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Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) has launched its Fibre Extension Programme which will provide more than 8,000 homes and businesses with fibre broadband connections direct to the premises by the end of 2021.

CDS is funding fibre broadband connections to over 6,000 homes and businesses which will be delivered by Airband, and thanks to the high level of take-up of broadband services in the region from previous connectivity delivered by Openreach, CDS is re-investing a £6 million dividend to extend full fibre coverage to over 2,000 premises, again working with Openreach, thanks to the Government’s “Gainshare” agreement with the company.

Overall, CDS has already delivered superfast broadband access to more homes and businesses than any other broadband programme in England – providing access to over 300,000 homes and businesses. Take-up of CDS funded broadband services is nearly 65% compared with a national average of 61.4%.

Airband will begin engineering work this month (July) in North Devon and rolling-out to communities across northern, west and central Devon including:

Croyde and Georgeham
Molland and East Anstey
Gulworthy and Morwellham Quay
Lewtrenchard and Chillaton
Cheriton Bishop

CDS’ new collaboration with Openreach will expand fibre broadband coverage in particularly hard to reach hamlets and villages and deprived rural areas in Devon and Somerset. This is made possible through the Gainshare agreement with Openreach, under which increasing take-up of broadband delivered through the first phase of the CDS programme generates additional funds for reinvestment in new broadband networks.

Survey teams working for Openreach have now started to identify the best routes for these new fibre connections and this work will help shape the design of the local networks and ensure roll-out can happen as rapidly as possible.

Initial survey work has begun in Oakford, near Bampton, and survey teams will continue their work across a broader cluster to the north of Tiverton and south of Dulverton, spanning the Devon and Somerset border and a second cluster to the east of Plymouth centred on Bickleigh, Wotter and Shaugh Prior. Once this survey work is completed, more precise details on which premises will be connected can be announced and a programme of engineering works will begin.

Additional communities set to benefit from new fibre connections delivered by Openreach for CDS will follow over the next two years. The areas included for survey are around:

• Blue Anchor
• Brayford and North Molton,
• Brompton Ralph
• Exe Valley
• Haccombe, Rocombe and the Teign Estuary
• Lane End
• Satterleigh and Warkleigh
• South Kentisbury Ford
• South Zeal and Throwleigh,
• Teign Valley
• Twitchen
• Watermouth
• Widecombe Parish
• Yettington

Surveying will be carried out in compliance with Government social distancing rules and survey workers will not require entry to homes or businesses to carry out their duties.

These two schemes will complement a much bigger roll-out programme planned by CDS and supported by £18.7 million of Government funding. These contracts are due to be awarded by the end of 2020.

In parallel with these initiatives, CDS is working closely with the Government’s Rural Gigabit Voucher programme to support communities who wish to contract with telecoms providers to design and shape bespoke broadband solutions for their communities. Where appropriate, CDS provides additional finance from its Community Challenge Fund to help communities with funding shortfalls.

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, CDS Board Member and Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “This funding collaboration with Openreach is enabling us to provide more communities with access to reliable, superfast broadband. With unprecedented numbers of people now working from home and keeping in touch via the internet, we’re fully aware of the important role the local broadband network is playing – and this investment will be a great addition to that.”

Councillor David Hall, CDS Board Member and Somerset County Council Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure, said: “The CDS programme has provided access to superfast broadband to more homes and businesses than anywhere else in the country – and we’re connecting some of the hardest to reach communities where the commercial market will not provide the infrastructure. This investment is thanks to the high take-up rate of CDS funded broadband and it will extend access to other areas that haven’t been able to connect to so far.”

Geoffrey Cox, MP for Torridge and West Devon, said: “The Fibre Extension Programme is hugely welcome news for my constituents in Torridge and West Devon, with more than three thousand additional homes and businesses in areas like Bideford, Abbotsham, Holsworthy, Lewtrenchard and Chillaton due to be connected to full-fibre broadband by the end of 2021. This comes as the Government prepares to launch a new £5bn “outside-in” gigabit broadband scheme that will provide similar connections for the hardest-to-reach rural areas. Improving rural broadband will increase productivity, boost economic growth and raise living standards, and I am committed to ensuring that all my constituents have access to a decent, affordable and reliable broadband connection.”

Selaine Saxby, MP for North Devon, said: “I am delighted at this development in Airband’s delivery in the North Devon region and the significant benefits it will bring to businesses and residents. Since my election, broadband has been one of the issues I have particularly championed. This is a clear demonstration of how North Devon and the wider CDS region are genuine pathfinders for the Government’s full-fibre strategy. North Devon will see significant benefits as a result of the Gigabit Voucher scheme and alongside the work that Openreach have been doing in Lynton & Lynmouth, Barnstaple and Kings Nympton we are starting to see some real progress.”

Anne Marie Morris, MP for Newton Abbot, said: “I’m delighted to see this small but welcome step and a commitment to accelerate broadband roll-out in 2020-2021.”

Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said: “I welcome the increase in fast broadband across the constituency and hope that, through a variety of schemes deployed by CDS and the private sector, we can fill in the remaining coverage gaps quickly. This new extension programme will help subsidise broadband to communities in great need of better connections.”

Sir Gary Streeter, MP for South West Devon, said: “I welcome the news that CDS has launched its Fibre Extension Programme to connect the most remote parts of Devon and Somerset to fibre broadband. CDS will be at the forefront of delivering the Government’s commitment to ensure every home has access to full fibre broadband by 2025. This is the most important way the far South West can gain connectivity with the rest of the UK and is vital to ensure our local economy can grow and flourish.”

David Ralph, Chief Executive of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “I am very pleased to see £2.16 million of our Growth Deal and Growing Places funding supporting enhanced connectivity at such a critical time for businesses and residents. This support is fundamental to enabling businesses in North Devon, Torridge and West Devon recover and grow from COVID-19 by providing ultrafast broadband where the commercial market has so far failed to reach. We’re delighted to welcome this latest expansion of CDS fibre coverage.”

Simon Palmer, from Airband, said: “This new fibre build can be seamlessly integrated with our existing wireless infrastructure across the region, enabling us to provide faster speeds and future-proof connectivity whilst increasing the resilience of our network. This is the kind of 21st century connectivity that rural communities in the South West deserve and that recent challenges have shown to be so vital.”

Matthew Bateman, Director of Infrastructure Development for Openreach, said: “It’s great news that thousands of people in Devon and Somerset will soon have access to our ultrafast, ultrareliable full fibre network through our agreement with Connecting Devon and Somerset.

“This is in addition to the thousands of homes and businesses we’re connecting in the South West through Community Fibre Partnerships, our Fibre Cities programme in Exeter, Torquay and Bristol and the seven rural exchanges we announced as part of our commercial build earlier this year.

“Recent economic research shows that full fibre infrastructure has the ability to turbo-charge the UK’s economy post-COVID-19 and this Gainshare funding will put more of the region’s hardest-to-reach households at the forefront of the shift to a full fibre digital network.

“Good connectivity breathes new life and opportunities into remote communities – and we look forward to connecting even more of them.”