Funding fears could hold back West Country broadband header image

Published: 22nd Jun 2016

Fears about funding could hold back the rollout of super-fast broadband in Devon and Somerset, it has been reported. 

According to Western Morning News, some £22.75 million needs to be raised by the six local authorities covered by the Connecting Devon and Somerset project if the scheme is to be extended to 95 per cent of the region. 

The project is part of the government's Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) initiative, which sees the state provide funding for the rollout of super-fast broadband in a region that must then be matched by the area's local authority. 

Some £94 million has already been secured to improve connectivity in 90 per cent of Devon and Somerset, but the additional £22.75 million would be used to boost internet access in hard-to-reach rural locations

MP for Tiverton and Honiton Neil Parish has revealed he is going to ask culture secretary Sajid Javid if it is possible for the level of funding the local authorities need to raise to be cut and if they could be given more time to raise the cash. 

Matt Ballard, programme manager for Connecting Devon and Somerset, told Western Morning News: "The team are working hard with BDUK on our application to secure the £22.75 million funding available. The bid is due in at the end of this month."

Meanwhile, Graham Long - parish councillor and broadband campaigner in Upottery, Devon - has started an online petition to demonstrate demand for bringing super-fast broadband to all villages in Somerset and Devon. 

As a predominantly rural area, communities in the West Country often suffer from a lack of fast and reliable internet access. In April, chief executive officer of Somerset Chamber of Commerce Rupert Cox told Western Daily Press the lack of connectivity means businesses in the region are "getting a right kicking".

He called for the Connecting Devon and Somerset project to be accelerated, but considering the latest news this now seems unlikely.