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Devon and Somerset UK Fall Short of Broadband Funding Target

Monday, August 11th, 2014 (10:10 am) - Score 390

The Connecting Devon and Somerset project in England has failed to match the full level of £22.75 million in funding offered by the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) Superfast Extension Programme, but it’s not a big deal because they still expect meet the national target and bring superfast broadband to 95% of the area by 2017.

Under the existing £94m plan Devon and Somerset were working to make BT’s “fibre optic broadband” (FTTC/P) service available to over 90% of local premises by the end of 2016 and their long-term goal is to reach 100% by 2020, which would more or less match Europe’s overall target (provided the speeds are all 30Mbps+ capable instead of 24Mbps+ as with the UK’s ambition).

Earlier this year the Government (BDUK) also made an additional £22.75m (here) available to help the area boost its target up to 95% with access to a fixed line superfast broadband (24Mbps+) service by 2017, which the councils needed to match.

But unfortunately the total combined value of the agreed extension project has fallen several million short at £38m and more effort will thus be needed to find the remaining £3m. But the 2017 target still looks to be safe.

Andrew Leadbetter, Devon Councillor, said:

We are delighted to announce that Connecting Devon and Somerset and its partners have raised over £19 million towards better superfast broadband coverage in Devon and Somerset. This means that together with the matched funding from Government we have over £38 million to invest, the largest of any superfast broadband programme in the UK. This enables us to increase coverage to 95% of homes and businesses by 2017. It puts us well on the way to our ultimate ambition of 100% coverage by 2020.

Our next step will be to run an open procurement exercise to find the best partners to deliver this investment. We aim to start this process in September and select one or more partners by next February. By that time, we will also be able to identify the next communities that will benefit from the additional funding.

In the meantime, we are focused on raising a further £3 million to bring us up to our original target of £22.75 million of funding. This will then release the equivalent government match funding which is still available. So there is still time to get an even better deal for the region.”

Several other Local Authorities have also reported on the struggle to find the necessary funding, which is understandably very difficult for some to do when most are still experiencing the fallout from austerity (i.e. being asked to cut millions off their annual budgets). On the other hand broadband can help to improve the local economy and many feel as if it will thus eventually end up paying for itself.

As investment cases go it’s not a bad choice in terms of risk, although risk-averse is also one of the reasons why councils tend to favour BT’s known approach over that of smaller but potentially more innovative alternative ISPs.

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