A Staffordshire garden designer is praising work to make faster broadband available as a county council partnership programme marks its five-year anniversary.
More than 75,000 homes and businesses, including Trevor Stewart's garden design business, can now benefit from faster speeds thanks to the county council's £32 million Superfast Staffordshire partnership with Openreach and the government's Building Digital UK (BDUK) programme.
When combined with Openreach's own commercial rollout, it means more than 95 per cent of homes and businesses across the county can switch.
Stafford resident Trevor made the switch and his whole family now rely on superfast broadband daily.
Whilst living in an edge of town location, Trevor struggled with slow speeds and his property was not covered by any commercial broadband plans. But thanks to the Superfast Staffordshire programme, he now has access to superfast speeds and says it has made a real difference to family and work life. Trevor said: "The biggest difference is that the whole family is now able to use broadband at the same time without affecting quality of connection. My teenage son is a keen gamer who uses it all the time and my daughter uses Facetime and other social media regularly.
"Both my wife and I work from home and since we have been connected it has made a huge difference. I'm a garden designer and regularly need to send CAD files and pdfs which was difficult before. This used to involve sending some overnight due to the time it took to send and checking a client had received it the next day. Sometimes these would drop out altogether and I'd have to start again. This impacted productivity and efficiency. Now I can send them straight away.
"My wife works for the NHS and now isn't tied to the office so this really improved our homelife."
Trevor's average broadband speed has leapt from 2-3mbps (megabits per second) to 70mbps.
More than half of properties able to connect have already done so, but it's thought many people might not be aware faster speeds are available, think they've automatically been upgraded or mistakenly believe it's going to be too expensive.
To make sure people understand their options, the county council's broadband team run a 'SwitchStaffs' campaign - including a new website at www.switchstaffs.com - to give people tips and advice on how to make the switch and compare offers from on different providers.
Staffordshire County Council's economic growth leader Mark Winnington said: "It is encouraging to hear how our programme is improving people's home and work lives and that more are getting connected all the time.
"The Superfast Staffordshire programme has been a huge success - enabling over 75,000 properties to connect to fibre broadband which had previously been unable to do so. Over half of those have decided to get connected. When they do so they can increase opportunities in leisure, health or study and improve business productivity if using it for work. I would urge people to find out if they can get connected - it really is an easy process.
"We are pleased to have reached 95 per cent coverage of the county, but I'd again like to reassure people that we will continue to do all we can to find solutions for those not yet in included in the plan."
Recent areas to get connected include Hollington and Cauldon in the Staffordshire Moorlands, Scot Hay and Crackley Gates in Newcastle, Tixall Road and Aston by Doxey in Stafford, Hadley End and Newborough in East Staffordshire, South Staffordshire Business Park and Old Perton in South Staffordshire, Bridgtown in Cannock, Burntwood Business Park in Lichfield and Bangley Lane in Tamworth.
Carl Sproston, Openreach's partnership director, said: "We are working really closely with our council colleagues here in Staffordshire and look forward to going even further. Our work is now taking place in some of the most rural parts of the county, but our skilled engineers are experts in connecting these areas up and trained to overcome any challenges along the way.
"We sometimes find people are not aware they can already connect to faster broadband, so I'd urge everyone to check if they live in a fibre-enabled area, and if so, get in touch with their broadband provider to find out more about upgrading."
Superfast broadband is now considered as an important feature in the home, enabling people to access a range of leisure, education and other services. It also allows you to work flexibly.
People can choose from a range of broadband providers to get connected and can find out more on the Superfast Staffordshire website. They can also find out about broadband provision and how easy it is to switch or change provider through Ofcom's boostyourbroadband.com website.
People can find out more about the programme and view an interactive map at www.superfaststaffordshire.co.uk