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Bath and North East Someset UK Finally Detail Superfast Broadband Plan

Monday, September 30th, 2013 (7:58 am) - Score 1,005

It might have taken the best part of a year to design but the Bath & North East Somerset Council, which in 2011 briefly rejected funding from the Broadband Delivery UK project (here), appears to have finally put together a plan for deploying superfast broadband and opening access to the public fibre optic network.

The new scheme will aim to make “high speed fibre broadband” services available to 90% of local premises by the end of 2016 (i.e. the last 10% will get speeds of between 2Mbps and up to 24Mbps) and apparently this will now be done as part of the existing Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) scheme.

But BNESC said that it also planned to “open-up” some 22 kilometres of fibre optic network owned by the Council to encourage “inward investment by ultrafast broadband companies (e.g. 300Mbps upwards) who would offer their services to hi-tech business areas, such as those who will be present in the planned Enterprise Area” (300Mbps is a very BT / FTTP friendly figure).

The new project would also mirror other BDUK schemes by working with commercial firms to rollout public wifi and 4G/3G based Mobile Broadband services to local shopping centres, sports venues, and transport infrastructure by making use of council owned street furniture (e.g. lamp posts). A separate mesh testbed (online private network) would also be established to help hi-tech firms and Universities to “push the boundaries of their research and development“.

Ben Stevens (Lib-Dem), Councillor for Sustainable Development, said:

It is crucial that communities across the Bath & North East Somerset Council area have the best possible broadband speeds. If our area is to build upon its reputation as a hot spot for digital and hi-tech industries, we must have the broadband infrastructure to match our ambition to attract new investment and new jobs with great opportunities for local people.

Potential investors and businesses looking to relocate here in places like the emerging Bath Enterprise Area will instantly look at broadband connectivity and turn their attentions elsewhere if they detect a lack of ambition. The project to bring high speed fibre broadband to nine out of ten premises is on time to be completed by the end of 2016. But the Council is looking beyond this scheme and towards the future; staying ahead of the game in partnership with the private sector, businesses, and the Universities.

These improvements will bring benefits for local people whether in their own homes for leisure or work purposes. High speed broadband could have an influence on easing traffic congestion as more companies have the confidence in technology to allow their staff to work from home.”

BNESC believes that the new effort will support its aim of growing the value of the local economy by £1 billion in time for 2029 and increasing creative industry/ ICT employment by 20%. It will also seek to make better use of the planning system so that it can “encourage developers to ensure that future homes are high-speed broadband ready“.

Unfortunately precise details about the funding for all this remain unclear, although reports last year suggested that BDUK, BNESC and the EU would contribute roughly £2.724 million towards the scheme.

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