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East Sussex seeks significant private investment for broadband rollout

The County Council expects up to £75 million to come from the private sector

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East Sussex County Council has revealed details of its plans to roll-out superfast broadband across the region, where it has said it will require "significant private sector investment" to make the project work.

The Council has put out a prior information notice that outlines its intention to select one or more suppliers to roll-out next generation broadband infrastructure across East Sussex, Brighton and Hove, with plans to make access available to at least 90 per cent of all premises by 2015.

The total value of the contract could reach up to £100 million, with £25.6 million coming from the public sector.

The public sector contribution is made up of £10.64 million coming from Broadband Delivery UK, the body charged with distributing government funding, and £15 million from the Council itself.

The information notice states that although additional money may be accessed via EU Funding Streams, there is an "expectation that significant private investment will be made by the supplier".

East Sussex's rollout is part of a nationwide drive by the government to create the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) released a list at the beginning of the year detailing what progress Councils had made in preparing for their broadband rollouts, where East Sussex was highlighted as one of the councils expected to achieve the timetable set out by government.

£730 million of public funding has been made available by the government to support the rollout of next generation networks across the UK. However, the plans have also faced stark criticism from key industry players for not doing enough to ensure superfast broadband reaches rural areas.

For example, at the end of last year, the Countryside Alliance issued a freedom of information request that highlighted how much of the money distributed to four pilots, chosen to provide an example of how broadband could reach 'not spot' areas, remained unspent.

Highlands and Islands, one of the four key areas, had not spent any money at all, whilst two of the other pilots had only spent a total of £70,000.

Consumer price comparison website, uSwitch, also recently unveiled research that claimed 49 percent of UK postcodes still receive broadband speeds of less than 6.742 Mbp/s, much below the superfast speeds of 24 Mbp/s defined by DCMS, highlighting the superfast broadband challenge facing the UK.


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