Shropshire homes in broadband 'not spots' targeted to log on in £12 million scheme
Broadband 'not spots' across Shropshire will be tackled in a £12 million scheme to connect more than 16,000 properties.
A superfast connection will be supplied to areas where commercial companies refuse to deliver.
That brings hope to people living in more isolated rural areas that currently suffer from very poor internet connections.
The plan is 'Phase 2b' of the Connecting Shropshire broadband programme.
Shropshire Council is inviting companies to bid for the contract to supply the connections, which are predicted to help 13,259 homes in the east of the county, and 2,756 in the west.
Steve Charmley, deputy leader of Shropshire Council and cabinet member responsible for broadband, said the move would be a huge boost for the county, while Graham Wynn, chairman of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership, said the move was crucial for helping Shropshire's businesses grow.
Councillor Charmley said: "As we near the end of Phase 1, we've already provided more than 55,000 homes and businesses with access to better broadband.
"At the same time as gearing up to deliver our Phase 2, I'm thrilled to be starting the procurement for the next phase of work. We're eager to close all of our gaps and particularly want solutions that prioritise coverage for premises on the slowest speeds."
Mr Wynn, said: "Fast data connections are crucial for residents and businesses now, whoever and wherever they are.
"It's important to note that, as part of this procurement, bidders are asked to offer network solutions that prioritise premises registered for business rates.
"Superfast broadband enables businesses to function more efficiently, increases their profitability and provides access to new markets.
"Our businesses have identified lack of connectivity as a barrier to growth so we are very pleased to be able to contribute Local Growth Funding to this latest push for better broadband speeds. We look forward to work getting under way."
Shropshire Council has already invested £9m through two separate broadband contracts – Phases 1 and 2a.
Phase 2b aims to extend superfast broadband coverage to a further 16,015 premises in the county, using £11.7m public funding secured through funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Broadband Delivery UK) and the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership.
Whilst Phase 1 is completing this winter, Phase 2a has already commenced with planning work which will deliver to another 4,000 premises by winter 2017.
Bids are now being invited from specialist telecoms suppliers to plan, design, build, operate and maintain high-performance broadband networks, referred to as 'Next Generation Access' (NGA).
The new connections must be capable of supporting download speeds of more than 30mbps, and must offer "competition and choice" to broadband customers.