Neil Parish MP writes in his Express and Echo column on the Benefits of superfast broadband

After months of deliberating and weighing up the various technical pros and cons Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, finally announced on Friday, May 27, which local authorities will get a portion of the £50 million funding from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) to invest in superfast broadband.I was delighted when I heard that Devon and Somerset's joint bid to the Department for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sports for funding was not only successful but that of the £50 million made available we are being allocated £30 million, the largest share of the three bids that have so far been accepted.The other two accepted bids are Wiltshire and Norfolk.The fact that the Government has given such a large proportion of the funding is a clear indication that they understand the challenges faced by residents and businesses in Devon who struggle to access public services and expand their businesses as a result of slow or sometimes non-existent broadband.This poor access to the internet unfairly limits access to health services, educational resources for students, job opportunities and has prevented home-business start-ups.Over 75,000 businesses and households have no or very slow access and 90 per cent of businesses across the two counties have said that poor connectivity would threaten their survival and growth.But our success in getting funding was not just down to Devon and Somerset's obvious need.A lot of hard work was done behind the scenes to press home to the ministers and civil servants the strengths of Devon and Somerset's bid and the economic opportunities it would bring to the South West. Part of what made our bid so strong was the close working relationship between Torbay, Plymouth and Devon County Council and between Somerset and Devon.I have been working closely with both Devon and Somerset County Councils to spread the word among my fellow Parliamentarians, organising a brief on the broadband bid for MPs and attending a meeting with Ed Vaizey, the Minister for Communications, to press home the need for broadband in Devon and demonstrate the strength of Devon and Somerset's joint bid.There has also been widespread support from the private sector for this investment in broadband and the newly formed Local Enterprise Partnership made the broadband funding their number one priority.With the funding for faster broadband we will be able to provide access for 836,000 businesses and residents across the two counties. The target is to provide broadband at 2MBPS for everybody and 85 per cent will have 20 MBPS by 2015.The project is estimated to create 50,000 jobs across the whole area and boost the economies of Devon and Somerset by £750 million.In 2009 the internet contributed an estimated £100 billion to the UK economy and is set to grow by 10 per cent a year for the next five years.By rolling out superfast broadband we can make sure that Devon is not left behind and can reach new markets and compensate for our lack of transport infrastructure.Rolling out superfast broadband will help with delivering more efficient public services and allow those isolated in rural communities better access to health and education services and increase opportunities and choice for residents.There has also been cross-party support among MPs in Devon and Somerset, with nearly every MP signing the letter of endorsement that was sent to the minister.I would like to thank everyone who was involved in the bid process and made Devon's broadband ambitions a reality.But there is still work to be done. Devon and Somerset have already pledged £22 million for the project but more is needed. Steps now need to be taken to secure a share of the £20 million fund from the Rural Development Programme for England and encourage private investment in the project.We are hoping that this will give us £100 million to improve the broadband infrastructure of Devon.Neil Parish MP