Suffolk broadband bid could be back on track

SUFFOLK'S bid to provide superfast broadband services for all could soon be back on track, it has emerged.

Bosses behind the project hope that doubts surrounding sources of funding will be cleared up in time for a new Government announcement next month.

Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for culture, Olympics, media and sport, has said he will agree a financial settlement for broadband for each local authority by July – meaning the Suffolk Local Broadband Plan remains deliverable by 2015.

Last month the Government announced the county had missed out on �20million from its Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).

Had it proved successful, the investment would have been coupled with a further �20m from the private sector and �2m from other sources to deliver superfast broadband across Suffolk.

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But the bid was rejected, with BDUK saying a major reason was the lack of local funding support.

Bosses are set to meet with BDUK later this month to get more detailed feedback, with a view to submitting a revised bid as soon as possible.

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It is understood Suffolk will need to substantially increase the local authority funding contribution to �10m.

Last night supporters remained hopeful that their vision could become a reality.

Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council, said they were committed to delivering better broadband and were looking at everything they could do to make it happen.

'We are hugely disappointed the Government has not yet recognised Suffolk's need for better broadband and the serious financial and time commitment Suffolk's broadband partnership has shown to improving access for residents and businesses,' he said.

'My predecessor Jeremy Pembroke and I are absolutely committed to delivering improved broadband for the people of Suffolk.

'The county council has already invested �11m in improving broadband infrastructure for schools in the county.

'We both called for additional contributions towards the wider roll-out from our district and borough council partners – investment they have all pledged. 'Despite the latest decision, we have had very positive feedback on our bid so our next step is to work with BDUK and Suffolk's MPs to refine our approach and make sure we secure the funding we need as soon as possible.'

Tim Passmore, chief executive of Choose Suffolk, said: 'I do hope that it is back on track, broadband is desperately needed and it's extremely important that we get this for Suffolk.

'What we need to do is get the full feedback from BDUK and learn from that – find out why other bids were successful and how ours can be improved.'

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