The Chairman of Fishburn Parish Council, Cllr. Andrew Pearson, has drawn the attention of Mr. Paul Howell, M.P. to a letter which has been sent to Fishburn residents stating that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has not passed the Government's Gigabit Voucher Scheme for Fishburn, which means that Rymote will not be able to carry forward plans to install ultrafast fibre broadband locally. Several residents have expressed disappointment at this announcement and the Chairman has commented that DCMS's decision would appear to contradict the Government's levelling up agenda for the country. It is generally felt that an investment in infrastructure and technology is much needed, especially the proposed investment in broadband, in areas of high deprivation such as Fishburn. The Member of Parliament has been asked to write to the relevant Government minister to make representations on behalf of the residents within Fishburn parish, and to seek the rationale for the decision, with a view to reviving the scheme to upgrade the parish's broadband infrastructure.
RESPONSE: "I have spoken with the ministerial team at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), regarding concerns I had for some parts of my constituency have had getting connected on the voucher scheme.
"The Project Gigabit scheme has been set up with the aim of extending gigabit coverage to premises across the UK as soon as possible. This is with a mix of the broadband voucher scheme, and a procurement approach where tenders will be announced for providers to bid into on areas.
"County Durham are scheduled to be one of the first areas of the country to enter this procurement process under Project Gigabit, this process is due to get under way in the next few months.
"To enable this process to take place, there will be a temporary pause in voucher eligibility, while the procurement process is launched, so vouchers for County Durham were paused on 24th September, Building Digital UK (BDUK) will still consider all active voucher projects, and where there is evidence a voucher project has a good likelihood of delivering earlier coverage than through the procurement process, those premises will be designated as voucher priority area.
"Officials in BDUK are actively reviewing project proposals from suppliers who have live voucher projects in County Durham, and will confirm directly with suppliers which projects can continue in parallel with the procurement process. BDUK will also confirm voucher priority areas where any supplier can continue to bring forwards voucher projects while procurement is under way".
Paul Howell MP
Member of Parliament for Sedgefield
House of Commons