EDDC targets rural broadband cash


- Credit: Archant

District bosses are applying to a £10million fund to deliver superfast broadband to the remaining 10 per cent of rural East Devon homes not included in an existing roll-out programme.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) says it did not join Devon and Somerset county councils’ phase one project to deliver 95 per cent coverage by 2017 because of the ‘excessive secrecy’ involved.

It says it would have been ‘irresponsible’ to commit taxpayers’ cash and now hopes to launch its own project with government agency Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).

But the fund it hopes to tap into opened in March 2014 and campaigner Graham Long has cast doubt on how much money will be available.

EDDC leader Councillor Paul Diviani said: “We look forward to working with BDUK on the successful initiation, funding and, ultimately, execution of this important and worthwhile project.

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“It has taken a while to find a suitable potential partner with whom we can work to get this project off the ground, but is has been well worth the wait.

“Now it is vital that we move this scheme forward so that East Devon’s outstanding modern economy is not stifled by a lack of modern technology. I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that superfast broadband is delivered to the district.”

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He said it was right not to become a contractual partner in the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) venture as the ‘excessive secrecy’ involved would have prevented the ‘frank exchange’ of information.

Cllr Diviani added: “In effect, we would have been giving away money, without knowing how or where it would be used.”

Phase one of the CDS project aims to provide 90 per cent of homes with superfast broadband by the end of 2016 and has already supplied places including Ottery St Mary, Newton Poppleford and Tipton St John.

An agreement to hit 95 per cent coverage by 2017 has yet to be agreed – and the target looks likely to be missed.

EDDC hopes to tap into the Government’s £10million Broadband Innovation Fund to construct a predominantly ‘fibre to the premises’ network, which would be financed by public and private funds.

The national fund opened 21 months ago and campaigner Mr Long, who has been calling for a faster roll-out of high-speed internet across Devon and Somerset, has questioned how much cash will still be available – and if it will be enough for EDDC’s ambitious project.

“I’m quite surprised EDDC believe they have any chance of getting any money from the fund,” he said. “Where it goes from here I don’t know. What it does is create even more confusion for people living and working in rural areas of East Devon.”

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