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Broadband speeds set to soar in tiny Staffordshire community of Cotwalton thanks to pioneering deal

26th September 2016

Households and businesses in Cotwalton, near Stone, have made a giant leap towards joining the information superhighway thanks to a ground breaking agreement, which will bring some of the fastest broadband speeds in the country to the picturesque hamlet.

Villagers joined forces to find a way of getting high-speed broadband after finding out their community was not part of any current fibre broadband rollout plans.

The result is an innovative co-funding agreement between local residents and the Superfast Staffordshire partnership - led by Staffordshire County Council, BT and the Government's Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme. Additional investment is coming from Openreach, BT's local network business, through BT's Community Fibre Partnership programme.

It's the first time any of the 40-plus BDUK projects across the UK has invested in a Community Fibre Partnership to top up the money raised by the local community.

Superfast Staffordshire and BT hope this joint funding formula could be repeated in other remote parts of the county so more of its smallest communities not earmarked for technology upgrades can access high-speed fibre broadband in the future.

The deal will enable around a dozen households and businesses in Cotwalton to access ultrafast download speeds of up to 330 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of up to 30Mbps* from a choice fibre broadband providers.

Engineers from Openreach are expected to complete the extensive engineering work, which includes installing around three kilometres of fibre optic cabling, next year.

Wendy Lewis, co-owner of Cotwalton firm, Stone Building Services Ltd, said: "My husband and I run a small business from home and we can't communicate effectively with our customers due to our painfully slow internet. When we heard about BT's Community Fibre Partnership programme we knew, as a community, this was the way to go.

"Having superfast broadband will be amazing for our business - it can't come quickly enough. Our home lives will benefit massively too. At the moment I have to drive over to my son's house a few miles away to download an album and things like internet banking are virtually impossible with our current broadband speed of around 1Mbps."

Cotwalton resident and broadband champion Brian Scott said: "I'm delighted and impressed at how easy it's been to work with BT and Staffordshire County Council on our community broadband programme. Thanks to the county council's backing of our scheme - through its Superfast Staffordshire partnership - with additional funding from BT's Community Fibre Partnership programme - our small rural community has been able to afford to help fund this new fibre infrastructure.

"The benefits of superfast broadband to the village of Cotwalton are huge and will far outweigh the costs. What I'm looking forward to most is finally being able to stream TV and video without any buffering and the dreaded timer. Also, as a keen photographer, I can't wait for the day when I can back up my photos to 'the cloud' for safekeeping."

Councillor Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council's economic growth leader, said: "We're pleased to partner with BT and the Cotwalton community to connect them to the national fibre infrastructure. The great contribution from these local residents at last made it viable to bring ultrafast broadband to this community, so this partnership approach is a win-win situation for everyone involved. Piloting this arrangement with BT is a real way forward and we're looking to work with more local communities to collaboratively fund similar projects. This means we can make the BDUK money go further as we've funded this based on our local arrangement."

So far Superfast Staffordshire has enabled around 91,000 households and businesses to connect to fast broadband speeds. The figure rises to more than 465,000 when combined with commercial fibre roll-outs by private sector companies, such as BT.

Kim Mears, Openreach's managing director for infrastructure delivery, said: "More than nine out of 10 homes and businesses in the UK can now order a superfast broadband service, and partnerships like this one are an excellent solution for communities which fall outside the plans of the private or public sector.

"We're committed to working with hard-to-reach communities like Cotwalton to help them achieve their goal of a fast fibre connection. Rural areas often present the most complex challenges, and working together gives us the best chance possible of finding a suitable and affordable way forward.

"We're already working with around 140 UK communities where local people have got together and pooled their funds alongside Openreach's substantial investment."

Bill Murphy, BT's managing director of next generation access, said: "This is a significant 'first' for our Community Fibre Partnership programme and for Staffordshire. We hope we'll be able to replicate this approach elsewhere, and we're keen to have discussions with other local bodies who might wish to consider a similar project."

More information about Community Fibre Partnership-based solutions is available