Austen Shakespeare

Durham County Council to review superfast broadband delivery across communities

Councillors will next week hear about the progress made to improve digital connectivity for communities and businesses across County Durham.

On Wednesday 17 November, the council’s Cabinet will hear how its Digital Durham programme is expected to be completed towards the end of 2021, with the delivery of superfast broadband coverage to 64,000 properties in the county and almost 114,000 in total across the region.

At the start of the programme, superfast coverage in the county was at 65 per cent. This now stands at 97 per cent, in line with the UK average. The programme is now focussed on the roll-out of next-generation broadband services, such as full fibre connections and expanding 5G network capability across the county.

Digital Durham is also now working closely with commercial broadband suppliers and the Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), on the delivery of Project Gigabit, to put the county’s homes and businesses in a bettrer position in terms of gigabit-capable coverage.

Cabinet will also hear how the Government has dedicated £5bn to Project Gigabit. The project aims to maximise coverage to the 20 per cent of the UK that are the hardest-to-reach, potentially improving connectivity for the county’s rural areas.

They will also hear how Digital Durham continues to support residents and business owners impacted by poor broadband speeds, particularly in rural areas, where the council has committed £1.5m of its own resources.

This doubles the financial incentives available to internet providers under DCMS’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme to help close the commercial viability gap and encourage connections in these areas.

Susan McDonnell, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for digital, customer services and procurement, said: “Better access in harder-to-reach rural areas will help address digital exclusion and support the levelling-up of rural businesses, farming, and tourism.”

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