Rural towns to benefit from £94m superfast broadband
The first rural communities to benefit from a £94m superfast broadband partnership have been announced.
The Connecting Devon and Somerset programme will bring fibre optic broadband to Bradford on Tone, Bishops Lydeard, Creech St Michael and Monkton Heathfield in Somerset.
In Devon, Moretonhampstead, Holsworthy and Sticklepath, near Okehampton will also benefit from quicker speeds.
The service will start to be available in the towns by the end of the year.
According to regulator Ofcom, the average download speed in Somerset is 8Mbps and 9.2Mbps in Devon.
Most of the programme will use Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) technology, where the fibre optics run from the telephone exchange to a street cabinet.
This can deliver download speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps.
Construction work for Sticklepath and Bradford on Tone has started three months ahead of schedule and by early 2014, the first phase of the programme is due to have made the high-speed technology available to at least 15,000 homes and businesses.
David Hall, deputy leader of Somerset County Council, said: "The fact that we are able to announce some areas are being built well before the programme originally anticipated is tremendous news for the project and for the people of Devon and Somerset."
The Connecting Devon and Somerset programme is the largest project of its kind in England, with £32m of funding from the government's Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.
Further financial contributions include £10m each from Devon and Somerset County Councils and £41m from BT as well as funding from other public sector partners.
Andrew Leadbetter, cabinet member for economy and growth for Devon County Council, added: "As the largest publicly funded fibre broadband roll out of its kind in England the project is a massive engineering challenge.
"It will boost our businesses and make our area more attractive for inward investment and business development, encouraging companies to relocate while creating new jobs."