A major engineering project has been launched to connect 6,500 homes and businesses in Bath & North East Somerset and North Somerset to a new ultrafast full fibre broadband network that will deliver some of the fastest speeds in the UK.

It’s part of the £171 million Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) programme, the biggest public-funded broadband project in England, which has already provided over a quarter of a million homes and businesses with access to superfast broadband. *See Notes to News Editors

Ultrafast broadband provider Gigaclear is carrying out essential surveys for CDS ahead of the installation of a new full-fibre network that will deliver even faster broadband connections up to 1,000Mbps (1Gbps). In the areas of Woolvershill, Hewish, Kingston Seymour, Brockley and Flax Bourton and surrounding areas surveying is complete and network construction starts from early January, with the first residents and businesses anticipated to be connected by the end of spring, 2018. The first communities to be connected are based on their proximity to the Gigaclear Internet backbone network, which will enable them to be live as soon as possible.

Information about the roll-out timetable will be updated regularly via Gigaclear’s website. Residents and businesses can also expect to receive news and information from Gigaclear and CDS by post.

The project is the result of a £10.3 million investment deal that Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) has signed with Gigaclear for Bath & North East Somerset and North Somerset. Under the deal, Gigaclear will be investing £7.8 million of private sector money and building an entirely new all-fibre network to connect directly to local homes and businesses.

Over 28,000 homes and businesses in Bath & North East Somerset and North Somerset already have access to superfast broadband under an earlier construction deal by CDS with BT. Tens of thousands more have access via entirely commercial provision and it is anticipated that commercial coverage will increase across the Bath & North East Somerset and North Somerset areas.

 

CDS will also be reinvesting public subsidy returned by BT as a “gainshare” or dividend from increased take-up of internet services to help fill gaps in the current planned coverage. CDS are in discussion about the final amount and will reinvest the money to extend full fibre broadband coverage to as many communities without a service as possible.

CDS is a massive engineering investment programme, which connects some of the hardest to reach communities in England, where the commercial market will not provide the infrastructure. It does this by awarding public subsidised contracts to companies through competitive tender to build the infrastructure needed, such as fibre or wireless connections. CDS is only able to invest where suppliers have no declared and credible plans to invest their own resources to extend their networks.

So far, over 248,000 miles (400,000 kms) of fibre cable have already been laid, enough to circle the Earth ten times, in a programme that has taken over 2 million-man hours to date.

CDS is backed with funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the EU’s European Regional Development Fund, Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, local authorities and the private sector.

Cllr Paul Myers, Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “Excellent broadband infrastructure is essential for our economy to remain competitive. So this is good news as it will give our local businesses access to some of the fastest broadband speeds available and the ability to trade without boundaries. For our residents, it means the whole family can get on-line to take advantage of all that the internet has to offer.”

Cllr Elfan Ap Rees, North Somerset Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Economic Development, said: “Bringing high speed broadband to all of North Somerset is well overdue and essential for business growth across the region. Digital connectivity is such a vital element of our economy and everyday life and this latest investment will ensure that North Somerset’s rural communities and businesses are not left behind.”

Joe Frost, Business Development Director at Gigaclear, said: “We’re delighted to expand our footprint in the South West and continue our strong relationship with CDS, bringing Gigaclear’s ultrafast broadband to some of the hardest to reach rural areas. By working with CDS, Gigaclear is helping to secure the area’s digital economy. As the leading alternative provider of ultrafast, full fibre-to-the-premises broadband to rural Britain, our investment in this new network will bring economic and social benefits to the area for many years to come, making it an even more attractive place to live and work.”

CDS continues to pursue other funding options and solutions to support homes and businesses which are not able to benefit from these new networks. For example, CDS will be reinvesting public subsidy returned by BT as ‘gainshare’ or dividend from increased take-up of internet services to help fill gaps in the current planned coverage. CDS are in discussion about the final amount and will reinvest the money to extend full fibre broadband coverage to as many communities without a service as possible.

Notes to News Editors:

About Connecting Devon and Somerset

Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) covers Devon and Somerset County Councils, Bath & North East Somerset and North Somerset councils’ areas.

The total budget for phase one and phase two of the CDS programme is £171 million. Funding comprises contributions from the Government, European Union, local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnership and private sector investment.

Further investments are planned including public funding returned by BT under a gainshare agreement when take-up of the new broadband service passes 20%. The money will be reinvested by CDS to expand broadband coverage to areas without a service and who will not be connected by commercial investment alone.

By December 2019 CDS aims to have provided at least 380,000 homes and businesses across its region with access to better broadband in areas where the commercial sector will not deliver on its own.

In respect of Government targets it’s important to note the following:

the Government does not set % targets at a local or regional programme level;

Government broadband targets represent an average coverage for the UK;

Government targets are heavily dependent on commercial investment in broadband

NB See note about Broadband Delivery UK

Confirmation of the CDS programme’s numbers for its first phase will be announced on completion of a final assurance audit which is currently underway.

For more information about broadband in the rest of the CDS region visit
www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk/

About Gigaclear

Gigaclear provides ultrafast, full fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband to rural Britain, enabling broadband speeds of up to 1,000Mbps (1Gbps). Building networks through the Government-subsidised Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) rural broadband programme as well as via commercial investment, Gigaclear’s network currently covers over 55,000 homes and businesses in the south of the UK, offering a future proofed, high quality broadband solution.

For further information about qualifying communities go to
www.gigaclear.com/cds

Press contacts:

Rachel Veevers or Sophie Kerlin

Bottle: Tel: 01865 770381. Email: gigaclear@wearebottle.com

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

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.