Cambridgeshire broadband take-up triggers £5.3m boost from BT

The proportion of homes and businesses in Cambridgeshire taking up superfast broadband services has triggered a £5.3m contractual “gainshare” investment on the part of provider BT.

Around 30% of premises in the county and Peterborough have now signed up for fibre-broadband services, with the figure exceeding 70% in some villages, according to the Connecting Cambridgeshire partnership. 

The grouping, which includes local authorities, universities, BT and the government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme, said the figures were “among the highest in the country”. It said more than 100,000 addresses now had access to fibre-broadband as a result of the programme.

Under a claw-back or “gainshare” condition within the £60m contract, BT is required to invest surplus profits into further broadband rollout if take-up exceeds the original forecast. It has proposed to make £5.3m in such funding available to deliver services to additional premises, and also allocated a £2.8m underspend from the first phase of Connected Cambridgeshire to a subsequent phase.

A report to members of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Economy and Environment Committee this week said broadband was now available to 93% of homes in the county, and a second phase of the programme was expected to see the figure rise to 95% by next year with connectivity extended to a further 6,000 properties.

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The report said a third phase concluding in 2019-2020 would take Cambridgeshire up to 97% coverage, adding a further 7,500 premises. It said reaching 100% of properties was “unrealistic”.

Committee chairman Councillor Ian Bates said BT had made the £5.3m bonus payment available earlier than was necessary under the terms of its contract so that it could be invested in helping more people get faster internet connections sooner.

“We want Cambridgeshire to be a leading digital county, and our productive partnership with BT, together with the additional government and EU funding won by the programme for digital projects, means we can achieve this within our original investment,” he said.

The county council is investing £20m in the programme, along with £3m from Peterborough City Council; the government is investing £11.6m, while £2m in European Union funding has been made available. BT’s contribution – including the gainshare payment – stands at £23m. 

Jim Dunton

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