Connecting Devon and Somerset today takes a major step forward in the £94 million project to bring superfast broadband to rural areas by announcing the next communities set to benefit from the programme.
By the end of March 2014, fibre broadband will be available to a further 31 communities*. This extends the number of homes and businesses that are able to benefit from the programme to 44,000.
The boost comes as a result of the careful detailed survey work undertaken over the past six months that is critical in determining the roll-out plan.
The 31 latest communities included in the roll-out join seven towns and villages already announced. Parts of Holsworthy, Bradford-on-Tone and Sticklepath have already ‘gone live’, whilst Moretonhampstead, Bishops Lydeard, Monkton Heathfield and Creech St Michael will be upgraded by the end of the month.
Alongside the private sector’s commercial roll-out, the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme aims to make superfast broadband speeds of 24Mbps and above available to around 90 per cent of homes and businesses by the end of 2016.
It also plans to ensure a minimum of 2Mbps for all premises within the programme area and is actively lobbying for more funding to further extend the availability of superfast broadband.
The multi million pound partnership includes Devon and Somerset County Councils, Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay Councils, BT and the UK Government’s Superfast Britain programme.
Councillor David Hall, Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “The Big Build now feels like it is truly underway. This tremendous step forward is a pay off for all the careful planning that goes on behind the scenes. The team has been working flat out to get to this stage. I look forward to the economic growth and development that access to high speed fibre broadband will bring.”
Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Cabinet Member for Economy and Growth for Devon County Council, said: “We are all aware that good connectivity is vital for our rural economy. Our businesses can now begin to take advantage of the opportunities improved broadband will bring in new markets, trading potential and productivity. To be able to make this major step forward is terrific news.”
Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications & Creative Industries, added: “The news that 44,000 homes and businesses will have access to superfast speeds by March 2014 is fantastic news for the residents of Devon and Somerset. The UK already does more business online than any other European country and widespread access to superfast speeds will provide a welcome boost to the local economy.”
Laurent Boon, BT’s programme manager for Connecting Devon and Somerset, said: “The arrival of fibre broadband is one of the most important investments in Devon and Somerset in recent times. High-speed fibre broadband is transforming the way we live and work. For businesses, it can help deliver a competitive edge, which will help them attract new customers and find new, more efficient ways of working. For households, it’s ideal for quick and efficient on-line shopping, entertainment, education, research and social networking.”