Plans to bring better, faster broadband to all of West Sussex are gathering pace.
West Sussex Better Connected, a partnership led by West Sussex County Council, has carried out a review of local and national telecommunications suppliers’ plans to provide Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband coverage in the county.
The review has helped to identify which areas or pockets of West Sussex are likely to be left behind others without access to broadband services, and may be suitable for intervention by the West Sussex Better Connected project.
NGA defines the technology that the European Commission determines capable of providing ‘superfast’ broadband speeds.
The Government desires that the broadband framework in the UK is upgraded to provide the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015. The focus of broadband providers tends to be in urban areas where there is commercial viability through an established demand base of residential and business customers, connected to an existing communications infrastructure.
In West Sussex access to superfast broadband is often not commercially viable due to the rural nature of large parts of the county.
The proposed public sector investment by the West Sussex Better Connected programme must take account of EU State Aid rules. This is to ensure that the funding is being targeted at the right areas for the right reasons, and that there are no credible investment plans for similar superfast broadband infrastructure projects that overlap with the proposals by West Sussex Better Connected.
The project will only invest where it is compatible within these rules and will rely on the BDUK State Aid notification to the European Commission to ensure this.
West Sussex Better Connected is now confirming with suppliers the mapping created from the information provided.
The mapping shows which areas currently have services, and are in the plans of commercial providers to receive services, and which areas are not. This consultation is a state aid requirement.
The maps will form the basis of plans to discuss with potential suppliers interested in being contracted to deliver services to the areas requiring intervention from public funds to build the necessary telecommunications infrastructure.
“The maps are available for the public to comment upon, particularly if they are aware of a broadband service currently available in an area which is not included in the mapping. However it should be stressed that the purpose of the consultation is primarily to check back with suppliers the interpretation of the information they have provided and so the detail which is published is at a high level and does not show individual locations or villages,” said Lionel Barnard, Deputy Leader of West Sussex County Council.
The council says comments from residents and businesses are welcome, although the purpose of the consultation is to check back with suppliers. Maps are available to view in libraries and online at www.westsussex.gov.uk/broadband
Following state aid public consultation the formal procurement process will begin with potential suppliers to resolve how to provide superfast broadband to the white areas. It is intended to award a contract to the selected provider by Summer 2013, allowing two years to complete delivery of the programme by rolling out the technology to enable a county-wide superfast broadband infrastructure, and meet the target date of 2015.