CDS expands broadband network to thousands more homes and businesses
Nearly 300,000 homes and businesses in rural areas now have access to superfast broadband thanks to Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS).
New analysis shows the total number of homes and businesses with access to
CDS-provided superfast has risen to 298,900 and a further 38,000 can access improved broadband speeds.
In addition, CDS-funded construction has started to provide a further 68,100 rural homes and businesses across the region with access to superfast networks by 2020. In many cases the new networks will be capable of ultrafast speeds. (See additional info below)
CDS is backed by funding from the Government, EU, Heart of the South West LEP and a local authority partnership.
In predominantly rural districts, CDS is already exceeding Government expectations. Central Government estimates that, overall, two thirds of all broadband infrastructure in rural England will be delivered commercially. In many rural areas of the region, CDS has provided at least half of the total coverage to date.
CDS main contractor BT exceeded its contract target for the first phase of the programme, contributing to the increased coverage.
Public and business take up of CDS-provided internet access now stands at 43%, 137,600 homes and businesses, just above the national average of 42.6%.
This increased take-up means CDS will also have a confirmed additional £4.8 million in a “gainshare dividend” from BT to invest in expanding the broadband network even further to help particularly isolated rural communities.
As a result, CDS is launching a consultation today to help target isolated communities in greatest need of that public investment and where there are no declared and credible commercial deployment plans.
The consultation will enable all interested stakeholders – the public, businesses, and telecommunications providers – to comment on the proposed intervention areas before further coverage is committed.
CDS also confirmed today its plan to launch a new broadband voucher scheme for residents and businesses. The previous scheme has demonstrated the success of this type of support with more than 1,800 installations being completed offering a choice of 4G, fixed-wireless, satellite and fibre solutions.
The scheme will help people in areas not in line for commercial or publicly-funded broadband infrastructure. Details will be published later in the spring. CDS is also planning to launch schemes to support community broadband solutions in the summer.
CDS analysis, including rural and urban areas, also shows that commercially-funded superfast is now available to 653,500 homes and businesses. Combined with the CDS’ rural-focused programme, it means a total of 952,400 homes and businesses across the whole region now have access to superfast broadband out of a total of 1,083,200.
CDS investment is encouraging increased commercial broadband expansion across the region providing greater competition and consumer choice. Commercially-funded broadband is forecast to reach a further 14,000 homes and businesses across the region by 2020 and a greater number will have more than one provider. However, commercial investment in predominantly rural areas is generally below Government average estimates and further public-funded broadband infrastructure will be required.
As part of the CDS programme, Gigaclear is contracted to provide a new full fibre network that will connect 47,000 homes and businesses across the CDS region. The number of premises includes an expansion of the network, approved by Government in December.
Gigaclear has brought in additional civil engineering resources following the collapse of Carillion which was a key partner in Gigaclear’s original main civil engineering contractor. Although construction has been delayed in some communities, Gigaclear has assured CDS that most of its original programme will be delivered by the end of 2019 and the expanded programme completed by the summer of 2020 as planned. The company plans to notify all affected communities of any changes to the roll-out schedule.
CDS has submitted proposals to Government to increase the Airband superfast wireless network by a further 3,000 homes and businesses across northern and western Devon. Airband is currently building a new wireless network for CDS that will provide access to superfast broadband for around 13,000 homes and businesses across the area by December 2019 and is completing a network to serve around 5,000 hard to reach properties in Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks with superfast broadband.
The increase in digital connectivity is a further boost for the local economy on the back of above UK average productivity growth figures across the CDS region. Bath & North East Somerset and North Somerset have benefited from above national average growth in nominal productivity of 1.38% building on a strong economic base; Somerset recorded growth of 2.18%. Looking at real terms growth in productivity, Devon’s 2.2% increase is the fourth fastest in the UK.
Councillor David Hall, Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “Every day CDS is connecting more and more people to broadband in some of the hardest to reach rural areas in England. But we are not stopping here, there is more to do to connect isolated communities and boost the local economy. Working with Government and broadband companies, we want to expand the network even further over the next two years.”
Councillor Stuart Barker, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “These figures are very welcome, they highlight the progress that has been made in Devon and Somerset in enabling hundreds of thousands of people and businesses to enjoy faster broadband speeds. Our message to Government is that the local economy needs continuing investment in digital connectivity to maintain growth in productivity and jobs. Although our current plans will reach more properties there is more funding needed to reach remaining properties which are more isolated.”
Councillor Elfan Ap Rees, North Somerset Council’s deputy leader, whose portfolio includes broadband, said: “There is an appetite for superfast broadband and I am pleased to see take-up continues to grow as more individuals and businesses have the opportunity to benefit from faster broadband speeds. We need to keep the programme rolling out so our more rural communities can also make use of this technology.”
