Government Minister Ed Vaizey urges businesses and communities to ‘get up to speed’ on benefits of superfast broadband as Connecting Devon and Somerset connects more communities

16th April, 2014
Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, will today announce a total of 31 communities are now able to access superfast broadband through the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme.

This includes an additional 12 communities that have just been upgraded - Bishop’s Hull, Combe Florey, Dunchideock, Nynehead, Okehampton Hamlets, Petrockstow, Ruishton, Sandford, Shillingford St George, South Tawton, Thurloxton and West Buckland.

He will also urge businesses and residents across Devon and Somerset to improve their understanding of the benefits of faster broadband, as more local communities get connected to superfast broadband.  

During a visit to the region, Mr Vaizey attended a Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) ‘Get up to Speed’ workshop in Horton Manor, Ilminster.  This is one of a series of workshops designed to help local businesses and communities improve their ICT skills and knowledge, as well as encourage the take up of the new faster broadband service as it rolls out across the counties.

The Get up to Speed service will initially be rolled out across Wellington, Holsworthy and Okehampton. The service will provide information on how to benefit from faster broadband, seminars on digital technology, gadget shows and demonstrations.

Businesses can get advice on everything from improving efficiency and getting better use out of improved speeds, to online marketing, new technologies, apps and software that will help them grow, develop and reach new markets.  Communities can also benefit through gaining a better understanding of social media, accessing online public services as well as making the most of services such as iPlayer, live streaming, gaming and homeworking.

Mr Vaizey also praised the rapid progress made by CDS as the next wave of communities to be connected as part of the £94million programme is confirmed. Since it was launched last year, CDS has already installed over 140 fibre broadband cabinets across the two counties.

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: “I’m delighted to see that Connecting Devon and Somerset is making remarkable progress. Government is investing over £100m in broadband for the South West of England and widespread access to superfast speeds will provide a welcome boost to the local economy. Business and community support programmes like Get up to Speed are tremendously important helping businesses to develop and enabling rural economies to grow.”

Councillor David Hall, Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council, said:  “Supporting our broadband infrastructure investment with the CDS ‘Get up to Speed’ programme ensures that businesses and residents understand the possibilities that superfast broadband can bring to day to day activities. Around 90% of homes and businesses in the region will have access to superfast broadband speeds by the end of 2016, and we are making sure these residents know how to make the most of the opportunities this will bring.”

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Cabinet Member for Economy and Growth for Devon County Council, said: “Today’s announcement is yet another fantastic achievement for Connecting Devon and Somerset. Huge numbers of premises now have access to superfast broadband, and our rural communities are directly benefiting from this massive infrastructure investment. Better understanding of how to use superfast broadband will bring greater resilience into our economic activities as well as providing essential access to services, information and resources for residents and communities.”

Laurent Boon, the BT programme manager for CDS, said: “Superfast broadband is already providing a major boost for the local economy and the benefits will grow as more businesses and households take advantage of the major opportunities offered by this high-speed technology. The take-up of fibre broadband in Devon and Somerset is encouraging so far, but it is important that many more businesses and households join the superfast broadband revolution.”

The multi million pound CDS partnership includes Devon and Somerset County Councils, Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay Councils, BT and the UK Government’s Superfast Britain programme.