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West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) has signed a £13m contract with BT to bring superfast fibre broadband to thousands more homes and businesses in West Yorkshire, as well as York and Kirklees, over the next three years.
The next phase of the Superfast West Yorkshire Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) contract will build on what has already been achieved – 60,000 premises have already been passed – and besides rural areas will also begin to move into business parks, and more suburban and urban parts of the country, subject to surveying and planning, as the government seeks to hit its broadband coverage targets.
The new funding round includes £6.89m from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Superfast Extension Plan, and £6.1m from BT, with the remainder of the funding to be made up by WYCA and its local authority partners, Calderdale, Bradford, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield.
“Our roll-out of superfast broadband in West Yorkshire has already reached more than 60,000 homes and businesses,” said Digital Economy minister Ed Vaizey. “This new deal means another 28,000 premises will also be able to access superfast speeds and will provide an additional boost to the local economy.”
Councillor David Green, WYCA member and Bradford Council leader, added: "Along with physical transport infrastructure, high-speed broadband is vital in providing the links businesses need to achieve growth and create new jobs and to help residents access the benefits of high-speed internet.
“WYCA has a goal of achieving 100% superfast broadband coverage for the whole of Leeds City Region and I am pleased that by having a clear vision of what we wanted to achieve, and working closely with BT to achieve it, we have found ways to provide crucial high-speed internet access to places that otherwise would not be served.”
Need to have
BT managing director of next-generation access Bill Murphy said: “Fibre is no longer a nice to have. It is a need to have. For businesses to compete effectively in this world of technology, you need to be able to move, act and do business quickly and effectively.
“Superfast broadband also makes a positive impact on the way we live. It helps us work better and faster, enables schoolchildren to access their homework online, helps provide care for our elderly population, as well as offering improved access to e-commerce, social media and home entertainment. For all of these things, fast broadband is the critical enabler.”
With more than 60,000 properties already passed during the first phase of Superfast Yorkshire, and 600 businesses trained up on digital skills and online business development, the first phase of the project, which was set up in September 2013, is on track to finish on schedule in September 2015. WYCA said it hoped that phase two would bring fibre broadband to 100,000 premises across the area.
Not plain sailing
A number of other councils have moved on extending their BDUK contracts in recent days, including West Sussex and Cumbria, with BT being selected to take the project forward in both cases.
However, the incumbent supplier has not had everything its own way. In Devon and Somerset, local councillors revealed that they would not be accepting BT's bid to run phase two of their scheme.
The local authorities blasted BT for not offering sufficient value for money and said that they planned to re-tender the contracts, which could open the door for alternative suppliers to become involved.