Surrey County Council have finally provided a formal response to our enquiries on the status of our grant.
Following BT Openreach’s inclusion of the Cranleigh exchange (which serves Ewhurst), in their national fibre upgrade programme, the £180,000 of funding being referred to was withheld, as EU State Aid regulations do not allow public funding to be spent in areas that are included in BT Openreach’s fibre upgrade areas.
SEEDA has now been abolished and officers have spoken to colleagues in DEFRA who were previously involved with Ewhurst’s bid at SEEDA. The funding stream that is being referred to is no longer in place and the £180,000 cannot be accessed.
DEFRA now has a Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) as part of its Rural Development Programme for England, which targets communities in hard to reach areas. DEFRA and BDUK (the government’s body for national broadband policy and funding) are working together on this funding stream to ensure that the RCBF applications are tied into, and complement, each county’s own broadband plan. Surrey County Council has been liaising with BDUK and DEFRA to explore if and how Ewhurst can make an application through this fund, without falling foul of State Aid regulations that saw their previous funding withdrawn. DEFRA advised that State Aid will be looked at on a case by case basis, so the Ewhurst Broadband Group can submit an Expression of Interest (EoI) for this funding. The finer details of the RCBF have been made available in December and there are two rounds for submitting an EoI. These are 31 January 2012, with a second round expected in April 2012. Details of the fund are available on DEFRA’s RDPE website.