CDS Gainshare Public Consultation
The Connecting Devon and Somerset Programme is aiming to further extend the availability of Superfast Broadband across Devon and Somerset. The high volume of take-up has triggered the provision within the contracts with BT, to ensure that the full amount of the public funding is deployed.
This means that when take-up of superfast broadband services exceeds forecasts in the contracts, then the amount of public subsidy required for existing contracts is reduced to reflect this. The funds released under this process are then available to be reinvested into further coverage of Superfast Broadband.
In August 2015, BT announced that take-up across the UK was likely to exceed the forecast level of 20%. To date, BT has made available up to £129m across the UK to meet the contractual obligations outlined above. Connecting Devon and Somerset has received a confirmed allocation of £4.8m and will therefore be seeking to reinvest this amount in further coverage, subject to meeting Value for Money and coverage criteria. There is the potential to increase this by a further £2m dependent on a take-up review of the Phase 1 contract, giving a potential total of £6.8m for re-investment in coverage.
To do this, CDS must confirm the areas which do not have Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband infrastructure delivering at least 30Mbps, or where there are no plans to provide such infrastructure over the next three years. These are described as “white NGA areas”. This will be carried out in the form of a ‘public consultation’ and its purpose is to enable all interested stakeholders – the public, businesses and telecommunications providers – to comment on the proposed white NGA areas before further coverage is committed.
Connecting Devon and Somerset are particularly keen to commit £4.8m to £6.8m reinvestment in areas still experiencing very low speeds in areas of high economic and social deprivation. These have therefore been targeted as shown in the map shown below. Once the consultation period has been conducted (26 March – 30 April) Connecting Devon and Somerset will then submit its final proposals for the NGA white area, taking account of the outcome of the public consultation, to BDUK’s National Competence Centre for clearance. Between £4.8m and £6.8m will then be reinvested with more broadband service deployment as a result over the next 2 years.
To be clear, this does not rule out communities outside of the highlighted areas for further funding. Indeed, Connecting Devon and Somerset is in the process of applying for further funding from a variety of sources to further extend superfast coverage in rural areas. In the interim, we will shortly be re-introducing the programme’s voucher scheme. Whilst this scheme has a limited amount of funding left-over from its original budget, the intention is to use this to pilot mechanisms which can then be employed to deliver this additional funding.