Cumbria County Council’s project to deliver superfast broadband to 93% of the county has taken another step forward with the news that the EU has agreed that the Government can be granted state aid approval for its national broadband rollout.
The decision sets the principles against which all individual local authorities can now work to be granted state aid approval individually by Broadband Delivery UK.
Connecting Cumbria was named by the Department of Culture Media and Sport as one of the first projects expected to be formally granted the green light for state aid next alongside Rutland, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.
The county will need to have state aid approval for Cumbria and EC approval of Connecting Cumbria as a major project in order for £40m of Government and European funding previously agreed for the project to be released. All of the people working on Connecting Cumbria will now be continuing to work hard to clear the final hurdles and also sign the delivery contract with the preferred bidder BT.
This will hopefully mean 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.
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.”
In January the county council’s Cabinet is expected 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.
It is anticipated that work on the ground will begin in Spring 2013, as long as all the final legal hurdles are cleared.
To ensure the maximum benefit for Cumbria, the county council and its partners will continue to work closely together to raise awareness of and demand for the enhanced service that will become available.
Commenting this morning Tim Farron MP said: “This is the fantastic news we have all been waiting for – I am absolutely delighted that we have cleared this final hurdle and can now get down to business and start delivering super-fast broadband in Cumbria.
“The county council and BT now need to start working to roll out their plans and I will continue to push them tirelessly to make sure communities throughout Cumbria get the broadband they need and deserve.