Devon And Somerset Apply For More BDUK Funding As Fibre Rollout Continues

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Somerset Council also pledges an additional £2m in the hope of gaining another £22.75m from BDUK

More homes and businesses in West Sussex, Somerset and Devon can now receive fibre thanks to the ongoing rollout of of Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK)-funded projects projects in the counties.

Around 5,000 properties in West Sussex have been added to the Openreach network, with exchanges at Billingshurst, Bosham, Fittleworth, Graffham, Petworth, Pulborough, Selsey, Sidlesham, Storrington and West Chiltington all upgraded and Ashington, Kirdford and Wisborough Green set to follow later this month.

West Sussex County Council will now begin phase two of its rollout to connect premises in Birdham, Bracklesham Bay, Burgess Hill, Chichester, Crawley, Eastergate and Haywards Heath by the end of the year and hopes to achieve its target of covering 44,000 properties by the end of 2016.

BDUK Connections

Bath Somerset Royal Crescent“Our exciting project to bring better, faster broadband to the majority of the county is now gaining real momentum,” says council member Lionel Barnard.

Over in Somerset and Devon, another 25 communities can now take advantage of faster speeds, bringing the total number to 56. A further 16 will be added by October 2014 and the latest phase has seen coverage improve in existing superfast locations.

The £94 million Connecting Devon and Somerset initially aimed to provide coverage to 90 percent of premises by 2016, but Somerset County Council has agreed to invest a further £2.18 million into the project in order to receive more government funding that would allow it to increase this target to 94 percent by 2017.

The council has applied for the full £22.75 million available to it from the BDUK Superfast Extension Programme and will find out if this request has been successful in September. Devon and Somerset have already been named as some of the pilot regions for a £10 million innovation fund to explore the use of alternative technologies to provide superfast broadband in rural areas.

“I cannot stress how important superfast broadband is to Somerset – for its residents, businesses and our economy,” says councillor David Hall. “We are committed to delivering superfast broadband to our hardest to reach areas and this extra investment from ourselves, partners and government will help us achieve just that.”

Latest government figures indicate that more than 508,000 properties have so far been connected as a direct result of BDUK and it is believed 40,000 homes and businesses are being connected each week. However the scheme has not been without controversy. BT has won all of the money available so far, leading to accusations over a lack of transparency and MPS claiming it has given the company a rural monopoly.

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