South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and Bath & North East Somerset councils are working with neighbouring local authorities on their broadband infrastructure projects.
The aim of these projects is to achieve 85% superfast broadband coverage in North Somerset and Bath & North East Somerset by 2015, and 90% in South Gloucestershire by 2015, with all premises accessing a minimum of at least 2Mbps access line speed.
The local authorities are putting significant investment into these projects in the form of capital gap funding. The European Commission requires that local authorities can only use public money to invest in areas where they can demonstrate there is no current or planned (within the next three years) deployment of either standard or superfast broadband. These are termed 'the intervention areas', i.e. those where it is possible to invest with public subsidy. These projects will therefore be limited to the 'intervention areas' only.
The local authorities are in the process of procuring a commercial broadband infrastructure supplier to provide the remaining funding and design and install a wholesale broadband network across the 'intervention areas', from which internet service providers can sell faster broadband services to residents and businesses. The installation of the networks will be complete by mid-2015. In January 2013 South Gloucestershire Council, in partnership with Wiltshire Council, signed a £35.6m contract with BT to supply services to the area. Read the press release here.
Bristol City Council has been successful in bidding for Urban Broadband Funding from the Government. The funding will develop a 'Digital Enterprise Zone' (DEZ), comprising Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, Harbourside and the University as well as concentrations of private, student and social housing. In and around these locations, the DEZ will ensure that gigabit connectivity is readily available to SMEs and that ultrafast broadband (80-100Mbit/s minimum) will be available to all consumers. Furthermore, the project will overlay an open access Wi-Fi network that will cover the DEZ and extend its reach to around 80% of public space in the city, thereby providing near-ubiquitous coverage to business and public sector workers, and consumer/citizens.