New contractors to roll out fibre broadband across region
Three companies have been selected to roll-out full fibre networks on behalf of the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) programme, backed by Government funding.
Airband, Truespeed and Wessex Internet will be installing full fibre across Devon and Somerset to more than 56,000 rural homes and businesses over the next four years.
The combined public and private sector investment of around £80million will be in the vanguard of the Government’s ambitions to build a Gigabit capable network across the UK.
The three companies all have experience of working in the region and, between them, have already delivered connections to nearly 41,000 premises in the CDS region.
In the new roll-out, Airband will be expanding its full fibre coverage into rural areas of Somerset West and Taunton, parts of Sedgemoor, East Devon, as well as areas of Mid Devon, South Hams and Teignbridge.
Truespeed will be working in B&NES (Bath & North East Somerset), North Somerset, Mendip and part of Sedgemoor, while Wessex Internet will deliver in rural communities of South Somerset.
Work is due to start next year for completion in 2024. The initiative is being funded by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Heart of the South West LEP, CDS local authorities, European Regional Development Fund and the Rural Development Programme for England.
Minister for Digital Infrastructure, Matt Warman MP, said: “Today’s announcement marks a major step forward in our mission to build back better in the South West, with thousands of homes and businesses set to be linked up to lightning-fast gigabit broadband thanks to an £18.4 million investment by the government. With Airband, Truespeed and Wessex Internet now on board I am confident we will deliver on our ambition for an infrastructure revolution in Devon and Somerset.”
Councillor David Hall, CDS Board Member and Somerset County Council Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure, said: “We’re pleased to confirm the appointment of three well-established, regionally-based suppliers to help with the challenge of delivering the next phase of the CDS programme. They have significant experience of delivering broadband connections in rural areas of Devon and Somerset, so they have an understanding of the remote areas where CDS is looking to improve connectivity. This investment will deliver full fibre broadband ahead of many other parts of the country.”
Councillor Rufus Gilbert, CDS Board Member and Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “These contracts will deliver vital connectivity to a significant number of rural communities across Devon and Somerset helping our businesses and supporting local jobs. Access to services online, home working and staying connected has never been more important, and these investments will provide a much-needed boost to our rural and coastal communities”.
Redmond Peel, Founder and Director of Airband, said: “We are thrilled to have won these contracts. As a company, we passionately believe that rural communities should have access to the same level of high-quality connectivity, and therefore opportunities, as those in urban areas. Today’s announcement is a step towards closing the digital divide and delivering industry-leading connectivity to those who need it most.”
Evan Wienburg, Truespeed CEO, said: “We are delighted to have won these prestigious contracts with CDS to bring Gigabit-capable full fibre broadband to harder to reach communities in the south west. As a Somerset-based business focused on building out our own full fibre infrastructure to areas left behind by the industry giants, we are the natural partner for CDS. The requirement for full fibre broadband is essential as more people study and work from home. Many Truespeed customers are already benefiting from our ultra-reliable, ultra-fast broadband service and we will continue to work as hard and as fast as we can to accelerate our roll out.”
Hector Gibson Fleming, Managing Director of Wessex Internet, said: “This hugely exciting programme will allow us to focus on delivering even more connectivity to rural homes and businesses across South East Somerset. We already have a track record of delivering in this challenging geography and the programme will allow us to accelerate our work while still retaining our collaborative approach. We now look forward to partnering with more farmers and communities across the area to deliver full-fibre connections to even more of the countryside that has been overlooked by the major network providers.”
Karl Tucker, Chair, Heart of the South West LEP, said: “The appointment of the three suppliers to deliver the rollout of full fibre coverage to people and businesses into thousands of rural homes and businesses in the Heart of the South West LEP area is good news. It has never been more vital than it is now to ensure our communities and businesses have access to good connectivity and the three companies all have extensive experience of working in our area. The HotSWLEP is delighted to be supporting this programme through our Growth Deal funding.”
CDS has delivered connectivity 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’ role. Of these, over 300,000 homes and businesses have access to superfast broadband as a direct result of public funding.
As part of its Fibre Extension Programme, CDS is currently funding fibre broadband connections to over 6,000 homes and businesses being delivered by Airband. Thanks to the high level of take-up of broadband services in the region from previous connectivity delivered by Openreach, CDS is also re-investing a £6 million dividend to extend full fibre coverage to over 2,000 premises, again working with Openreach, through the Government’s “Gainshare” agreement with the company.
CDS is also working closely with the Government’s Rural Gigabit Voucher programme to support communities who wish to contract with telecoms providers to design bespoke broadband solutions for their communities. To date, over 3,400 premises in Devon and Somerset have been connected to fibre through the Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme, with another 2,800 vouchers approved for build over the next 12 months. This represents a voucher investment of nearly £7.4 Million in full fibre across the CDS region. 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.
The whole Connecting Devon and Somerset programme is expected to deliver an £800 million boost to the regional economy.
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