Broadband Minister Ed Vaizey, in town last week to help launch the Conservatives’ local election manifesto, met officials at South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) to “discuss options” for improving the area’s broadband speeds.
The talks came just a day after BT had announced that it is to upgrade the Filton exchange (0117 numbers) to its Infinity superfast broadband technology in 2012.
Almondsbury (01454), the other exchange serving Bradley Stoke, has so far been overlooked in BT’s rollout programme and it is looking increasingly likely that some form of Council/Government subsidy will be required to bring superfast broadband to the remainder of our town.
Local MP Jack Lopresti, who had invited Mr Vaizey to his constituency, told The Journal:
“The news that both the Filton and Winterbourne exchanges will have access to superfast broadband speeds of up to 40Mbps by the end of next year is very good news for both local residents and the local economy in general.”
“However, I was disappointed that the Almondsbury exchange that serves many Bradley Stoke residents in particular was once again overlooked.
“I have been working with BT and South Gloucestershire Council to see how we can improve the situation. I invited Ed Vaizey, the Communications Minister, to meet with the Council on Friday [8th April]. The Council recognise the problems that residents in some areas face with broadband speeds and are making plans to improve the situation.”
“The Minister gave us some very helpful advice and I hope that more good news will be announced soon. Projects of this kind do take time and money, but I would like to assure residents that we are working hard to solve the problem.”
A spokesperson for SGC said:
“South Gloucestershire Council recognises that broadband speed is an issue for residents in some areas and is considering all options available to determine the most appropriate way forward.”
“Letters were sent to both BT and Virgin Media last year urging them to prioritise South Gloucestershire when rolling out superfast broadband. Also, during a recent visit by Government Communications Minister Ed Vaizey, the opportunity was taken to discuss the options and explore opportunities for suitable funding from central government.”
The Government is making £530m available, by 2014/15, to local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) for the provision of broadband infrastructure. An organisation called Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) has been set up to oversee the allocation of this money.
Public bodies such as SGC have been invited to submit bids to BDUK for the first £50m tranche of this money by 5pm today (18th April). Authorities not in a position to bid by today’s deadline but who intend to submit a bid in a rolling application period between June 2011 and June 2012 have until 29th April to submit an “expression of interest” .
SGC previously told The Journal it was “discussing opportunities to work together with Bristol City Council to commence the bidding process” but offered no response when asked more recently if it would be submitting a bid by today’s deadline.
A map included in a presentation document published by BDUK in early April suggests that no South Gloucestershire authority (Council or LEP) had indicated, by the required deadline of 25th March, its intention to bid for the first tranche of money.
Related link: Better Broadband Campaign (The Journal)
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