A Staffordshire business park is to become the second location in the county to benefit from a new initiative designed to help more people - especially in rural areas - get superfast fibre broadband.
It is the second community fibre partnership deal to be spearheaded by Staffordshire County Council and BT through Superfast Staffordshire, which is part of the Government's Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.
Around 35 small businesses based at Brookside Business Park in Coldmeece near Stone will be able to access some of the fastest broadband speeds in the country when the upgrade work is completed.
The project is being co-funded by business park owner Roger Harris and Staffordshire County Council and BT, as part of the Superfast Staffordshire roll-out of superfast fibre broadband. Additional investment is coming from Openreach, BT's local network business, through BT's Community Fibre Partnership programme.
This new deal for Brookside Business Park follows a similar agreement with residents in the hamlet of nearby Cotwalton, which became the first Staffordshire community to sign up for this innovative co-funding approach near the end of last year.
Staffordshire County Council launched the Community Fibre Partnership Support Fund as part of its plans to reach the final four per cent of county premises not currently part of any public or private sector fibre broadband upgrade plans.
The deal involves the use of of Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology, which is capable of delivering ultrafast download speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second and upload speeds of up to 220 megabits per second (Mbps)*.
Engineers from Openreach are expected to complete the extensive upgrade work by spring 2018.
Roger Harris, owner of the Brookside Business Park, said: "This community fibre partnership approach is a great way to ensure small, rural businesses get access to the same technology as those based in towns and cities.
"Making ultrafast fibre broadband available to the firms based here in Brookside Business Park will help them remain competitive and operate even more effectively, without having to leave their countryside base. At the same time it could appeal to other businesses who might be looking for a move to a new site in a more rural location where access and parking is less of a problem."
Staffordshire County Council's economic growth leader Mark Winnington said: "The great thing about our co-funding fibre partnerships is that any small community can benefit - home-owners and business communities alike. I would therefore urge other communities and businesses who find themselves in a similar situation to consider this option.
"We hope to be able to work with more local people and organisations across the county to collaboratively fund similar projects so even more of our smallest communities and businesses can access high-speed fibre broadband in the future.
"We are making every effort to ensure as many communities in Staffordshire are able to connect to high-speed broadband as possible, meaning they are better connected and able to access more employment, education and leisure opportunities."
Details of how to check if you are eligible for help with funding fibre broadband are available on the Superfast Staffordshire website: www.superfaststaffordshire.co.uk
So far Superfast Staffordshire has enabled around 70,000 households and businesses to connect to superfast broadband speeds. The figure rises to more than 469,000** when combined with commercial fibre roll-outs by private sector companies, such as BT.
Kim Mears, Openreach's managing director for infrastructure delivery, said: "Partnerships like this help us to bring high-speed connections to challenging areas that the private sector would have difficulty reaching alone.
"More than 92 per cent of the UK can access superfast speeds today, and we're committed to making fibre broadband as widely available as possible in the UK. That's why we're investing in hundreds of similar projects across the UK, working in partnership with business and residential communities to deliver faster speeds from a wide choice of competing internet service providers.
"I have no doubt that Brookside Business Park will see real benefits thanks to the faster connectivity and variety of services we're delivering."
Ian Binks, BT's regional manager for Staffordshire and the West Midlands, said: "Every day we're hearing how fibre broadband is changing people's lives for the better. Whether someone is working from home or running a business that involves sharing large amounts of information or updating their website regularly, or a family wanting to connect different devices to the internet at the same time, everything is easier, better and quicker with this new technology."
More information about BT's Community Fibre Partnership programme is available from: www.communityfibre.bt.com