Work begins on new fibre broadband network for North Somerset


A major engineering project has been launched to connect 6,500 homes and businesses in Bath and North East Somerset and North Somerset to a new ultrafast full-fibre broadband network that will deliver some of the fastest speeds in the UK.

It’s part of the £171m Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) programme, the biggest public-funded broadband project in England, which has already provided over a quarter of a million homes and businesses with access to superfast broadband.

Ultrafast broadband provider Gigaclear is carrying out essential surveys for CDS ahead of the installation of a new full-fibre network that will deliver even faster broadband connections – up to 1,000Mbps (1Gbps). In the areas of Woolvershill, Hewish, Kingston Seymour, Brockley and Flax Bourton and surrounding areas surveying is complete and network construction starts from early January, with the first residents and businesses anticipated to be connected by the end of spring, 2018. The first communities to be connected are based on their proximity to the Gigaclear Internet backbone network, which will enable them to be live as soon as possible.

Information about the roll-out timetable will be updated regularly via Gigaclear’s website. Residents and businesses can also expect to receive news and information from Gigaclear and CDS by post.

The project is the result of a £10.3m investment deal that Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) has signed with Gigaclear for Bath and North East Somerset and North Somerset. Under the deal, Gigaclear will be investing £7.8m of private sector money and building an entirely new all-fibre network to connect directly to local homes and businesses.

Over 28,000 homes and businesses in Bath and North East Somerset and North Somerset already have access to superfast broadband under an earlier construction deal by CDS with BT. Tens of thousands more have access via entirely commercial provision and it is anticipated that commercial coverage will increase across the Bath and North East Somerset and North Somerset areas.

CDS will also be reinvesting public subsidy returned by BT as a “gainshare” or dividend from increased take-up of internet services to help fill gaps in the current planned coverage. CDS are in discussion about the final amount and will reinvest the money to extend full-fibre broadband coverage to as many communities without a service as possible.

CDS is a massive engineering investment programme, which connects some of the hardest to reach communities in England, where the commercial market will not provide the infrastructure. It does this by awarding public subsidised contracts to companies through competitive tender to build the infrastructure needed, such as fibre or wireless connections. CDS is only able to invest where suppliers have no declared and credible plans to invest their own resources to extend their networks.

So far, over 248,000 miles (400,000 kms) of fibre cable have already been laid, enough to circle the Earth ten times, in a programme that has taken over two million man hours to date.

CDS is backed with funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the EU’s European Regional Development Fund, Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, local authorities and the private sector.

Cllr Elfan Ap Rees, North Somerset Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Economic Development, said: “Bringing high speed broadband to all of North Somerset is well overdue and essential for business growth across the region. Digital connectivity is such a vital element of our economy and everyday life and this latest investment will ensure that North Somerset’s rural communities and businesses are not left behind.”

Cllr Paul Myers, Bath and North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “Excellent broadband infrastructure is essential for our economy to remain competitive. So this is good news as it will give our local businesses access to some of the fastest broadband speeds available and the ability to trade without boundaries. For our residents, it means the whole family can get on-line to take advantage of all that the internet has to offer.”

Joe Frost, Business Development Director at Gigaclear, said: “We’re delighted to expand our footprint in the South West and continue our strong relationship with CDS, bringing Gigaclear’s ultrafast broadband to some of the hardest to reach rural areas. By working with CDS, Gigaclear is helping to secure the area’s digital economy. As the leading alternative provider of ultrafast, full-fibre-to-the-premises broadband to rural Britain, our investment in this new network will bring economic and social benefits to the area for many years to come, making it an even more attractive place to live and work.”

CDS continues to pursue other funding options and solutions to support homes and businesses which are not able to benefit from these new networks. For example, CDS will be reinvesting public subsidy returned by BT as ‘gainshare’ or dividend from increased take-up of internet services to help fill gaps in the current planned coverage. CDS are in discussion about the final amount and will reinvest the money to extend full fibre broadband coverage to as many communities without a service as possible.