The Connecting Devon and Somerset Programme is continuing with its procurement process for the contract to supply Superfast Broadband across Devon and Somerset. They are on track to sign contracts in October.
I have already made further contact with the lead Officer at Devon County Council to ensure that the needs of East Devon in general and the ‘not spots’ of Trinity Ward in Uplyme, Combpyne-Rousdon and Axmouth receive Superfast Broadband at the ealiest possible opportunity.
BT is the only supplier to have responded to the Invitation to Tender issued on the 29th June.
Fujitsu Telecom withdrew from the Devon and Somerset bidding process, in line with its decision not to respond to any publicly- funded bidding opportunities nationally. Although both BT and Fujitsu signed up to the BDUK National Framework, this did not bind them to bidding for individual contracts. For example, in Cumbria, after both BT’s and Fujitsu’s bids were rejected by the Programme Board, Fujitsu dropped out of the process altogether, saying they could not “…currently see a path towards a mass market…”
The challenge for Devon County Council and the Connecting Devon and Somerset team, is to make sure that the remaining bid is excellent value for money. Discussions with BT are continuing as part of the procurement process with CD&S pushing for the best possible deal for our communities, residents and businesses.
Negotiations between BDUK and the European Commission continue, in order to get State Aid status granted for the national BDUK project. Discussions have been going well with many of the key sticking points being resolved. The matter is now with legal teams and a resolution is expected hopefully by the end of September.
Ensuring our businesses, communities and individuals make the most of improved broadband remains a vital part of the Connecting Devon and Somerset Programme. Two suppliers have been contracted to undertake discrete elements of the project, with one contractor responsible for business engagement and skills uplift areas and a second responsible for community engagement. The two companies will be putting together ‘on the ground’ events, workshops and community liaison work to promote how superfast broadband can change the way we use the Internet.
At present the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme team do not anticipate any change to the overall timetable for the procurement of a supplier. They are on track to finish negotiations and, providing BT can deliver a tender that gives the best value for our area, expect to announce the agreement in October. After a period of planning for delivery, rollout is due to commence in Spring 2013. The Demand Stimulation phase will be launched in September 2012 with events and workshops planned throughout the two counties.
Please encourage individuals, businesses and groups in your networks to visit www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk to find out more information. I will update www.trinitymatters.co.uk as the procurement process progresses and the situation in Trinity and East Devon becomes more clear…
‘Connecting Devon and Somerset’ is a project led by Devon County Council and Somerset County Council in partnership with Plymouth, Torbay, North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) Councils to roll out improved broadband infrastructure to those parts of our counties not covered by the private sector. The partnership has secured £32m Government funding from BDUK. Somerset and Devon County Councils will also be putting in up to £10 million each, with contributions from other partners bringing the public sector investment to a total of £53 million.
About State Aid
State Aid regulation is a mechanism to ensure that market competition is not distorted through the use of public money. In terms of Connecting Devon and Somerset, this means that the programme team must show that there is no planned deployment of improved or superfast broadband by the private sector in the areas where we are using public money within 3 years of the State Aid application.
About Best Value for Our Area
With the one bidder, it is vital that CD&S secure Best Value for Devon and Somerset. Their Invitation to Tender document specified to the bidders what they mean by this, under topics such as ‘a sustainable technical solution’, ‘in line with our priorities’ and ‘offering broadband services ‘in line with what is available in UK’s urban areas’.