Faster broadband ahead for region

PUBLISHED: 08:00 31 May 2011 | UPDATED: 10:53 31 May 2011

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HUNDREDS of homes and businesses across the region will soon benefit from superfast broadband.

A joint bid to the Government by North Somerset Council and Somerset County Council, along with the neighbouring authority in Devon, was last week given the green light by the Government.

The authorities will now receive £30million funding, with North Somerset Council now saying the funding means it is now planning to get all residents across the authority online by 2015, with 9,000 homes across the region expected to benefit as a direct result of the bids success.

The council plans to have broadband access for 85 per cent of premises in the region by that year, with that figure rising to 100 per cent by 2020.

The authority said business leaders had welcomed the news, and had predicted it would deliver a £750million boost to local economies, with the potential to create 50,000 new jobs across the three authorities.

With the acceptance of the bid, a planned superfast broadband network from Plymouth to Portishead can now go ahead, benefitting 836,000 businesses and residents.

The authorities will now look at finding the best internet provider as part of a huge investment programme in the region of around £100million.

Councillor Elfan Ap Rees, North Somerset Council’s deputy leader and executive member for economic development, said: “This is a major success for the whole bid area and it is great that North Somerset will benefit from the Government funding as well.

“More than 30 per cent of North Somerset businesses are based from home, so this will be a major help for small businesses to become more competitive and grow. “This will also reach across thousands of North Somerset businesses and homes improving access to services and providing improved internet access.”

The leader of Somerset County Council, Councillor Ken Maddock, said: “We put together a fantastic bid for the money and that is reflected in the amount we won and our prominence nationally.”

“We are already working on the project and are committed to making this one of the most important priorities over the next few years for this council.”

Wells MP Tessa Munt, who represents Burnham, Highbridge and Cheddar, said: “It is so important that Somerset doesn’t fall behind – slow connection speeds hamper business development and hold back everyone’s chances to share in the advantages offered by better broadband.

“Now the hard work starts to ensure the funding is spent wisely but quickly to improve the connection speeds in our area. Somerset has a chance to thrive economically now and in the future.”

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