Rural community broadband

Rural community broadband

Rural businesses and communities in the South West are to
receive better and faster broadband after a £730,000 RDPE funding
boost.

The money has been given to communities in Devon,
Gloucestershire and Somerset to help develop and encourage
innovative approaches which address gaps in rural broadband
coverage.

The Devon and Somerset Rural Broadband Project has been given
£550,000 for four ‘cluster’ communities. It will involve deploying
a community-owned broadband structure in the Blackdown Hills and
Exmoor areas so that local businesses and communities can test
different solutions and approaches to broadband. They will then be
able to operate systems which will deliver the connectivity and
systems they need before producing a blue print for other areas to
follow.

The project, which will be managed by Devon County Council with
support from Somerset County Council, will focus on:

  • Working and engaging with local communities
  • Piloting rural broadband solutions
  • The benefits of a community-owned infrastructure
  • Developing and disseminating a blue print for rural
    community-owned broadband connectivity solutions

The second grant is for £180,000 and was given to help upgrade
existing infrastructure and provide new lines to help boost the
availability and speed of broadband in the Forest of Dean. The
project bid was submitted by the place promotion organisation
Gloucestershire First as part of a drive to enhance business
innovation in the Forest. It worked closely with BT Openreach and
local businesses and community groups including Gloucestershire
Community Council, the Federation of Small Businesses and the
Forest of Dean District Council to research local need and develop
the bid.

The project aims to reach communities which would not normally
be targeted by the commercial market. It wants to install 5,000
lines to open up better broadband access to people and businesses
considered ‘hard to reach’. Such improvements will create and
retain jobs and make businesses more competitive in national and
international markets.

Nine bids for funding were submitted to the RDPE from across the
South West. The funds are part of the European Economic Recovery
Plan (EERP) to help mitigate against the current impacts of the
economic downturn across Member States.