In August 2014, Connecting Devon & Somerset (CDS) released long awaited Superfast Broadband Deployment maps allowing you to see expected Superfast Broadband availability dates at 7 digit postcode detail. This means that you can see when individual properties may expect to get a Superfast Broadband Service. Details of the new maps and how they affect Upottery parish are on this website at CDS release new broadband deployment maps
The three villages of Upottery, Smeatharpe and Rawridge have all been designated to be "OUT OF PROGRAMME" on these new maps, meaning that the vast majority of people who live in Upottery parish will get no benefit from the £94M invested in this programme to date (£53M of this being from our taxes)
The only hope for the people of Upottery parish to get access to Superfast Broadband now, is if the Superfast Extension Programme, due to extend the current £94M programme starting sometime during 2015, includes Upottery, Smeatharpe and Rawridge. The Superfast Extension Programme (SEP) in Devon & Somerset is funded with £22.75M of public money from central government and if matched locally with another £22.75M by CDS will take superfast broadband deployment to 95% of properties. At the end of September CDS have only raised £19.1M of match funding locally which leaves the SEP programme underfunded by £7.2M. Even so, this will still leave 5% of all properties (that is 22,000 homes and businesses) out of the programme and Upottery, Smeatharpe and Rawridge could also still remain "Out of Programme".
October 1st: Teignbridge District Council has refused to contribute to the SEP match funding (See Teignbridge not to support SEP broadband ). It is not known if Teignbridge was included in the £19.1M match total quoted by CDS, but if it is and other Councils take a similar stance, the SEP project may be dead before it even starts!
October 21st: East Devon & South Somerset District Councils criticise Connecting Devon & Somerset and BT for secrecy whilst spending £53M of public money. See Western Morning News.
Read the full EDDC/SSDC Scrutiny Report
If however CDS were to bring in additional private investment alongside the public money they already have, then all of us may get access to superfast broadband speeds before the end of this decade! Other Councils, most notably West Oxfordshire, are already doing this to ensure that all their electors get access to Superfast broadband by 2017. If West Oxfordshire can do it, why can't Devon & Somerset? On September 29th 2014 West Oxfordshire District Council's 100% superfast broadband plan for all properties in its area went out to public consultation. You can read about their plans at; Broadway - West Oxfordshire
Connecting Devon and Somerset is managed by a Board of Directors comprising officers and elected members of the County, District and Unitary Councils in Devon and Somerset participating in the broadband programme. Upottery Parish Council wrote to the CDS Board on September 10th urging the Board to make sure that the SEP programme is used to reach 100% of people in the two counties and not just 95%. See Upottery Parish Council letter to CDS Board
On September 15, 2014, parish councillors representing the parishes of Upottery, Yarcombe and Otterford (in Somerset) met with the head of Connecting Devon & Somerset, Mrs Keri Denton and Cllr Andrew Leadbetter of Devon County Council at County Hall in Exeter to lobby for all three parishes to be included in the Superfast Extension Programme (SEP).
Whilst CDS and the CDS Board have so far made no commitment to include Upottery, Smeatharpe and Rawridge in the SEP programme, they did release on September 12, to potential SEP suppliers, the first document that forms part of the SEP procurement and tendering process. This is their "Open Market Request" and it is published on the CDS website at: http://www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk/further-information/omr-request/
The OMR document makes no mention of achieving 100% superfast coverage and simply sets potential suppliers expectations that all they need to do is take the matched public money and deliver 95% coverage. THIS IS JUST NOT ACCEPTABLE!
Anybody can go out and spend public money to get partial superfast coverage and leave 22,000 properties "Out of Programme". It takes imagination and ambition to ensure that a substantial amount of private investment is added to the public money so that no taxpayers in Devon & Somerset are left without superfast broadband. CDS are not yet demonstrating the necessary imagination and ambition to achieve 100% superfast broadband coverage.
You may wish to send the same letter to CDS Board members as Upottery Parish Council have already done. You can download the letter and addresses for CDS Board members at: Upottery Parish Council letter to CDS Board
In a reply to the letter from Upottery Parish Council, CDS Board member and Somerset County Councillor, David Hall wrote that the criteria for selecting bidders responding to the Superfast Extension Programme procurement process would include:
- Their ability to deliver requirements within tight timescales.
- The budget provided by CDS. (Up to £22.75M from central government matched by £18.2M locally)
- The proportion of investment bidders are prepared to commit.
- The bidders ability to deliver open access and wholesale solutions with proven technology
CDS and the CDS Board must be held accountable on Cllr Hall's third point.
Fast broadband is today an essential utility for modern life and is regarded by many as essential as a water and electricity supply. Broadband will get more important in future as more and more of our everyday lives rely on information and entertainment communicated via the Internet. We all pay the same taxes. We all deserve the same services and not to be left "OUT OF PROGRAMME" as this rural family are: