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Superfast broadband cash could soon get EC all-clear
VITAL cash needed to fund superfast broadband connections for rural homes could soon be released, says a county MP.
Harriett Baldwin expects a favourable decision shortly over the fate of the Broadband Delivery UK funding pot totalling £530 million – £3.3 million of which relates to Worcestershire alone.
It comes after she asked Government for a progress report on where the process was.
Back in June, European Union competition officials put the brakes on to check if the UK Government was breaking complex EU trade rules preventing state aid.
However, Mrs Baldwin, who represents West Worcestershire, says there is an expectation the money will be waved through by the European Commission’s directorate general imminently.
That view was confirmed by the Government department for culture, media and sport, although it would only say the news was expected “shortly”.
Councillor Simon Geraghty, Worcestershire County Council ’s economic chief, said the quicker a decision could be made, the better, as the amount of infrastructure work needed to be carried out nationally between now and the end of 2015 is stacking up.
In Worcestershire, the council has ring-fenced £18.5 million to the project.
Its target is connecting 90 per cent of county homes and businesses to a 24-mbit superfast line within three years.
Culture, media and sport spokesman Paul Conroy said: “It’s fair to say that we had expected to hear [from the European Commission] by now – but we expect to hear shortly.
“We expect it will be resolved and given state aid approval.”
In May, Worcestershire County Council was told it would get £3.3 million of cash to help roll-out superfast broadband to about 250,000 households scattered across rural Worcestershire. About a quarter of the county’s households were set to benefit.
Nationally, British Telecom and Fujitsu are the only two firms able to bid for the Broadband Delivery UK council contracts.