23/10/2020 - Permalink

Shropshire Council committed to superfast broadband

Related topics: Economic growth / Partner organisations

Shropshire Council is committed to bringing superfast broadband to the whole county, with 68,000 premises already given access in the last seven years.

The council has also commissioned £34 million worth of contracts since 2013 to deliver improved superfast broadband (30mbps) coverage in a rural county.

Providing superfast broadband in a county as rural and sparsely populated at Shropshire can be tricky, expensive and time consuming compared to urban areas where multiple broadband infrastructure suppliers compete.

But plans are already in place to connect a further 2,000 homes by Airband by summer 2021.

Lee Chapman, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for organisational transformation and digital infrastructure, said:

“To say that Shropshire remains in the slow lane for broadband is unhelpful and untrue.

“While there are many challenges in delivering superfast broadband in a rural county, we are working hard and are committed to providing coverage across Shropshire.”

Chris Taylor, Connecting Shropshire Programme Manager, added:

“Since 2013, Shropshire Council has commissioned three separate contracts worth £34m to deliver improved superfast broadband (30mbps) coverage.

“The Connecting Shropshire programme currently has one contract in deployment with Airband that is expected to deliver to a further 2,000 premises by summer 2021, by which time we expect that around about 98 per cent of homes and businesses in the council area will be able to access a superfast broadband connection.

“This projection assumes that all opportunities for extra delivery through contracts are optimised and that there are no further changes from current commercial coverage commitments, which remain beyond the control of the Connecting Shropshire programme.

“With regard to the difference in average download speeds between the Shropshire Council and Telford & Wrekin Council areas, there are a number of factors that should be borne in mind.

“The most obvious of these is that the Shropshire Council area is far larger and more sparsely populated than Telford & Wrekin.

“Premises in the Shropshire Council area are distributed across the whole geography and not in concentrated hamlets. This has meant that many more premises were not projected to be covered by the commercial market, leaving a much larger ‘intervention area’ for the Connecting Shropshire programme to resolve with public funding.

“The size and rurality of the Shropshire Council area makes it costlier and more time-consuming to install additional broadband infrastructure.

“However, the council remains committed to meeting its aspirations for ubiquitous superfast broadband access.”

Chris Taylor said Telford & Wrekin has a more competitive commercial market, with multiple broadband infrastructure suppliers.

He added:

“This, together with a more urbanised environment, has resulted in fewer State Aid intervention requirements. In comparison to Shropshire’s ‘intervention area’ of 72,000 premises at the start of the programme, Telford & Wrekin’s was 10,000.

“As always, it’s dangerous to rely on averages for headlines. Indeed, some of the more rural areas of the Shropshire Council area have access to ‘full fibre’ with gigabit-capable connections (for example: Bedstone, Bletchley, Fitz and Leighton).

“The council remains committed to meeting its aspirations for ubiquitous superfast broadband access. This is why the council recently added a further £1m to the national Gigabit Voucher Scheme at address any remaining projected gaps.

“This now makes it one of the most generous schemes in the country. For homes, the maximum funding per voucher is now £4,000, rather than £1,500 per voucher. Eligible businesses can receive an additional £3,500 bringing the maximum funding per voucher to £7,000. Full details are available on our website.”

Further information

Superfast broadband coverage

Connecting Shropshire has updated its broadband coverage map (http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/broadband-coverage-map/). The map shows whether premises in the council area currently have access to a superfast broadband connection, whether they are planned for delivery before June 2023, or have no current/planned superfast broadband coverage.

Independent data from Thinkbroadband[1] puts superfast broadband coverage in the Shropshire Council area at 94%.

Funding support for rural premises

Shropshire Council has made up to £1 million of additional funding available to ‘top-up’ the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). For more information, see: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/gigabit-broadband-voucher-scheme/

Funding support for businesses

Eligible businesses could qualify for a £25,000 grant to access a high-speed broadband connection. Connecting Shropshire, in partnership with Fastershire and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), have developed the Marches & Gloucestershire Business Broadband Grant scheme. For more details, see: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/business-broadband-grant/

Information and advice for Shropshire Council residents and businesses

If anyone in the Shropshire Council area has a query about the broadband infrastructure available to their home or business, please contact Connecting Shropshire on 01743 252203 or connecting.shropshire@shropshire.gov.uk