The provision of broadband infrastructure and digital services to all our communities is key in transforming the economic and social lives of local people.

Broadband is now essential for modern life, like roads, rail, gas and electricity.

Broadband infrastructure is a critical enabler in driving growth in employment, business productivity and skills and promoting areas, like Derbyshire, as prime locations for investment. Access to superfast broadband improves competitiveness allowing firms and entrepreneurs to create new business models, access new markets, stimulate innovation and interact more effectively with customers, partners and suppliers.

Derbyshire’s approach

Derbyshire was allocated £7.39m funding from BDUK for the delivery of the Digital Derbyshire Local Broadband Plan in May 2012.

Since this time the County Council has been leading the way with demand stimulation activities, receiving over 6000 responses to its survey to find out the user experience for current broadband – the best response to any Council consultation.

The businesses and residents in Derbyshire fully support the digital Derbyshire campaign and have shown this by pledging over 4000 registration.

Across the county we are working jointly with our public sector partners on initiatives and campaigns to raise the awareness and more importantly the benefits that reliable and faster broadband can bring to both everyday life and business opportunities. For example Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service visit many both vulnerable households, and business premises annually to undertake fire safety checks, these front line visits will also now include information on what the individuals benefits of having access to broadband would mean and offer further support/advise as necessary.

We are fortunate to have huge support for the Digital Derbyshire programme which enables the Council to do much more.

Over the last year there have been challenges and among these various delays as BDUK resolved issues with state aid and finalise the framework. More locally we have been working with East Midlands Councils to lobby for broadband infrastructure to be an eligible ERDF activity, this has taken over six months but successfully this week the European Commission have approved the change. This means all East Midlands authorities can now apply for ERDF funding to support their Local Broadband Plans.

The LGA is leading the Digital Exploitation Group which Derbyshire is an active member, the groups focus is on using broadband to benefit local authorities and support the move to digital. As a group of authorities funding can be secured to test ideas through pilot projects, and the findings shared.

Locally I have been actively lobbying BT to extend their investment coverage using the evidence gathered from the Councils consultation, this has resulted in more of Derbyshire being included in BT’s commercial roll out, gaining more enabled fibre cabinets (FTTC) than they had originally planned.

At Derbyshire we recognise that the infrastructure is important, however our focus has to be on education, benefits and potential customer demand as without this the infrastructure will not be maximised for the benefit of our residents, businesses and transforming public service delivery.

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