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Thursday, 23 October 2014

EU green light for Cumbria's superfast broadband

The EU has finally given the green light to the roll-out of superfast broadband in Cumbria.

The approval removes any doubt about whether the Government’s subsidy of rural broadband would fall foul of European state aid rules,

Yesterday’s announcement follows a direct intervention from the Culture Secretary in Brussels last week, ending several months of delay in Europe which had been causing frustrations in Cumbria where BT has been awarded the £40m contract to supply superfast broadband.

Cumbria will now have to take its place in queue of schemes waiting for individual sign off under the rules established by the EU decision. County council officers will be working to clear the final hurdles before signing the delivery contract with BT.

It is now anticipated that BT can begin its rollout activity in Spring 2013, with engineers surveying the county for the best ways to deliver the infrastructure necessary for superfast broadband. The first fibre would be laid around three months later.

In January the county council’s Cabinet is due to decide on the strategic roll-out programme, which will outline the priorities on where superfast broadband will be delivered. This strategic plan will then inform how, where and when BT actually delivers on the ground and will have to balance the interests of business, rural groups and

Cllr Elizabeth Mallinson, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for Connecting Cumbria, said: “I am delighted that this key milestone has been reached.

“It hopefully opens the doors for the local rollout of the project and to get on with delivering superfast broadband to communities next year. There has been a tremendous amount of preparation work going on in anticipation of this announcement and we will now be working closely with BDUK to ensure Cumbria meets all the final criteria.

“This will allow us to start the intensive work with communities, partners and BT, which will see us agreeing how to roll out this major project.”

The Department for Media, Culture and Sport which is responsible for broadband delivery says it has a ‘pipeline’ of local authority projects which are currently going into procurement at a rate of approximately one a week.

A spokesman said: "The projects which will be affected first by this clearance, and whose residents will be the first to connect to superfast broadband, are Wales and Surrey. Projects in Cumbria, Rutland and Herefordshire and Gloucestershire are expected to follow shortly afterwards."

A spokesman for BT said: “We are pleased to hear the European Commission has approved the use of state funds for BDUK projects. This decision is very welcome as it will give an important boost to plans to bring fibre broadband to rural parts of the UK, including Cumbria.

“The green light means we can commence work in areas where we have contracts in place and it should also make it easier for those counties who are yet to sign deals with the private sector. It is now full speed ahead.”

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