MILLIONS of pounds worth of broadband improvements across rural Worcestershire are about to finally get under way after a farcical EU wrangle.
Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), a Government body which funds quicker web access, has said it expects approval from the European Commission within three weeks.
It means £3.3 million earmarked for better speeds across mainly rural parts of Worcestershire can go ahead after five months of delays.
When the cash was originally announced in the spring, the Government said it hoped it could be spent from June onwards.
The European Commission, which under EU competition rules has to approve any roll-out of faster broadband, temporarily blocked the spending because only two firms, BT and Fujitsu, signed up as suppliers.
But the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which launched BDUK, now says it expects the green light imminently.
A spokesman said: “The commission is on track to issue its final decision in late October or early November, which will allow projects to get under way.”
The £3.3 million from BDUK is on top of the £8.5 million Worcestershire County Council’s cabinet agreed to stump up for faster broadband last November.
Together, the money will be used to provide superfast speeds to 90 per cent of homes and businesses by 2015, defined as 24 megabits per second.
In terms of the timescale, once the BDUK spend is approved County Hall can start negotiations with suppliers over creating and installing new cables.
Bosses say workers should be able to start work by next summer, and will base it on a map of ‘slow spots’ for web speeds.
That includes areas such as Tibberton, Crowle, Drakes Broughton and Spetchley, all near Worcester, as well as communities near the A422 such as Flyford Flavell, Abbots Morton and North Piddle.
Other areas which can expect an upgrade include Little Witley, Welland, near Malvern, Besford, near Pershore, and Alfrick, south west of Worcester.
Most of the cash will be channelled into rural areas, as more urban zones will get automatic upgrades from BT anyway between now and 2015 because they are deemed more commercially viable.
Councillor David Thain, the cabinet member responsible for faster broadband, said: “We lobbied at a very high level for this approval and it’s so pleasing to hear this news.
“Broadband is incredibly important these days – some people won’t even move into a house if they know speeds are slow.
“This is great news for Worcestershire.”