Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) is to end Gigaclear’s five contracts to deliver full-fibre broadband – after it allegedly failed to meet targets.
CDS intends to launch a fresh procurement on the open market this autumn, commencing a tender process to identify new provider(s) of these services.
It says, it and the Government’s Building Digital UK (BDUK) agency have been unable to agree an acceptable recovery plan with Gigaclear for the company’s publicly subsidised contracts.
A statement issued by CDS said: “The company had earlier been placed on notice of default after failing to meet contract targets set in early 2018 for the number of homes and businesses connected.
“The company, under new ownership since last summer, had incurred significant delays with its broadband roll-out due to previous failings and the collapse of Carillion in early 2018.
“Those delays, details of which were set out in a joint CDS/Gigaclear briefing in November, meant the company could not meet its original 2019-20 contract deadlines with CDS.”
Gigaclear told East Devon News.co.uk in a statement: “Following ongoing discussions with our partners at Connecting Devon and Somerset, CDS have today informed us that they have decided to terminate the contract with Gigaclear to deliver full fibre, ultrafast broadband to residents in the area with subsidy from Building Digital UK (BDUK).
“Gigaclear have been working hard to agree a revised plan to help deliver this vital service. Whilst we don’t agree with the termination, we are disappointed for all parties that we are now unable to progress and are considering our future plans in the region.
“We will update residents accordingly. We remain committed to delivering FTTP in 20 other counties across England and to date have built the physical infrastructure to over 100,000 properties.”
Public money withheld
CDS says its has withheld public subsidy while Gigaclear has been attempting to produce a satisfactory recovery plan.
Councillor David Hall, CDS Board member, said: “Despite painstaking work by all concerned, it has not been possible to agree a recovery plan that CDS and the Government’s Building Digital UK agency could support with confidence.
“CDS is working closely with BDUK on a new procurement process and taking all necessary steps to secure alternative full-fibre broadband providers for our residents and businesses. They are our top priority and we are determined to achieve the best possible outcome for them.
“We welcome the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s expressed commitment to ensuring that our residents will benefit from world class broadband infrastructure in line with the ambitions for nationwide full fibre coverage.
“We have already held productive meetings with a number of companies interested in building full fibre networks in Devon and Somerset.”
Cllr Hall added: “CDS will also be expanding its Community Challenge Fund later this year, following successful pilots in Devon and Somerset.
“We are advancing a new collaboration with BT to extend coverage in rural areas, good progress is being made through our contract with Airband to provide 21,000 premises with superfast broadband. We are also now offering broadband vouchers to residents and businesses under the national BDUK Better Broadband scheme and the Rural Gigabit scheme.
“This is all on top of the more than 300,000 homes and businesses who now have access to superfast broadband through the CDS programme.”
To date, CDS has provided access to superfast broadband to more than 300,000 homes and businesses, often in sparsely populated rural areas and over challenging terrain. A further 38,000 homes and businesses have benefited from improved broadband speed.
Public funding is leveraging greater commercial investment with the result that the CDS programme and commercially-funded networks are, together, providing over 950,000 homes and businesses across Devon and Somerset with access to superfast broadband out of a total of 1,083,000 premises currently.