Connecting Devon and Somerset has confirmed that an additional £38 million will be invested in improving superfast broadband coverage across the region. This funding will be spent on increasing coverage to 95% of homes and businesses by 2017.
Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Cabinet Member for Economy and Growth for Devon County Council, 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.”
Connecting Devon and Somerset is the largest project of its kind in the UK and has made a significant contribution to the recent national milestone of one million premises connected in the UK. The project has now reached 63 communities across the two counties by connecting 261 cabinets to the fibre network.
Councillor David Hall, Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council, said:
“This is a very important announcement for Devon and Somerset. This fantastic news means that that even more homes and businesses will soon be able to enjoy the benefits of superfast broadband. More businesses will be able to access new markets, increase their trading potential and their productivity. More people will be able to use online public services, stay connected with friends and family, and search for employment opportunities. Children and adults will have far greater access to online educational resources.
“There is still a lot of work left to do with many communities yet to be connected. Our energy and focus, boosted by this exciting new investment, remains directed towards connecting the whole of Devon and Somerset as rapidly and efficiently as possible.”
More information is available on Connecting Devon and Somerset’s web site at www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk, where you can search for your postcode to check on superfast broadband in your area.
The £19 million of local contributions are made up of EU funding from the Local Enterprise Partnership (£4.275m); the Growing Places Fund, also from the LEP (£4.2m); Somerset County Council and Devon County Council (£5.18m); and other district and unitary authorities, and National Parks (£5.512m). The Superfast Britain programme in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport is matching these contributions, bringing the total investment to over £38 million.
Some funding is currently committed in principle, so Connecting Devon and Somerset will be working closely with its partners to confirm this funding over the coming months. The commitment has been fully accepted by government hence its agreeing to match it in its entirety.
The government has allocated a total of £22.75 million to match contributions raised by the region itself, and Connecting Devon and Somerset is working with its partners to raise a further £3 million and release the remaining matched funding available.