Cambridgeshire sets aside £11m to increase superfast broadband availability to 99%
County council issues contract notice seeking telecoms firms to fulfil stage four of Connecting Cambridgeshire project
An aerial view of Cambridge city centre Credit: PA
Cambridgeshire County Council is to invest up to £11m to fund the rollout of superfast broadband access to 99% of buildings in the region by 2020.
The authority’s Connecting Cambridgeshire project aims to deliver “next-generation access” (NGA) broadband throughout Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. This means ensuring that homes and workplaces across the region can obtain a fibre-to-the-cabinet or, ideally, a fibre-to-the-premises connection that can support broadband speeds of at least 30Mbps.
The scheme has been in operation for five years, and has so far been through three stages in which it has used money from a £45m funding package – including local and central government cash, plus a £16m commitment from BT – to invest in delivering next-generation connections to 97% of properties in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
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The target of the fourth stage is to take this figure up to 99% by the end of 2020. Cambridgeshire County Council has issued a contract notice seeking one or more individual suppliers or consortia to deploy the necessary networks to make this goal a reality.
The chosen provider or providers will be given contracts worth up to £11.24m, with money supplied by the Connecting Cambridgeshire programme’s “available and potential funding” resources. Bids are open until 28 August, with the authority expecting to appoint suppliers in November.
Chancellor Philip Hammond recently pledged that, between now and 2025, two million buildings a year will gain access to a fibre-to-the-premises connection. This will mean that, in seven years’ time, the majority of UK homes and businesses will be part of a full-fibre network. Ubiquitous access will be achieved by 2033, Hammond said.
In March, Cambridgeshire was successful in its bid to receive funding from a £94.5m pot of central government cash dedicated to investing in the rollout of local full-fibre networks. The county requested £4m, but it is at the government's discretion whether it is ultimately awarded this entire amount.
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But tech firms also see continued challenges, including overlapping frameworks and lack of clarity on social-value requirements