Thousands more homes and businesses in the most rural areas of Essex are to be given access to superfast broadband in a new phase of Essex County Council’s Superfast Essex programme launched this week.
Superfast Essex Phase 3 will invest up to £10million of public money in the areas of the county which still experience the lowest levels of superfast broadband availability. The plan also includes an initiative to achieve 100% superfast broadband coverage in Tendring District.
The next phase of work will build on the success of the Phase 1 rollout to 65,000 homes and businesses which completed three months ahead of schedule in June this year, and the Phase 2 rollout which is currently on track to reach 120,000 and provide 95% coverage across Essex by 2019.
Phase 3 will bring together savings from the existing Superfast Essex programme, contributions from Tendring District Council and Uttlesford District Council, and a new grant from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) – the team within Government overseeing the national superfast broadband rollout.
The tender for the new rollout was launched on Thursday 10 November and the requirement has been split into four separate zones, known as ‘Lots’.
Across the four Lots, an estimated 24,000 premises are eligible for inclusion in the Phase 3 rollout. The actual number of properties to be included will be determined during the procurement process. The lots are split as follows:
- Uttlesford District – 5,500 premises. One of the most rural districts in the county with significantly poor connectivity.
- Central North – 4,500 premises. This includes parts of Braintree, Colchester and Chelmsford districts.
- Tendring District – 5,500 premises. To help Tendring District reach 100% superfast broadband coverage.
- South East – 8,500 premises. This includes rural areas along the coastline of Maldon and Rochford districts and parts of Castle Point and Basildon districts.
Phase 3 will consider all technologies capable of providing superfast speeds, not just fibre. The new approach recognises the rurality of the remaining areas and the need to use alternative solutions and opens up the potential for smaller network operators to partner with the County Council to get the job done.
Cllr Kevin Bentley, Essex County Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Growth, Infrastructure and Partnerships, said: “This is great news for Essex. We have always been committed to extending superfast broadband as much as we can, and this proves we are true to our word. I’m excited to see what suppliers and technologies come forward in the bidding process.”
Cllr Tom Howard, Tendring District Council Cabinet Member for Finance and who has responsibility for Broadband, said: "The importance of superfast broadband to both businesses and residents alike cannot be underestimated in today's society. As such, Tendring District Council is firmly committed to achieving as near to 100% superfast coverage as is practicable. This is an opportunity for Tendring to lead districts across the country into the superfast digital age."
Cllr Howard Ryles, Uttlesford District Council’s portfolio lead for economic development, said: “As a rural district, we are acutely aware of the impact of not having access to superfast broadband for our residents and businesses, and we remain determined to deliver an improved service for as many people in the district as possible.
“The council has worked very hard to get the best possible deal for Uttlesford from the Superfast Essex programme, and we are therefore pleased to be a part of the Phase 3 project.”
The procurement process will take several months, and it is expected delivery partner(s) will be awarded contracts in May next year.
Superfast Essex held an Open Market Review (OMR) of broadband availability and a public consultation to identify the properties eligible for investment in Phase 3. Under EU State Aid rules, Superfast Essex is not allowed to invest where another broadband network operator is already providing a service. For more information about this process, feedback to the consultation, and to view an interactive map of broadband availability visit: www.superfastessex.org/whatshappeningnext.