THE race is on for one of the county’s biggest business opportunities of recent years.

With more than £5m coming its way to stretch superfast broadband further, Herefordshire Council says it is ready to work with private sector service providers to connect communities well off the “mainline”.

The funding is found through Fastershire, the joint broadband expansion project the county shares with Gloucestershire.

Fastershire is, in turn, funded through the government and Herefordshire Council with BT investment.

A project contract with BT pitches approximately 90% of premises in the county switched on to superfast broadband by the end of 2016.

Now, another £5.5m has now been allocated to the county to seek a so-called "10% solution".

In this, the council recognises a need to work with alternatives to fibre and wireless is the more likely of those alternatives in Herefordshire right now.

Two new procurements to increase coverage in the Golden Valley and north west of the county go out in January next year as open to any broadband provider able to meet a 2018 completion date.

Whitestone based Allpay is already active in some of the county’s broadband not spots having launched a pioneering wireless service in 2009 that linked up with the Diocese of Hereford to use church towers as transmitters.

Kingstone was the first community to benefit from the new service when equipment was installed in the church tower and a signal spread to homes in the village

Allpay Broadband service is now available in 17 communities including Wellington, Peterchurch, Allensmore, Brilley, Garway and Clehonger, serving more than 500 customers.

In 2012, Allpay was awarded the Next Generation challenge award for rural leadership and community development.

Allpay MD Tony Killeen said: “It is great news to hear that funding is being made available to assist in providing the ‘final 10%’ solution and we look forward to working with Herefordshire Council and other partners in making this happen.”

In September 2012, the council’s cabinet provided delegated approval to the director for economy, communities and corporate to award the Borders Broadband contract to BT.

This was achieved in December 2012 and the project, since rebranded as Fastershire, has been in delivery for close to a year with 4,000 premises in Herefordshire receiving a fibre service to date.