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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Cumbria superfast broadband scheme wins EU nod

CELEBRATIONS that greeted a major step forward in bringing superfast broadband to Cumbria have been tempered by warnings over the future of Ulverston.

BT has already committed £2.5bn to bringing faster internet speeds to two thirds of the county.

Now, the EU has given the green light to plans for a £40m scheme to bring superfast broadband to parts of Cumbria that miss out on the commercial roll-out.

But with Barrow and Dalton set to receive superfast broadband by early next year, businesses in Ulverston have warned the town cannot afford to be left behind.

Archie Workman, chairman of the Ulverston Business Alliance, said traders are “pushing hard” to get Ulverston included in the earlier roll-out.

BT has confirmed Ulverston will definitely be getting superfast broadband but it is not yet known which round of the roll-out it will be included in.

Mr Workman added high speed internet is “crucial” for Ulverston.

He said: “We are delighted it is coming – every business in Ulverston will suffer without it.”

He added he would be meeting with BT in January to discuss future plans for the town.

The EU decision was the last major hurdle to overcome for the government-supported scheme to bring superfast broadband to less commercially profitable areas.

BT looks set to formally seal the contract for the Connecting Cumbria scheme and it is anticipated preliminary work could begin in the spring. A spokeswoman for BT said the company hoped to announce more details once the contract has been signed.

She added: “Ulverston has not been forgotten – it is definitely going to be done.

“What isn’t clear yet is whether it will be part of our commercial roll-out.”

Meanwhile, Cumbria County Council has welcomed the development.

Councillor Elizabeth Mallinson, the county council’s cabinet member responsible for Connecting Cumbria, said: “I am delighted that this key milestone has been reached – it hopefully opens the doors for the local rollout of the project.”

BT said there are no firm dates for the work to enable superfast broadband in Barrow and Dalton but work could begin before the end of the year.

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