SOMERSET households face further delays in getting superfast broadband after one of the companies tasked with the rollout had its contract terminated, writes Daniel Mumby.

Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) was created to oversee the rollout of superfast fibre broadband in areas where it was not viable for commercial providers to put in the necessary infrastructure.

The programme has seen numerous setbacks, with the contracts for phase two re-procured after Gigaclear failed to deliver on time.

Now Truespeed Internet – one of three companies which replaced Gigaclear – had its contract terminated for “failing to make commitments”.

The company won the contract in December 2020 to handle the outstanding premises in North Somerset, Bath and North East Somerset, Mendip and parts of Sedgemoor.

CDS programme manager Katriona Lovelock confirmed that Truespeed’s contract had been terminated at Somerset County Council’s environment scrutiny committee meeting last week.

She said in her report: “The contracts were terminated in July 2022, based on Truespeed’s failure to meet key contractual commitments made at the time contracts were awarded.

“The contracts were due for completion by December 2024. However, commencement of construction work on the CDS contracts was severely delayed by Truespeed throughout 2021, while it sought to secure further investment in its commercial roll-out – which it planned to deliver in sequence with its CDS commitments.

“Regrettably, securing further investment took considerably longer than Truespeed anticipated. Although Truespeed advised CDS that further funding is now in place, we were informed by the company that it is subject to new investment criteria and limitations.

“This means Truespeed cannot meet its existing commitments in terms of deployment to CDS’ contracted communities.”

Ms Lovelock confirmed that “no public money has been paid to the company under the contracts.”

The funding will be redeployed to deliver full fibre connections to “as many eligible homes and businesses as possible” in the contract areas, using the government’s gigabit voucher scheme.

Cllr Dave Mansell warned that some properties may still slip through the net.

He said: “We were fortunate in our area that Technological came along and started building a network with the vouchers.

“Once the contracts were awarded to Airband, it prevented Technological from expanding further and it’s left a ragged edge.”

Cllr Henry Hobhouse said: “4G boosters are a very adequate technique to fill the gaps – but when is 5G coming to Somerset?”

Ms Lovelock replied: “5G is not within the auspices of the work that we do – it is largely being led by the commercial sector at the moment.”