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End delays to roll out of superfast broadband across South East

A legal row between the European Commission and the team responsible for UK broadband could damage South East businesses, Catherine Bearder MEP said today.

Catherine has urged the commission to swiftly resolve issues surrounding funding for high-speed broadband amid concern from seven council leaders in the region.

County councils in East and West Sussex, Hampshire, Kent and Surrey, as well as local authorities inBrighton and Hove and Medway, believe a delay in freeing up cash could leave local businesses in an "uncompetitive position".

Catherine said: "Superfast broadband is needed now and any further delay will have a damaging impact on businesses.

"This money will help boost economic growth outside towns and cities in the south east, but it needs to be made available soon."

Around £57m has been set aside by council leaders after plans for broadband roll out were given the all clear by the UK Government.

Meanwhile, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is poised to provide £33m to support the scheme across the seven council areas.

The grants must be approved by the commission to ensure they comply with single market regulation rules.

But a legal dispute between BDUK and the commission has meant delays in councils getting their hands on the money, which was supposed to be available in April.

Catherine has written to the commission to push for a swift resolution to the problem.

She added: "Businesses and communities in rural areas are desperate for higher internet speeds. It has a major impact on how they operate their businesses.

"To be so close to getting the money is deeply frustrating and I will be pushing for a resolution before the end of the summer."

Sir Graham Watson, a Lib Dem MEP for the South West, has also spoken to European Commission Vice-President Joaquin Almunia in a bid to tackle the delay.

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