Three areas in England may lose their chance to get public funding for super-fast broadband, the government has warned.
In a statement on Thursday, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said it had "little confidence" that three groups of local authorities would meet the end-of-February deadline for submitting their draft local broadband plans. Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt warned in December that those missing the deadline would lose their guarantee for getting fibre funding.
The three local authority groups are:
• Liverpool, Knowsley, St. Helens, Sefton, Wirral
• Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland
• Bath and North East Somerset
There is now around £730m in funding that is available for the local broadband schemes. £530m comes from the original Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) fund, which is mainly for rural communities in which the ISPs would not otherwise invest. £100m comes from the 'super-connected cities' scheme that the government unveiled late last year, while a further £100m in "potential European funding" was announced on Thursday.
Communications minister Ed Vaizey also used the statement to note that four more areas had received the government's approval for their draft plans, including: Kent and Medway Councils; Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin; Lincolnshire; and Hampshire, City of Portsmouth and City of Southampton.
"I have been impressed by the enthusiasm the majority of councils have shown for seizing the opportunity to roll-out superfast broadband," Vaizey said.
Around a third of the 47 total projects are now ready to move into the deployment phase. Of the remaining 32 projects, the DCMS said it had "high confidence" of 16 meeting the deadline, and "medium confidence" regarding 13 others.
The DCMS said Vaizey would be meeting with the three local authority groups that had made "insufficient progress", in an attempt to sort out the problem.
The department has set up a Google map so people can see a visual representation of the local broadband scheme progress in their area.