TWO villages near Crewkerne are among nine in Somerset which will get faster broadband soon – but the long wait continues for other rural parts of the county.

Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) is working with Gigaclear, using public subsidy to roll out superfast broadband in areas where it is deemed non-viable for commercial providers to put the necessary infrastructure in place.

The programme is currently in its second phase, which aims to ensure that 95 per cent of properties across the two counties can access speeds of at least 30Mbps.

But Gigaclear is currently on notice of default for its Somerset contracts and Somerset County Council is withholding further public subsidy until a plan of action has been agreed, in a situation one councillor called “a bit of a catastrophe”.

Programme manager Katriona Lovelock updated members of the council’s policies and place scrutiny committee in Taunton on Friday morning (April 5).

She described the present situation as “extremely regrettable” and said the CDS board had warned Gigaclear that “this situation cannot continue indefinitely.”

Villages being upgraded in the near future include Dowlish Ford, Merriott, Over Stratton, and Roundham.

CDS was originally required to spend all government subsidy on broadband roll-out by March 2020, but the Department for Culture, Media and Sport recently granted it a three-year extension, moving the deadline to 2023.

Ms Lovelock said: “The situation with relation to the Gigaclear contract remains challenging.

“The company remains on notice of default. Pending a satisfactory outcome, CDS is withholding public subsidy and the company is continuing to built the network in the CDS area at risk, providing substantial investment of its own.

“Exact details about which communities will be in the next phase of the roll-out have yet to be confirmed.

“There are a number of other contracts across the country which are struggling to be delivered – it’s fair to see we are one of a number of regions which are having challenges in delivering infrastructure.

“Gigaclear is considering all options to see what can be done to achieve a full delivery of the programme, which is what we want to happen, and that is why it’s taking a long period of time. We’re hoping this to progress over the summer.”

To mitigate the delays, CDS is participating in the Better Broadband voucher scheme, which will begin roll-out in May.

Any Somerset resident who currently has a connection speed of 2Mbps or less, and which is not part of any other publicly-funded scheme in the coming 12 months, can request a voucher, which can be used on numerous different partners.