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Broadband: Somerton and Frome

Question for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

UIN 50735, tabled on 16 September 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps she is taking to accelerate the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband across Somerton and Frome.

Answered on

21 September 2021

We are backing Project Gigabit with £5 billion so hard to reach communities are not left out. The constituency of Somerton and Frome falls within Phase 3 (Lot 6) of Project Gigabit. Somerton and Frome’s designation as a ‘Future Phase’ reflects the extensive gigabit delivery now contracted to take place across Devon and Somerset, including the extensive additional delivery now confirmed by Openreach following their announcement of their target to reach 25 million premises by 2026.

The last of Project Gigabit’s Phase 2 procurements start in late 2022 and we expect Phase 3 procurements to follow directly, with all areas under contract as soon as possible. Due to the dynamic nature of the UK telecoms market we will regularly review and respond to opportunities for future procurement wherever possible.

The Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) programme is delivering new gigabit-capable connections in Somerton and Frome via contracts with Wessex Internet and Truespeed which were awarded in December 2020.

Somerton and Frome is covered by Wessex Internet’s full fibre network for North and South Barrow, Babcary, Woolston, Queen Camel and Marston Magna. This particular project is nearing completion, with Wessex Internet being ready to connect customers in these areas from October 2021.

If it becomes clear that any premises will miss out from the UK’s broadband upgrade, Project Gigabit will make sure that they are included in its plans.

To accelerate delivery, premises in rural areas may also be in line for funding through the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, with up to £210m allocated to the scheme over the next four years to support hard to reach communities. The voucher scheme offers up to £1,500 for homes and £3,500 for businesses to help to cover the costs of installing gigabit broadband to people’s doorsteps when used as part of a group scheme. Home and business owners can check the eligibility of their address and then look up suppliers in their area by going to https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/.

Somerton and Frome has made good use of the scheme so far, seeing 698 voucher connections worth £1.1m, with a further 699 vouchers to be connected, totalling over £2.3m.

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