Work has started in the first Herefordshire communities to benefit from the ambitious, multi-million pound project to roll-out faster broadband available throughout the county, BT and Herefordshire Council announced today.
Engineers are now planning and building the new fibre network in Much Marcle, Ross on Wye, Symonds Yat, Upton Bishop, and St Weonards.
Around 10,000 homes and businesses will have access to faster broadband once the new network is complete in these towns and villages, with the first customers expected to be connected during the autumn.
The newly named ‘Fastershire’ project will involve hundreds of engineers working for BT’s local network business Openreach, laying 2,500 kilometres of optical fibre cable and installing around 800 new fibre broadband cabinets throughout the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire project area.
The deal between the two councils and BT should enable 90 per cent* of homes and businesses to have access to fibre broadband by the end of 2016. The councils’ ultimate target is to provide access to broadband speeds of 24 megabits per second (Mbps) or above for all who want it by 2018 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 which starts to become available during this spring**.
In addition, the £56.6 million project intends to address those premises across both counties receiving a connection of less than 2Mbps by aiming to ensure all areas receive that speed as a minimum by the end of 2016.
Councillor Graham Powell, Cabinet Member for Education and Infrastructure, Herefordshire Council, said: “It’s great to see this project getting off the ground by announcing the first communities that will benefit from faster broadband in Herefordshire.
“This is the first step on our journey to build a network for the future by investing in technology that will future proof our county. The internet is such a huge part of everyday lives and this new network will transform the county into a digitally enabled place to live and work.”
It is estimated that engineers will complete more than a million man hours of work planning and building the network in both counties during the lifetime of the project.
Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director for Next Generation Access, said: of BT, said: “We have been working hard to get us to where we are today. This is an exciting time for Herefordshire and the beginning of a journey that will see the communications landscape completely transformed.
“This ambitious project will boost the productivity of local businesses and help to attract a more diverse range of high-growth companies to the area. It will play a major role in creating greater prosperity for the county.”
Openreach, BT’s local network division, will install the fibre network which will be open to all communications providers on an equivalent basis****. Households and businesses in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire will therefore benefit from a highly competitive market, bringing greater choice and affordable prices from the service provider of their choice.
It will also boost the competitiveness of local businesses, helping them to find new customers and operate more efficiently, whilst opening up a host of new learning and development opportunities for households.
Fibre broadband benefits include users being able to run multiple bandwidth-hungry applications at the same time and sending and receiving large amounts of data much more quickly and efficiently.
Computer processing and storage of files will also become more sophisticated and secure using ‘cloud computing’ technology. There will be faster back-up of computer systems and wider use of high quality videoconferencing within businesses and between them and their customers.
More detailed information on the roll-out will also be available at the new website, www.fastershire.com .
Planning and building of the new network has also started in Gloucesteshire communities announced today as part of the ‘Fastershire’ project. They are Cinderford, Coleford, Drybrook, Longhope and Lydbrook.
More than 140,000 premises across both counties were identified as being eligible for public sector funding, because the industry had classed them as not being commercially viable. Without the support of this public sector investment these premises would have been very unlikely to see an improved service. This partnership excludes the part of Gloucestershire covered by South Gloucestershire Council.
* When adding the contract area to BT’s own commercial roll-out, this will deliver access to fibre broadband to 90% of premises across both counties.
**330Mbps and 80Mbps are the top wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.
***Openreach plans to commercially launch fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) on demand during spring 2013 and will levy an installation charge for the service.
****Openreach provides external CPs (Communications Providers) with a variety of ways in which they can offer fibre broadband to their customers. These include an ‘active’ product – GEA – which comes in various speed combinations and a ‘passive’ product – PIA – whereby CPs can lay their own fibre via our ducts and poles if they want greater control over the service they offer.
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