Plans get underway for second stage of superfast broadband roll out

Connecting Devon & Somerset (CDS) has announced that it will be publishing the tender for the second stage of the superfast broadband programme across the region by early February.

The announcement comes as the current programme gathers significant momentum with over 400 cabinets and nearly 100,000 homes and businesses connected to fibre. In addition, some 2,500 individuals and businesses have attended events as part of the Get up to Speed programme, which is designed to help them get the most out of faster broadband.

Connecting Devon and Somerset will be using the Government’s national procurement framework for its delivery partner for most of the area. However, the CDS partnership is keen to open up this second stage to other potential providers. It will therefore be running an open procurement process in Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks allowing bids from other suppliers. The Parks represent some of the most challenging terrain for connecting remote rural communities to superfast broadband. Two areas in Exmoor are already being connected with the support of CDS by an innovative Yeovil-based firm, using a combination of satellite and wifi technology.

The second stage of the roll out will involve an investment of at least £38m – the largest amount of any superfast broadband project in the UK which was secured by CDS and its partners in August 2014. This funding will be spent on increasing superfast coverage and CDS are on track to reach their ambition of 100% superfast broadband coverage by 2020.

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Cabinet Member for Economy and Growth for Devon County Council, said: “The current programme is very much on schedule and it’s great to hear the positive feedback we are receiving from households and businesses, who are already seeing the benefits of faster broadband speeds.

“Whilst we will be using the Government’s national procurement framework agreement for the tender process to continue the momentum of the roll out to date, we will also be opening it up to bids from other suppliers for the National Park areas. The National Park areas will require an innovative approach due to their remoteness and therefore we believe it is appropriate to extend this part of the tender to other suppliers so that we can see what’s out there in the marketplace and ensure we come up with the best solutions possible for our available funding.”

Councillor David Hall, Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council, added: “The roll out of the superfast broadband infrastructure across our region has made excellent progress despite being one of most challenging terrains in the country and the largest geography of any such programme nationally.

“The tender marks a significant step in achieving our ultimate goal of 100% superfast broadband coverage across the area by 2020. Also this stage of the roll out will put a strong focus on the business community, including homeworkers, courtesy of funding from the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, eventually helping to provide a predicted three quarters of a billion pound economic boost to the region.

“We recognise that there is still a long way to go to rolling out the complete programme but we firmly believe the procurement approach we are taking with the second stage tender will ensure we remain on course and provide best value to communities at the same time.”

Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), part of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and responsible for delivering superfast broadband in the UK, has recently launched a multi-channel marketing campaign to raise awareness, highlight the benefits and support take up.