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Combined Authority looks to digital connectivity to drive Covid-19 recovery

15 June 2020

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Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority is set to build upon the unprecedented demand for digital connectivity to help businesses and communities recover from the Covid-19 crisis and put them at the leading edge for technology.

Plans to aid businesses to gain the digital knowhow to succeed and roll out ‘smart’ technology to market towns across the area will be considered by the CPCA Housing and Communities Committee on Monday 22 June.

The proposals for two additional workstreams form part of the Connecting Cambridgeshire Digital Connectivity Programme- Review Report 2019-20, which gives an overview of work under way to significantly improve broadband, mobile and public access Wi-Fi coverage across the region by 2022.

The new ‘Keeping Everyone Connected’ workstream includes a bid for a business grants scheme using EU funding to help small and medium-sized enterprises transition to increasing reliance on digital technology to strengthen the resilience of the local economy.

Match funding of £430,000 from the CPCA will be used to support an application to the EU European Structural Investment Fund (ESIF) for the business grant scheme to be launched later this year, if approved.

This work will also support greater digital inclusion across communities, in particular focussing on ensuring that social housing residents are not excluded from future-facing digital provision.

Public access Wi-Fi is being rolled out to market towns and village halls to improve connectivity, and the fourth phase of the superfast broadband rollout is underway, targeting hard-to-reach rural premises aiming to achieve 99% superfast coverage by the end of 2020, subject to the impact of Covid-19.

In addition, a new ‘Smart Places’ work package will trial ‘smart’ technology and data solutions in several market towns over the next 18 months, as part of the new ‘Advanced Communications and Emerging Technologies’ workstream.

The project includes providing SmartPanels - using real-time transport information to provide local travel updates - and low-cost Internet of Things (IoT) networks.

Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough James Palmer, said:

“The increasing importance of digital connectivity in almost all aspects of 21st Century living - from economic activity and sustainability through to community wellbeing - has been highlighted by the Covid-19 crisis. Our businesses and communities have had to work, communicate and live in very different ways, with digital connectivity underpinning many of these changes.

“We're all working together to help the region move from rescue to recovery. The Connecting Cambridgeshire programme supports our commitment to delivering outstanding digital connectivity to support economic recovery, respond to local needs and improve people’s quality of life.”

Combined Authority Members will also be asked to note the reduction of the digital infrastructure budget allocation for the Connecting Cambridgeshire programme from £5.6m to £4.3m, as agreed by the CPCA Board. The programme’s mobile coverage improvement strategy has been revised to avoid duplication through planned investment in the region’s networks through the £1billion Shared Rural Network (SRN) plans agreed in March 2020 by Government and the mobile industry.

Visit https://www.connectingcambridgeshire.co.uk/ to find out more about improving your digital connectivity, email connecting.cambridgeshire@cambridgeshire.gov.uk 

The agenda papers for the CPCA Housing and Communities Committee, including the Connecting Cambridgeshire Programme Update are available here: Housing and Communities Committee meeting 22/06/2020

Useful advice includes:

Getting Superfast postcode checker and advice on options available

Connecting Businesses – including the Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme

Quick Guide to help available from the mobile networks during Covid-19

Home Broadband Networks guide to optimise your connectivity while working from home