Councillor Paul Myers, Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration at Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “I’m delighted to see so many rural businesses and residences are now benefiting from superfast broadband connections thanks to Connecting Devon and Somerset. We know how vital a fast and reliable internet connection is in terms of economic productivity, and how it can help rural communities access services and amenities. We therefore continue to support this project and welcome the investment that it has brought.”
Steve Hindley, CBE DL, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise (HotSW) Partnership said: “Improving connectivity is the biggest driver to productivity that our area has, and therefore our greatest opportunity for growth. Since the LEP started we’ve been working with our partners in government and our stakeholders here to attract funding to get a step-change in our connectivity infrastructure in road, rail and broadband, and will continue to do so. These latest successes are a step in the right direction to securing the future of our area as a major contributor to UK plc.”
Speaking on behalf of the four Somerset district councils in the CDS partnership (Taunton Deane, Sedgemoor, West Somerset and Mendip), Councillor John Williams, Leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council, said: “Fast and reliable broadband is essential for our businesses and our residents. I am pleased to see that, for example, combined commercial and CDS coverage in Taunton Deane now stands at 88 per cent and is set to reach 98 per cent in two years’ time. It is vitally important that we connect the more isolated, rural communities whose need is as great as those in urban areas. It is no longer a ‘nice to have’ service but an “essential service” being a lifeline for work learning and leisure for many.”
Councillor Jeremy Christophers, Teignbridge District Council’s Leader, said: “This is fantastic news and a good insight into who’s getting superfast broadband. We know that access to broadband has been something our communities want and need, and that’s why we committed £250,000 to the scheme for the district. It’s a worthwhile investment for our residents and businesses and we’re looking forward to seeing more places getting better connected.”
The CDS programme is the largest of its kind in England. It is supported with funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the EU’s European Regional Development Fund, the Heart of the South West LEP, West of England LEP and local authorities across the region.
Since the start of the partnership between local authorities in Devon and Somerset, the Government and BT in 2013, a quarter of a million miles of optical fibre has been laid, enough to circle the Earth ten times
CDS connects some of the hardest to reach communities in England, where the commercial market will not provide the infrastructure. CDS does this by awarding public subsidised contracts to companies through competitive tender to build the infrastructure needed, such as fibre cables or wireless masts. CDS is only able to invest where suppliers have no declared and credible plans to invest their own resources to extend their networks. CDS does not fund actual internet services available via the web, that is a role for commercial Internet Service Providers or ISPs.
In respect of Government targets for broadband it’s important to note the following:
• the Government does not set % targets at a local or regional programme level;
• Government broadband targets achieved represent an average coverage for the UK;
• Government targets achieved include commercially-funded broadband infrastructure.
Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK)
Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), a part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is responsible for implementing the Government’s broadband policy which consists of three stages:
• to provide superfast broadband (24 Mbps or more) to at least 95% of the UK by December 2017
• to provide access to basic broadband (2Mbps) for all
• to stimulate private investment in full fibre connections by 2021
The BDUK coverage targets include the commercial roll-out, however, the BDUK programme and funding is focused on those areas that are not reached by the commercial roll-out.
For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/broadband-delivery-uk
European Regional Development Fund
Connecting Devon and Somerset has received £4.625m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.
Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.
For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding
Heart of the South West LEP
Phase 2 of the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme is part-funded with £2.5m from the first round and £6m from the second round of the Heart of the South West (HotSW) LEP’s Growth Deal with Government. Over the lifetime of the Growth Deal: 2015 – 2021; part-funding 50 projects throughout Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay; HotSW LEP estimates the investment will create up to 22,000 new jobs and 18,000 new homes.
Local Growth Fund
Local Enterprise Partnerships are playing a vital role in driving forward economic growth across the country, helping to build a country that works for everyone.
That’s why by 2021 Government will have invested over £12bn through the Local Growth Fund, allowing LEPs to use their local knowledge to get all areas of the country firing on all cylinders.
Analysis has shown that every £1 of Local Growth Fund invested could generate £4.81 in benefits.
Universal Service Obligation (USO)
The Government has confirmed that universal high speed broadband will be delivered by a regulatory Universal Service Obligation (USO), giving everyone in the UK access to speeds of at least 10 Mbps by 2020. This is the speed that Ofcom, the independent regulator, says is needed to meet the requirements of an average family. After careful consideration the Government has decided that regulation is the best way of making sure everyone in the UK can get a decent broadband connection of at least 10 Mbps as soon as possible.
For more information see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/high-speed-broadband-to-become-a-legal-right
Broadband speed definitions
Ofcom defines the following services:
• Standard broadband services have download speeds of between 10 to 30 Mbps;
• Superfast broadband services have download speeds of 30 Mbps or more; and
• Ultrafast broadband services have download speeds of 300 Mbps or more.