�20m pledged to improve county’s broadband

Initial figure of �12m deemed not enough

THE county will invest almost twice as much as expected in high-speed broadband after the alternative was deemed “catastrophic”.

Cambridgeshire County Council has pledged �20 million to improve wireless internet capacity in the county. An original figure of �12 million was dismissed as not enough to make sure “the council could finish the path it starts on”.

The council will also put in a bid to Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) for an �8 million share of the Government’s �530 million broadband pot.

At a cabinet meeting on Monday Cllr Steve Count said investing in the service would attract business to the county.

He said: “There is clear evidence that businesses consider reliable fast broadband as paramount in their decision to relocate.

“This is a bold step, not because we want super fast broadband, but because we have to find the money for this.”

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He said the investment would bear fruit as all council services would improve, and would pay for itself through the business prosperity it brings.

He added: “The option for Cambridgeshire not going ahead with this would be catastrophic. It’s a huge sum of money but it’s something we have to do.”

The plans will deliver a minimum of 2 megabit coverage across the county with 90 per cent able to achieve 25 megabits by 2015, in keeping with the Government’s national targets.

A report put to the council showed Cambridgeshire to be inline with the national average of broadband delivery but stated “high priority mitigation action” is needed to improve coverage.

Leader of the council Cllr Nick Clarke, who proposed increasing the investment to �20 million said this would help create “the brand of ‘Cambridge’”.

He said: “I would not want this council to set upon a path it could potentially fail on.

“If we go for �20 million then we are really sold and we can achieve it.”

Cllr Clarke anticipated concerns about the source of money at a time when the county is strapped for cash.

“It is not a case of the county having broadband means less money for Adult Social Care. They are exclusive,” he said.

It was also agreed the introduction of high-speed broadband should be a pre-requisite for planning new housing developments.