News from Blackdown Hills Parish Network

Blackdown Hills Online is a website for all residents and visitors to the Blackdowns Hills.

You may be aware that in September 2018, Connecting Devon & Somerset put their five contracts with Gigaclear on hold after Gigaclear failed to deliver the number of fibre broadband connections required by the contract. That has been followed on September 12, 2019, by CDS cancelling all five of their contracts with Gigaclear. CDS have stated that this is because Gigaclear failed to provide a revised roll out schedule acceptable to CDS, but following a Devon County Council Scrutiny Meeting on September 26, 2019, it has also been discovered that £18.7M of government funding necessary to extend the contracts beyond 2020 has not been provided by central government to CDS, so CDS cannot at present (September 2019) sign broadband roll out contracts with any supplier that last more than a few months.

What does this mean for rural Devon & Somerset residents desperate to get faster broadband?

If you were expecting Gigaclear to provide you with a fibre broadband connection as previously detailed on their website, that will not now happen. Gigaclear have put the following statement on their website: “Gigaclear have invested over £20M in Devon & Somerset to date. While we have encountered some delays to the project we are re-planning sections of the network which will enable us to deliver this essential service. Those residents who are already connected or have access to the service are unaffected“.

CDS say they will go out to open tender again early next year and hope to have contracts in place with new supplier(s) by November 2020, when they also hope to have obtained “clawback funding” from the CDS BT Phase 1 contracts along with the £18.7M funding extension to 2023. This will be CDS’s fourth attempt since 2012 to find Phase 2 suppliers and they claim that 16 companies are interested in bidding.

In the meantime, those desperate for better rural broadband provision are encouraged to write to their MPs and County Councillors about the additional delay cancelling these contracts will cause. CDS recommend that residents apply for funding from the national DCMS Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme through which a solution might be obtained. (See https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/ )

The County Council run CDS programme was one of the first to be established in the UK. It is also the largest of it’s kind. It will now be one of the last to complete and helps ensure the UK remains at the bottom of the European league table for fibre broadband provision.

Graham Long  ( grahaml@ymail.com )  27/9/19