High-speed fibre broadband is set to become available to more than 90 per cent of Shropshire homes and businesses within the next three years as a result of a multi-million pound partnership project between Shropshire Council and BT.
The Connecting Shropshire project will build on BT’s commercial investment so that 93 per cent of premises across Shropshire*, more than130,000 premises, should have access to broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps by the end of Spring 2016. As a result of the contract, all premises covered by the project will receive a minimum of 2Mbps.
During the course of the rollout BT may use Connecting Shropshire as a test bed for developing fibre innovations and other broadband technologies designed to boost speeds even further.
Shropshire is one of England’s most rural and sparsely populated counties and so the project will transform broadband speeds across the county. According to Ofcom, the county’s average downstream speed is currently 8.2Mbps, whilst 17.1 per cent of premises receive less than 2Mbps.
BT has been chosen following an extensive and thorough selection process. The company is contributing £8.6m towards the deployment in “non-commercial” areas, whilst Shropshire Council is contributing £8.2m, with £7.84m coming from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funds.
George Candler, Shropshire Council’s director of commissioning, said:
“We have been working hard, through our Connecting Shropshire project, to drive forward improvements to broadband provision for residents and businesses, so we are delighted to have reached this point. We look forward to working closely with BT over the coming years to ensure people start seeing the benefits of faster broadband even in the remote, rural parts of our county.”
Nick Chavasse MBE, Shropshire Business Board champion for broadband, said:
“Reliable and fast broadband connection is fundamental for business growth. I am delighted that Shropshire Council has embraced this project and is fully committed to driving it through as soon as possible. Fast broadband connectivity will help our businesses to prosper and in turn help to increase employment across the county. Poor broadband is a barrier to growth, and the plan to roll out fast broadband to the business community, in particular, is crucial to the success of our economic growth strategy. We will continue to work with, and offer our full support to, this ambitious partnership programme.”
Communications Minister Ed Vaizey, commented:
“Shropshire is one of the most rural counties in England, but access to fast broadband speeds is just as important here as it is in our major cities. This project will deliver all the benefits of superfast broadband to Shropshire homes and business, providing a tremendous boost to the local economy.”
Bill Murphy, managing director NGA for BT, added:
“This is fantastic news for the people of Shropshire. As communications technologies evolve it is really important that communities across the county are able to evolve with them, which is fitting since Charles Darwin is surely Shropshire’s most famous son.
“Fibre broadband will bring Shropshire’s predominantly rural economy into the digital fast lane – revitalising small towns, villages and hamlets by making it possible to start and run a connected business from these locations and, in the long-term, ensuring local people don’t suffer from a digital divide.”
Engineers for Openreach, BT’s local network business, will build the new fibre infrastructure. Fibre to the Cabinet will be the main technology deployed. This delivers wholesale downstream speeds of up to 80Mbps and upstream speeds of up to 20Mbps. Fibre to the Premises technology – delivering ultra-fast wholesale speeds of up to 330Mbps – will also be deployed in certain areas.
The new fibre based network will be open to all communications providers on an equivalent basis**. Households and businesses in Shropshire will therefore benefit from a highly competitive market, bringing greater choice and affordable prices from a wide range of service providers. 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.
Superfast broadband benefits include users being able to use multiple bandwidth-hungry applications at the same time, and sending and receiving large amounts of data much more quickly and efficiently. New fibre services are set to transform the way consumers use the Internet, from the simple sharing of pictures and video to enjoying the growing boom in entertainment services available online.
For local businesses, the fibre network will underpin the introduction of many new services and applications. Big business applications driven by new ‘cloud’ services will be within the reach of enterprises of all sizes. Computer back up, storage and processing will be faster, and the use of high-quality videoconferencing will become a viable possibility.
The project team will be working closely with parish and town councils to ensure that local communities are able to make the most of improved broadband speeds and the new and exciting opportunities this project brings to Shropshire.
*Does not include the Telford and Wrekin Council area
**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 BT’s ducts and poles if they want greater control over the service they offer.