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Monday, 22 September 2014

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Cumbria superfast broadband delays to be raised at Whitehall

The issues surrounding the installation of superfast broadband in Cumbria will be raised before Government.

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Rory Stewart: ‘Amazing group of people’

Businesses and residents in rural areas of the county had been left disappointed and frustrated, after Cumbria County Council rejected bids from two telecommunications giants.

It said the tenders would not have been capable of realising their ambition to have 90 per cent of Cumbrian homes and businesses with broadband speeds of 25Mbps by 2015.

John Whittingdale, chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee, is due to host a one-day inquiry into broadband on July 3, and has pledged to raise the Cumbrian situation.

Penrith and Border MP Rory Stewart said that while this latest delay is frustrating, it is also understandable.

“There are two main things we need to do,” he explained. “We’ve got to get on with it, but we have also got to get the right deal.

“If Cumbria County Council felt they still haven’t got the right deal, I suppose it is worth them taking another few months to get the right deal. It’s a once in a lifetime investment which is going to be the backbone of Cumbria in the future.”

Mr Stewart continued: “We got it very wrong 10 years ago with Project Access, where we spent £20m and it didn’t work.

“I believe strongly that we should get on with it and move as quickly as possible, and I’m very disappointed that we are having to wait another three or four months.

“However, the key thing is that we need to get the best possible deal for Cumbria and it’s a very difficult thing to do.”

It is now 20 months since the Government first announced it was giving a multi-million pound subsidy to Cumbria and three other pilot areas to provide superfast broadband.

Up to £40 million is available in subsidies for the winning company to ensure that superfast broadband reaches every part of Cumbria.

The massive project has been hit by a number of delays, but now BT and Fujitsu have been effectively sent back to the drawing board to up their offer and come back to the council with a better solution for Cumbria.

Negotiations with the two final bidders will be re-opened and the council wants to consider an improved offer when it meets in September.

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