Moves to bring superfast broadband to even more people in the county have been announced by Shropshire Council.
The authority is inviting bids from telecoms suppliers for the third phase of a major project to boost connectivity for residents and businesses.
Known as Phase 2b of the Connecting Shropshire broadband programme, the initiative is designed to bring fast connections in areas where no commercial provision is currently in place or planned.
Shropshire Council has already invested £9m through two separate contracts (Phases 1 and 2a).
Phase 2b aims to extend superfast broadband coverage to a further 16,015 premises in the Shropshire Council area using £11.7m public funding secured through funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Broadband Delivery UK) and the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership.
Whilst Phase 1 is completing this winter, Phase 2a has already commenced with planning work which will deliver to an additional 4,000 premises by winter 2017.
Bids are now being invited from specialist telecoms suppliers to plan, design, build, operate and maintain high-performance broadband networks, referred to as Next Generation Access (NGA). All solutions must be capable of supporting download speeds of over 30mbps and must offer competition and choice to broadband customers.
Steve Charmley, Deputy Leader of Shropshire Council and member responsible for broadband, said: “As we near the end of Phase 1, we’ve already provided over 55,000 homes and businesses with access to better broadband. At the same time as gearing up to deliver our Phase 2, I’m thrilled to be starting the procurement for the next phase of work. We’re eager to close all of our gaps and particularly want solutions that prioritise coverage for premises on the slowest speeds.”
Graham Wynn, Chairman of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership said: “Fast data connections are crucial for residents and businesses now, whoever and wherever they are. It’s important to note that, as part of this procurement, bidders are asked to offer network solutions that prioritise premises registered for business rates. Superfast broadband enables businesses to function more efficiently, increases their profitability and provides access to new markets. Our businesses have identified lack of connectivity as a barrier to growth so we are very pleased to be able to contribute Local Growth Funding to this latest push for better broadband speeds. We look forward to work getting under way.”
Telecoms suppliers have until 30 January 2017 to prepare and submit their bids. Shropshire Council expects to award contract(s) in March 2017.
The procurement excludes additional funding that Shropshire Council is expecting to receive as part of its Phase 1 contract. Where customers choose to take-up fibre broadband once it is available, the Council receives ‘clawback’ that is estimated at £2.2m to date. This money will remain ring-fenced for further broadband investment.