Public consultation for second phase superfast broadband programme launched

A public consultation is being launched today (Wednesday 6 April) to kickstart the next stage in the rollout of superfast broadband in Devon and Somerset.

Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS), the partnership delivering the high speed programme, is starting the process to award a contract – or contracts- by the Autumn for the remainder of the second phase of the superfast roll out programme across the region.

Once the consultation has been completed by late May and responses incorporated, it will then be submitted to Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) for clearance. The consultation document highlights the areas for the second phase roll out which will require infrastructure with the potential to deliver speeds of 30 Mbps and above.

The public, businesses, internet service providers and broadband network providers will now be able to comment on the area that is being proposed for publicly funded support for superfast broadband infrastructure development as part of the second phase of the Connecting Devon & Somerset programme.

The remainder of the second phase programme will require State Aid approval from the EU and BDUK has advised this is now likely to be June rather than April that had been previously indicated by BDUK. This is because BDUK is negotiating a new National Broadband scheme for the UK, including the CDS second phase, which is pushing for the need to optimise the number and quality of bidders, helping reduce the hurdles to participation in procurements by smaller suppliers. The State aid rules require using public funding only to extend broadband coverage in geographic areas where there is no commercial case for investment.

Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council’s cabinet member for business inward investment and policy, said: “The consultation marks the beginning of the process to award the contract or contracts for the remainder of the 2nd phase. Whilst State Aid approval is now likely in June, we are meeting with BDUK this month to discuss how we can fast track the procurement process. We remain very confident that we will still be in a position to announce a successful network provider or providers by Autumn 2016.”

Added Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, cabinet member for economy and growth for Devon County Council: “The National Broadband Scheme that BDUK is negotiating with the EU is also very much in the best interests of our communities across the region as it will open up the market and create more competition; this builds on the excellent progress made under phase 1 which has to date delivered fibre broadband to 280,000 premises, of which, 230,000 are able to access superfast speeds up to 80mbps.”

CDS is confident that 1,000 residences on Dartmoor will have access to wireless superfast broadband in the next few weeks, as part of the National Parks programme. Planning applications have also been submitted for Exmoor and are now going through public consultation.

To find out more about the consultation, visit: www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk/public-consultation

In another development, CDS has launched a new Broadband Voucher Scheme to ensure that all businesses and residents can have access to at least 2 Mbps by end of 2016. Anyone within the CDS area that currently has a broadband speed of less than 2 Mbps can qualify for a voucher for £500 to go towards the installation cost of a new broadband connection. Residents and businesses can choose their supplier from an approved list which includes satellite, wireless and fibre providers; and each solution will guarantee at least 10 Mbps download speed. Further details can be found on the CDS website at: http://www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk/cds-broadband-voucher-scheme/