Grant paves the way for better broadband

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Thousands of homes and businesses in East Yorkshire are being promised access to better broadband as part of a multi-million investment.

A scheme to increase the broadband speeds enjoyed by 14,000 households will go ahead after the Government agreed to provide a £5 million grant.

The grant from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, is the final piece of funding needed for the second phase of the project to improve broadband access in the district.

Work is already underway on the £14.4 million first phase which will see more than 42,000 homes in the area connected to superfast broadband.

Councillor Jonathan Owen, deputy leader of East Riding Council and cabinet portfolio holder for transformation and strategic partnerships, said: “Following discussions with the Government, the council is very pleased to have been given the go-ahead to proceed to the next stage.

“This is exciting news for those living, working and learning in the East Riding, as the boost to broadband speeds will bring new opportunities to home life, businesses and schools.

“Improved access will also bring social benefits to rural communities, supporting them to grow and thrive.”

The first phase of the Broadband East Riding project is being paid for by BDUK, the European Regional Development Fund and contractor BT.

The promise of a further £5 million from BDUK to support phase two means a tender for the work could be issued in the Spring.

A contract is likely to be awarded in the summer with work beginning in early 2016.

Running alongside the infrastructure work, East Riding Council is running a series of workshops to help businesses get the most of better broadband speeds.

Dedicated broadband business advisors are also availble to give one to one support tailored to individual firms.

Access to digital services via fixed broadband or mobile technology has become a major issue for Yorkshire’s rural communities with the National Farmers Union comparing it to the universal postal service in terms of its importance.

The Government has set a target of giving 95 per cent of households access to superfast broadband by 2017.

But The Yorkshire Post revealed on Saturday that even on long term projections areas such as North Yorkshire only look set to reach 92 per cent.

East Riding Council gave evidence to the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that some communities with slow internet speeds also did not have access to a reliable 3G mobile service as an alternative.

The Government’s handling of the process for awarding contracts to improve broadband access has also been criticised by the Public Accounts Committee of MPs.

The committee said Ministers should have done more to promote competition for the contracts and said BT had been left in a “monopoly position” by the process.

MPs were also critical about the lack of information available on which homes and businesses would be covered so other companies could develop plans to fill the gaps.