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A third of local superfast broadband projects ready to begin

Authorities have been advised to sign up to services quickly to ensure funding

Four local authority partnerships - in Kent and Medway, Shropshire, Lincolnshire, and Hampshire - are the latest to receive the green light from the Department for Culture, Media and Sports. This takes the total of approved projects to 15 out of a total 47 across the country.

However with the application deadline for government cash looming, three have been warned they risk losing out on public funds for the government-subsidised scheme aimed at connecting 90 percent of the UK to high speed internet by 2015.

Partnerships of councils in Liverpool, Newcastle and Sunderland, and Bath are under pressure from the DCMS, which in a statement said it had "little confidence" that the groups of local authorities would meet the February 28 cut-off date. This was moved forward from the original date in April but warning was given by the government in December.

If they do not supply proposals on plans on improving high-speed broadband and ensuring 100 per cent access to a basic 2 Mbps service by the end of the month, they could be denied their share of the £530m Broadband Delivery UK pot.

The DCMS has said it is 'confident' the remaining 29 local authority groups will submit their plans on time.

However financing is not guaranteed even for those who do meet the deadline, as last week Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt issued a warning that he was prepared to claw back funding if "contracts [between councils and providers] aren't signed by the end of the year".

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey is now set to meet with representatives from the three local authority groups which have so far made "insufficient progress" in order to assess the situation.

He said: "We do not intend to continue to fund councils if they continue to fail to deliver."

These three groups of councils are however in the minority, as the DCSM said it is 'confident' that the remaining 29 will meet the deadline.

There is currently a total of around £730m available in funding for local broadband schemes.

Ten cities competing for a share of £100m set aside in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement will join Cardiff, Belfast, Glasgow and London, who have been promised funding for broadband in the speed ranges of 80-100 Mbps.

And yesterday it was announced that councils will be able to submit direct bids for a slice of a further £100m made available by the European Regional Development Fund .

The various funding streams are crucial to the government's ambition to deliver the 'best broadband in Europe'.

BT group director of strategy and policy Sean Williams previously told the BBC that he considered EU targets for all citizens to have access to speeds of at least 30 Mbps "not achievable for any country".


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