40 per cent of broadband projects given green light for procurement

By Sooraj Shah
09 Mar 2012 View Comments
Fibre optic cables

Forty per cent of the 45 broadband project areas in England have been given the go-ahead to begin the procurement process for superfast broadband access.

The government has allocated money from a £530m fund to each local authority in England to help provide 90 per cent of homes and businesses with access to superfast broadband and everyone with access to at least 2Mbps. There has also been funding allocated to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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Local authorities are responsible for leading the broadband rollout in their area. As part of the process, each local authority had to submit a local broadband plan by the end of February to detail how it will roll out broadband in their area.

Any plans must be finalised by the end of April so that the project is ready to begin procurement.

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said he is pleased with the progress local authorities have made but insisted that there is still work to be done.

"We set a demanding timetable and I'm pleased that we are making such fast progress. Virtually every local authority is on track to roll out superfast broadband. But we cannot afford to relax – we must continue to drive forward with taking superfast broadband to all areas of the UK," he said.

Two of the local authorities, North and South Tyneside, failed to submit initial broadband plans on time and Hunt emphasised the importance of local authorities to not be complacent.

"North and South Tyneside seem blithely confident they will deliver world-class digital infrastructure – I just hope they are not being complacent. No one in the UK can afford to slack on making sure we have the best broadband network in Europe upon which so many of the jobs of the future depend," he said.

In January, Hunt threatened to withdraw the £530m broadband funding to local authorities who did not sign broadband contracts by the end of 2012.

Later that month, communications minister Ed Vaizey reinforced the government's position.

"We do not intend to continue to fund councils if they continue to fail to deliver," he said.

The government may run a national project to cover any areas that fail to meet the timetable.

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