Work has been launched to connect the first 21 communities in Devon and Somerset to a new ultrafast fibre broadband network that will deliver some of the fastest speeds in the UK.
It’s a key milestone for the local government-led Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) broadband programme which has already provided the infrastructure to enable 282,000 homes and businesses to access superfast broadband, and overall more than 327,000 can now access improved broadband.
New partner, Gigaclear, an award-winning supplier of full fibre broadband to rural locations, has launched pre-construction survey work for a major new engineering project across the region – building an entirely new full fibre network that will connect direct to homes and businesses with the capability to deliver speeds of up to 1000Mbps (1Gbps).
Work to lay the new cables is due to start in November to initially provide almost 9,000 homes and businesses in the first communities with access to the ultrafast network by February 2018. In Devon, this will start in Yealmbridge, Noss Mayo, Newton Ferrers, Aveton Gifford, and Ashford.
The first communities chosen to be connected have been selected based on their location near to existing connections to main broadband cables.
This latest phase is part of a new £62.25 million rollout by CDS, the biggest public-funded broadband programme in England, including a substantial investment by Gigaclear. In addition Gigaclear is also extending its network across the region through commercially funded infrastructure.
By the end of 2019, over 40,000 more homes and businesses in the CDS region will have access to ultrafast broadband in the biggest single investment in fibre connections in the UK.
Coupled with the new superfast wireless broadband network that Airband will be building under contract to CDS across northern, western and central Devon, it will mean overall more than 60,000 additional homes and businesses across the region will be able to access superfast or ultrafast broadband by the end of 2019. The Airband network will also have the future capacity to deliver ultrafast speeds.
The CDS programme is supported by funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the EU’s European Regional Development Fund, the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership and local authorities across the region (See Notes to Editors).
Around two thirds of all broadband infrastructure built or planned in the region is wholly commercial. CDS fills the gaps in rural communities and businesses where the commercial market will not provide the infrastructure. It does this by awarding public subsidised contracts to companies through competitive tender to build the infrastructure needed, such as fibre or wireless connections.
Minister for Digital Matt Hancock said: “We want everyone in the UK to have access to fast and reliable broadband, and the Connecting Devon and Somerset project has already made this a reality for more than 320,000 local properties who would otherwise have been left behind. But we know there’s still more to do, and I’m delighted that our investment will now take gold standard, full fibre broadband, to over 40,000 extra homes and businesses across the region.”
Councillor Stuart Barker, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “The new fibre network which Gigaclear is building for Connecting Devon and Somerset represents the biggest single investment in full fibre connections in the UK. This programme is good news as it will ensure that vital infrastructure is put in place over the next few years for many of our harder to reach communities in the county to have the opportunity to access broadband, thus enabling people to access important services and helping companies to boost their business online. This is in addition to the Airband system which is reaching many areas that cannot be reached by cabling.”
Joe Frost, Business Development Director at Gigaclear, said: “As part of the CDS and Gigaclear ultrafast broadband transformation, some of the hardest to reach rural areas of Devon and Somerset will be able to access the UK’s fastest broadband speeds through full fibre. The first Gigabit enabled residents and businesses will soon be able to do whatever they want to do online, regardless of their location or the amount of people using the service simultaneously. We are proud to be working with CDS on this project and look forward to being part of this rural broadband revolution to future-proof the area’s digital economy.”
Steve Hindley CBE DL, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The LEP’s Growth Deal Funding supports projects that help generate prosperity, and because our area has had pockets of poor broadband service, the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme was set up to address the gaps not serviced by the commercial market. We are very pleased with the impact of our investments so far, it’s part of our overarching strategy to create the right conditions for prosperity, and this latest phase of LEP investment will help open up many more opportunities for businesses in previously disadvantaged areas.”
Local information and demonstration events will be held in all of the areas where the roll-out has been announced. Those not in the initial wave of connection will be kept informed as the programme is updated.
For more information about broadband in the rest of the region visit www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk