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

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

“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.

What do you know about fibre broadband?

Steve McCaskill

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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  • Whilst it is good to hear that CDS have gained in-principle agreement from the District and Unitary Councils to provide most the £22.75M match funding, it should be noted that many Councils are yet to have full council or cabinet meetings to agree their contributions. One council, Mendip DC has posted on their website a paper from CDS which details their expectations of funding from the various councils and in that CDS state: "It is understood that to assist in the decision making process that mapping to identify the areas set to benefit from SEP would be essential. CDS will undertake to deliver this mapping but it must remain confidential and the preferred means by which this would be shared would be by way of a confidential briefing to members and senior officers." This implies that the secrecy that surrounds the current fibre deployment caused by the provide BT insisting that deployment plans remain confidential will continue when the SEP investment is spent, irrespective of who the providers are. This is because, for the councils (and the public) to know who will and will not benefit from the SEP investment, CDS need to disclose who will not benefit from the current BT deployment and CDS are not allowed to do that under the terms of the current contract, for fear of being sued by BT. It seems that many of us in Devon & Somerset may have to wait years to know if we are or are not in the final 5% and whether we will or will not benefit from this huge investment of public money. Transparency is something that CDS seems incapable of delivering, let alone fibre optic broadband, something that the PAC and the NAO have already been highly critical of.

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