On December 23, 2020, Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) announced new contracts with Airband, Truespeed and Wessex Internet, to build full fibre broadband networks and connect over 56,000 additional homes and businesses in Devon and Somerset by 2024. Backed by investment from Government, local government, the Local Enterprise Partnership and private sector totalling £78m, the contracts are managed locally by CDS and complement existing contracts with Airband and Openreach.
On March 19, 2021, Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport announced the launch of the Government’s £5bn Project Gigabit programme to expand gigabit-capable broadband across the UK by 2025 and named areas that would be in the first two tranches of centrally procured contracts managed by Building Digital UK (BDUK).
Devon and Somerset were named as one of the regions that will receive further investment in a future tranche. CDS publicly welcomed the confirmation of further investment in the region and Mr Dowden’s announcement of a new Gigabit Voucher scheme.
Subsequently, incorrect claims have been made on social media and elsewhere that CDS asked DCMS to delay Project Gigabit investment in the area. In actual fact, in a response to the Department’s pre-launch consultation, CDS said: “In terms of when would we like the procurements to start – assuming there is no overlap intended with our live contracts delivering gigabit capable solutions, we would say quickly to support our economy and communities.
In response to requests from Members of Parliament and Parish Councils, a briefing note has been prepared setting out the facts of the DCMS request and CDS response.