast coverage across Dartmoor and Exmoor, which is better than many of the UK’s major cities.”

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