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£1m Extra Extends Superfast Broadband to Dorset’s Marshwood Vale

Friday, June 27th, 2014 (8:10 am) - Score 715

The UK Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has put an additional £1 million towards helping to extend Dorset’s (southern England) local roll-out of superfast broadband (FTTC/P) technology to several remote rural communities in the low-lying Marshwood Vale valley area.

The current £31.75m Superfast Dorset scheme, which is supported by the local councils, the Broadband Delivery UK programme and BT, aims to cover 97% of the county with “fibre broadband” services by the end of 2016 (95% are expected to receive “superfast” speeds of 25Mbps+).

Sadly the existing roll-out plan does not include the Marshwood Vale communities of Marshwood, Broadwindsor, Bettiscombe, Stoke Abbott, Thorncombe and some surrounding parishes, although the additional funding means that these areas should now start to be upgraded during 2015.

Charles Somers, Bid Leader for Marshwood Vale, said:

We knew Superfast Dorset was unlikely to reach the Marshwood Vale and that we would need additional funding. With its small hamlets, dispersed population and hills, it was probably going to be too expensive to be included in Superfast Dorset’s original plans. Almost 200 residents and businesses wrote in to support the proposals. With this phenomenal community backing, we worked with the Superfast Dorset team to build a strong case for extra funding and we are delighted to see that our efforts have met with success.”

Digging beneath the surface of this announcement we note that the additional funding is not part of the wider bid for extra investment from the BDUK Superfast Extension Programme, which has already set an indicative allocation of £770,000 aside for Dorset, Poole and Bournemouth. Instead we suspect that it represents the remains of an old bid via DEFRA’s Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF).

The Upper Marshwood Vale and Char Valley were both spotted seeking investment from the RCBF last March 2013 (Local Newsletter – PDF), although nothing much has been said since. The old newsletter states that the grant funding available from DEFRA amounted to £300-per-premise compared to £100-per-premise from Dorset Council, although they first needed to show evidence of strong local demand. The project also intended to pick BT as its chosen supplier, just like the Superfast Dorset scheme.

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