A COUNCIL has pledged "stay ahead in the digital speed race" by increasing broadband speeds in villages around Darlington by the end of 2020.

Darlington Borough Council wants to install superfast broadband in Piercebridge, Hurworth, Neasham, Barmpton, Redworth and Middleton St George.

It is hoped the majority of the work could be completed by the middle of next year, and will mean more than 98 per cent of homes in the borough will have access to faster speeds.

The new work is expected to create superfast broadband for more than 3,600 homes in villages around the town.

Future enhancements for broadband speeds in the borough could be implemented after 2020.

Council documents, which will be discussed before Darlington Borough Council's place scrutiny committee, state: "The Tees Valley Combined Authorities together with Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) has committed funding for two phases of publicly supported broadband infrastructure rollout programmes.

"BDUK, a section of the Department of Culture Media and Sport, has been the main driver and funder of enhancing infrastructure and speed of broadband to superfast in areas of the UK which have been not been commercially viable.

"Phase one of the BDUK programme delivered 19 superfast fibre cabinets in the town centre and the Central Park Enterprise Zone plus four rural cabinets between 2014 and 2016.

"BDUK has a target of 95 per cent coverage of UK premises by 2019/2020 for phase two of the Superfast Extension Programme.

"There is, in Darlington, a gap after phase one of one-and-a-half per cent to reach that Government target.

"Tees Valley Combined Authority decided in late 2016 that it wanted an enhanced phase two option in the Tees Valley enabling 98.1 per cent coverage for the Tees Valley at the end of 2020 and an ambition to reach 100 per cent coverage.

"By end of 2020 it is anticipated that nearly 99.4 per cent will be covered by superfast speed in the borough.

"As digital enhancements and technology are not standing still and ambitions for economic growth are underpinned by digital speeds across the Tees Valley Combined Authority, Darlington aims to stay ahead in the digital speed race."

Councillors on the committee will discuss the proposals at a meeting on Thursday.

Earlier this week, minister for Digital Margot James called on local authorities to bid for a share of £95m to aid the rollout of “full fibre” broadband across the UK.

Funding decisions, the department said, would focus on rural areas and public sector services such as in health or education.