£40m bid for superfast broadband for Somerset and Devon

Insulated fibre optic cable It's hoped the bid will ensure rural areas will receive superfast broadband

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Five councils in Somerset and Devon have submitted a bid for £40m to bring superfast broadband to both counties.

The bid has been made by Somerset, North Somerset, Devon, Plymouth City and Torbay councils for government help in securing this technology.

The total cost is estimated to be £100m, with the councils contributing £22m. Previously, Somerset County Council said it needed a £7m subsidy.

It is hoped the remaining balance will be paid by private investors.

Average broadband speed in Somerset is 3Mbps per second but some areas are lower than 2Mbps per second.

If broadband speed is lower than 2Mbps per second, users are unable to access video or other multimedia at a reasonable speed.

Superfast broadband will involve installing fibre optic cables to enable broadband speed to become 10 times faster, with speeds of at least 30Mbps and up to 100Mbps per second.

'No cherry picking'

David Hall, the Conservative cabinet member for strategic planning and economic development, said: "It's a big slice of money but it's moving the market forward - and instead of this 50% delivery of the market going where there is most value to them it's high speed broadband across the two counties.

"One of the conditions of getting the funding is there is to be no cherry picking of the market, instead there'll be roll-out right across the county - obviously there will be technical issues of how we phase it."

The councils' aim is to have superfast broadband installed across the county by 2015.

It has also said if it did not take action, about 113,000 homes and businesses would be left in the broadband "slow lane" in Somerset.

Shepton Mallet and Taunton are to receive superfast broadband as part of BT's UK-wide roll out by the end of the year and Frome is due to go live by the end of next year at the latest.

The councils will find out if their bid is successful by 27 May.

"With all the local authorities in Somerset and Devon combining together gives us the scale of the bid to make it attractive," said Mr Hall.

"It also means we have the potential to deliver one project for the government across this potentially remote area."

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