Superfast broadband plan delayed

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COMPLETION of a scheme to provide superfast fibre-optic broadband internet to 97 per cent of homes across South Yorkshire has been delayed because not enough customers have signed up.

The service will be available to 80 per cent of the county’s population by early next year, paid for by £100 million of Government cash, but in the remaining areas the project was due to be funded by profit from users.

Digital Region, the Government-backed agency responsible for the scheme, said there are not enough people paying to use the service to pay for its completion.

Project chief executive David Carr said income had fallen ‘well short’ of what was expected.

Areas which will have to wait for the superfast internet are great swathes of less-populated parts of the county, such as rural villages on the edge of the Peak District.

But Mr Carr said: “It’s in our plan to roll out to the final 17 per cent of properties - it’s just a question of timing.”

He added that he could not commit to any timescale for the remaining areas.

Lack of customer take-up has happened because although hundreds of miles of fibre-optic cables have been laid, no large internet provider, such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk or Plusnet has been signed up to sell the service to households and businesses.

Digital Region refused to reveal how many customers are actually using the new service, which is only available to the public via four small internet providers.

It has accused BT, which is installing a rival fibre-optic network, of hampering its efforts to attract business due to fees it levies for use of its connections to households.

Digital Region has complained to industry regulator Ofcom that BT is overcharging the fees, which internet providers must pay to use BT lines between the Digital Region cables and households.

But BT has said its prices are fair.