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Joint county council deal to bring faster broadband to rural areas

A £56.6m project to give Herefordshire and Gloucestershire world-class broadband communications within four years was announced today. It is the first broadband initiative of its type to be launched in England in which two local authorities will be working together in partnership.

Herefordshire and Gloucestershire county councils and BT have agreed a deal which should enable 90 per cent* of homes and businesses in the two counties to have access to fibre broadband by the end of 2016, with the ultimate aim to provide access to broadband speeds of 24 megabits per second (Mbps) or above for all who want it by 2018.

It is estimated this investment could boost the local economy by almost £42m a year**. The project, which is set to benefit more than 140,000 homes and businesses, builds on BT’s commercial roll-out of fibre broadband across the two counties.

Today’s partnership is the latest to be announced under the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme. £18.17m of the funds will come from BDUK, £10.1 million from Herefordshire Council, £7.5m from Gloucestershire County Council and £20.9 million from BT.

The aim of the councils’ partnership, which is managed by both councils, economic development company GFirst and BDUK, is to have a majority of homes and businesses covered by this project able to enjoy speeds of 30 Mbps or more, with speeds of up to 80Mbps being typical. Small businesses will also have access to speeds of up to 330Mbps through BT’s fibre on demand service available from Spring 2013***. 

The project also intends to address those premises across both counties receiving a connection of less than 2Mbps by aiming to ensure all areas receive a minimum of 2Mbps by the end of 2016.

Homes and businesses that are harder to reach with a fixed fibre line in the remaining ten per cent will be connected using alternative new broadband technologies.

Improved broadband will open up opportunities for businesses, creating jobs and strengthening dispersed rural communities.

Following the contract signing, there will be a period of planning, with work expected to start on the ground during the second half of next year and being completed by the end of 2016.

A website will be launched early in 2013 to enable communities across the two counties to see how the new network will be built.

Herefordshire Council Leader, John Jarvis, said: “Today’s announcement will see Herefordshire becoming one of the most fibre-enabled counties in the country, after struggling with slower broadband speeds in the past. This project will really put the county on the map, attracting more businesses to the county, helping existing ones grow and enabling rural properties become less isolated.”

Gloucestershire County Council Leader, Mark Hawthorne, said: “The County Council has a commitment to help Gloucestershire grow by investing in better skills, infrastructure and homes – for young people, for business and for the community.
“This deal enables us to put in place an infrastructure to support growing businesses and help people live where they want to live.”

Bill Murphy, Managing Director, Next Generation Broadband from BT Group added: “It’s great to see Herefordshire and Gloucestershire working in partnership to bring the best possible broadband to their rural communities. We’re delighted to have been awarded the contract and look forward to working together on this exciting project which will provide a powerful, sustainable platform for growth.”

Openreach, BT’s local network division, will install the fibre network which will be open to all communications providers on an equivalent basis****. This means consumers and businesses in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire will benefit from a highly competitive market, bringing greater choice and affordable prices from the service provider of their choice.

Fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC), where high-speed fibre cabling is connected to a street cabinet near a user’s home or business, will be the main technology employed, delivering potential downstream speeds of up to 80Mbps and upstream speeds of up to 20Mbps. Fibre-to-the-premises technology (FTTP) – delivering speeds of up to 330Mbps – will also be deployed in certain areas and will be available on demand throughout the whole of the fibre footprint should local businesses want the ultra-fast speed it offers***.

The fibre network will allow businesses to introduce many new services and applications. Big business applications driven by cloud services and data centres will be within the reach of firms of all sizes. Computer back-up, storage and processing will be faster, and the use of high quality videoconferencing by firms and their customers will be possible.

Users will be able to run multiple bandwidth-hungry applications at the same time and send and receive large amounts of data much quicker. New fibre services are also set to transform the way consumers use the internet, from speeding up the simple sharing of pictures and video to enjoying the growing boom in entertainment services available online.