Superfast Essex is pushing ahead with planning the next phase of its fibre broadband rollout as it aspires to make the county one of the best connected in Britain.
Essex County Council’s aim to enable 95% of Essex premises to access superfast broadband by 2017 is mirrored nationally, along with the ambition to see at least 50% of those superfast connections in use within two years.
The current programme of work is on track to provide superfast broadband coverage (download speeds of 24Mbps and above) to 87% of Essex homes and businesses by summer 2016, when combined with the work carried out by commercial providers. Phase 2 is aiming to extend this to 95%.
The County Council has analysed the information received through the recent Open Market Review and State Aid Consultation, and a State Aid Consultation Report has been published on the Superfast Essex website, including feedback and the final maps identifying the confirmed area eligible for further public investment here.
Essex County Councillor Kevin Bentley, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and Infrastructure, said: “Thank you to all those who took the time to send us their comments. We have taken all of these into consideration as we plan the next round of work.”
Prospective broadband suppliers are now being invited to bid to work with ECC on Phase 2, and the delivery will be split into two parts. The first project will see a further £10million of public investment committed under the national Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) framework agreement for broadband delivery, and an invitation to tender for this part was published on 5 December.
In addition, ECC is inviting broadband infrastructure providers to take part in a Rural Challenge project, where up to £2million of public funding is available for a separate investment designed to attract alternative suppliers, technologies and business models for the delivery of superfast broadband to the more rural areas of Essex. A contract notice for this opportunity is being published this week.
Cllr Bentley said: “The new investment will make a difference to many more homes and businesses in Essex by 2017. However, we are aware there will still be a percentage of the county we won’t be able to reach yet. With the Rural Challenge project we are starting to explore how we might be able to close that gap in the future.
“The conversation does not end here though. We still want residents and businesses to register their demand for broadband through our online Make the Connection survey and we will use this to help inform future planning.”
The Phase 2 rollout plan will be finalised in two parts, in March and June next year, with work expected to start later in the year.