South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) has announced the signing of a deal that will bring improved internet speeds to at least 9.4% of premises across the district.
The Council, in partnership with Wiltshire Council, has agreed the £35.6 million project with BT, who were announced as the preferred bidder for the project last November.
£4.6 million of the money will come from the Government (through its BDUK agency), £15.5 million from Wiltshire Council, £2 million from South Gloucestershire Council, £12.8 million from BT and £0.74 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Revised data published today shows that 83% of premises in South Gloucestershire are expected to have access to superfast broadband through commercial investment by 2015. The state-aided project announced today will benefit most of the remaining 17% (19,700 premises), by guaranteeing a minimum broadband speed of 2Mbps to all of them and bringing superfast speeds (> 24Mbps) to between 8,120 and 12,752 of them (corresponding to “minimum” and “expected” district-wide superfast coverage targets of 90% and 94%).
The Journal estimates that around 3,000 homes in Bradley Stoke could benefit from the investment, these being the homes and business that are served from the BT telephone exchange at Almondsbury (01454 numbers) and lie outside the Virgin Media cable area.
For those on 0117 numbers, BT is currently in the process of upgrading its Filton Exchange (announced in April 2010), and the latest projections are that subscribers will be able to order superfast services from 30th June 2013.
The bad news contained in today’s announcement is that the estimated completion date for the state-aided work has slipped to May 2016, an extension of just over a year on the target date of April 2015 announced by SGC last February.
Six months of the slippage is attributed to delays in obtaining state-aid approval from the EU but no explanation for the further seven month delay has been offered.
Following the contract signing, there will now be a period of “planning and surveying”, with work expected to start on the ground during the autumn.
SGC says the work will be carried out in five “phases”, with each phase focusing on the geographical area around a set of telephone exchanges, however no detail of the phases or areas has been released.
SGC Councillors for Bradley Stoke South, John Ashe and Robert Jones, commented:
“We very much welcome this announcement as faster broadband is something we have been campaigning on for many years.”
“Now that we know the contract has been signed, what we really want to know, along with so many other Bradley Stoke residents, is when exactly we will see the improvements and where our town sits in the programme’s roll-out phases.”
SGC Councillor for Bradley Stoke North, Ben Walker, added:
“It’s great news that most of Bradley Stoke will benefit from the BDUK funding after a long cross-party campaign. Thanks must go to The Journal who were instrumental in raising the profile of the poor internet connection speeds. It’s disappointing that it took this pressure and Government money for BT to act; it was always their responsibility.”
In a BT consumer demand survey conducted in December 2010, the Almondsbury exchange received the 19th-highest level of support across the country for the introduction of superfast broadband (from 2,495 eligible exchanges) but despite the result, BT subsequently failed to include the exchange in its commercial rollout programme that is now drawing to an close.
Photo: Jack Lopresti MP, Town Councillors and local business leaders show support for the Better Broadband campaign in November 2010.
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