Superfast Essex Phase 4 is expected to be the last phase of work under the County Council’s broadband improvement programme, and is aiming to reach near to 100% superfast broadband connectivity across the county by 2021.
The decision to proceed with Phase 4 was approved by Essex County Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday 19 September.
Phase 4 will be funded by project savings and subsidy refunds from BT relating to Phases 1 and 2, contributions by local Essex councils and a new grant from the government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme (BDUK), which is already earmarked for Essex. Over the next few months, Superfast Essex is also planning to apply for further government grants worth up to £18 million. If the grants can be secured, the overall value of the Phase 4 public investment will be up to £29 million.
This public funding will be complemented by private investment from supplier contributions, to be confirmed by operators bidding to deliver the Phase 4 work when it goes to tender.
As a first step to prepare for Phase 4, Superfast Essex recently completed a public consultation inviting feedback on the current availability of superfast broadband coverage in Essex. Based on the responses, the programme team is now updating its State Aid map, which will identify the areas eligible to be included in the Phase 4 rollout. When complete, the final map will be published on the Superfast Essex website www.superfastessex.org/whatshappeningnext.
Essex County Councillor Kevin Bentley, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Growth, Skills, Infrastructure and the Digital Economy, said: “We have an ambition to become one of the best connected counties in the UK as we recognise the importance superfast broadband has for residents and businesses alike. Essex is a fast-growing county which makes achieving close to 100% coverage no mean feat but the County Council remains committed to improving the availability of broadband and considers it one of our priorities to invest in.”
Superfast Essex Phases 2 and 3 are currently on track to complete by December 2019. The work of network delivery partners BT and Gigaclear will take the total superfast footprint delivered by Superfast Essex to 144,000 homes and businesses, with some 90,000 addresses already enabled so far. Residents can view the areas already completed or in plans to be upgraded and check the status of their home or business on the interactive rollout map at www.superfastessex.org/maps.
Nearly half (46%) of the properties enabled in Phase 1 of the Superfast Essex programme have now ordered a fibre broadband service. This better-than-expected take-up of services is enabling ECC to claim subsidy refunds from BT and invest these in Phase 4.
Superfast Essex plans to begin the tender process for Phase 4 during October 2017.