Months of delays likely to hit plans for faster broadband for Derbyshire
A £15 MILLION scheme to provide 180,000 Derbyshire homes with faster broadband is facing months of delays.
The county council is leading the Digital Derbyshire programme to improve the service in places classed as so-called "white areas" – where speeds are slow or there is no connection.
The majority of these – 34,343 – are in Derbyshire Dales. There are a further 32,607 in Amber Valley, 16,027 in South Derbyshire, nearly 10,000 in Erewash and more than 4,500 in Derby. Other areas are in Bolsover, Chesterfield and High Peak.
The council's deputy chief executive, David Lowe, has confirmed the project has been placed on hold.
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He said: "Unfortunately, delays at national level in gaining approval to key elements of the programme mean that the timetable for implementation is slipping across the whole country.
"The major hold-up relates to state aid and, until the European Commission grants approval, the programme will stay on hold."
Under the original timetable, the county council would have found a company to deliver the programme across Derbyshire by next month. Mr Lowe does not expect that to happen until July 2013.
He said: "The delays are a concern and the cabinet member has lobbied local MPs and both local enterprise partnerships."
Mr Lowe said formal letters were also being sent to the Secretary of State and the chief executive of Broadband Delivery UK – which is managing the national scheme on behalf of the Government.
Cabinet members were updated on the situation at a meeting at County Hall, Matlock, on Tuesday.
Digital Derbyshire aims to deliver broadband speeds in excess of 24 megabytes per second across 90% of the county and 2Mbps to the remainder by 2015. The Government is currently providing £7.39 million – half the cost of the project – with the remainder paid for by the county council.
Councillor Kevin Parkinson, cabinet member for regeneration, wants to extend the programme to allow more homes to benefit from faster broadband.
But he admitted the cash-strapped council would have to secure more funding to pay for it and urged people to back the Digital Derbyshire campaign at www.derbyshire. gov.uk/digitalderbyshire.
More than 1,300 people have so far used the site to call for better broadband.