South Yorkshire’s bungled superfast broadband project Digital Region is due to close.
The publicly-funded project which aimed to bring FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) broadband to 1.3 million across Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield, is to power down after running costs spiralled out of control.
Shareholders have announced that the network, which its estimated would cost £98.5 million to keep going will gradually shut down. Customers who’ve signed up for broadband from the likes of Little Big One and other Digital Region ISPs will be given enough time to jump ship.
Read Recombu Digital’s guide to Digital RegionDigital Region’s site says: “Digital Region would like to reassure users that services will not be disrupted and you will be contacted in due course by your ISP.”
The four local authorities stumped up £35 million between them to get the project up and running along with cash from the European Regional Development Fund (EDRF). Since the project began in 2008, costs have ballooned to over £100 million. It was estimated back in March that selling the network could cost £15 million, which ultimately would be much cheaper than keeping it running.
Doncaster mayor Peter Davies has blasted Digital Region, labelling it a problem inherited from his predecessors. Davies said: “So far in Doncaster [Digital Region] is £10m down the pan, when we need every penny we can get. Since I was elected in 2009, the project has been like having a nail in your shoe.”
Prior to the launch of the Digital Region, the areas were not on the rollout map for superfast investment. EU rules on state aid meant that as work had already begun on deploying superfast broadband the area was ineligible for funding under BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK), the central government’s plan.
All local councils involved in the Digital Region along with the government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skill (BIS) have agreed to wind the project down after failing to find a private sector buyer.
Closing the Digital Region will save taxpayers £12.5 million.