£225k pilot to improve rural broadband in West Sussex

£225,000 is being made available as part of a pilot grant project to improve connectivity for groups of businesses in West Sussex. The new scheme, available from 30 November, is being launched at a ‘digital access’ summit convened by Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert on Friday 20 November, hosted by the South Downs National Park Authority.

The summit brings together MPs, councillors, officials, businesses, experts and others from across the whole of the South Downs National Park to find a way to close the ‘digital divide’ that is limiting people without access to superfast broadband and/or 4G mobile network coverage.

The new West Sussex scheme will support superfast connection for groups of businesses not planned for inclusion in either the commercial or publicly-funded rollouts of broadband infrastructure.

Minister for the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey, will attend to set out the Government’s vision for improving digital access in the rural economy.

Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said:

“This is fantastic news for businesses in West Sussex. Government is already investing more than £8 million to take superfast broadband to around 50,000 more premises in the county, and this extra funding will help even more local businesses benefit from all that superfast speeds have to offer.”

Nick Herbert, MP for Arundel and South Downs, said:

“Today good broadband is a necessity, not a luxury, and people living and working in rural areas like the South Downs need it, too. Our summit will discuss how the Government’s new guarantee of universal fast broadband can be met to close the digital divide.”

About the grant

Business estates or clusters in West Sussex have from 30 November to 15 January 2016 to apply to the new Digital Connectivity Grant Programme which will provide up to 40 per cent of the cost of getting connected. The funding comes from Coast to Capital’s Local Growth Deal under their ‘Growth is Digital’ key project.

Ron Crank, Chief Executive, Coast to Capital

“I am pleased to see the launch of these grant pilots through our Growth Deal funding. It is essential that all our local rural businesses have the best connectivity and access to the fastest and latest digital technologies.”

To be eligible they must not have current access to broadband services or be included in the planned delivery of the publicly funded roll out by Better Connected, a partnership of West Sussex County Council, BT and BDUK (the government department responsible for broadband delivery). The programme has been developed by Rural West Sussex, Gatwick Diamond, Coastal West Sussex, West Sussex County Council and the South Downs National Park Authority.

Find out more at www.coast2capital.org.uk/helping-business-growth/grant-funding from Monday 30 November or email broadband@southdowns.gov.uk