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Countywide broadband partnership connects thousands of Staffordshire people and businesses

8th July 2021

A countywide broadband partnership, which has enabled nearly every household and business in Staffordshire to connect to superfast speeds (speeds of up to 80 megabits per second), has been completed.

The final village – Ellenhall near Stafford - was recently connected thanks to the Superfast Staffordshire programme - a partnership made up of the county council, the Government's Building Digital UK (BDUK) and Openreach.

When the programme began in 2013, just 65 per cent of properties were able to connect to faster speeds. Now, more than 97 per cent are able to benefit, with tens of thousands already choosing to do so.

Over the course of the programme, more than 82,500 premises have gained access to superfast speeds, using 650 green roadside cabinets. However, in recent years, and thanks to advancing technologies, 6,600 premises received an ultrafast full fibre connection which provides gigabit capable speeds of up to 1000mbps. Full fibre is not only much faster, but it's also more reliable, less prone to faults and future-proof for generations to come.

Superfast Staffordshire also pioneered the Community Fibre Partnership Support Fund, which gave rural communities the opportunity to connect to gigabit capable fibre broadband through a joint funding approach. Nine communities benefited from this scheme, including Cotwalton, Cold Norton and Brookside Business Park near Eccleshall.

There's still more work to do, and as well as finding solutions to reach the final 20,000 premises yet to be included in a plan, the Superfast Staffordshire team will now focus on increasing gigabit capable coverage in Staffordshire, which is currently at 35 per cent.

The UK Gigabit Voucher Scheme was launched by Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) offering up to £3,500 for small businesses and £1,500 for residential properties towards the cost of fibre installation. Staffordshire County Council launched a top up scheme to supplement this, meaning eligible premises would be offered up to £5,500 per business or £3,500 for each residential property. The team is working to connect 66 rural communities across the county through the scheme. Currently three of these community projects are live, 15 are in the process of being connected and a further 48 in development.

The team will also work with BDUK to help shape a new £5bn programme called Project Gigabit which aims to address the final 20 per cent of premises across the UK that are unlikely to be covered by commercial operators. In Staffordshire this is set to begin in 2022 and delivered over the next few years.

Meanwhile, Openreach, which has worked closely with Superfast Staffordshire since 2013, is taking huge strides to extend its own ultrafast full fibre network. Already, more than 35,000 homes and businesses can benefit, and just this last month, more than 240,000 homes and businesses across the county have been added to its commercial plans. This includes Audley, Blythe Bridge, Cheadle, Cheslyn Hay, Heath Hayes, Rugeley, Stafford, Tutbury and Uttoxeter.

Staffordshire County Council's cabinet member for environment, infrastructure and climate change Simon Tagg said: "as a result of our Superfast Staffordshire programme 97 per cent of county properties can connect to faster broadband speeds so it really has made a difference to our communities.

Superfast broadband is an essential for everyone's day-to-day living, enabling people to access health, education, banking and leisure services and more. It is also critical for business operations, growth and increased productivity.

Our programme has been so important because we are a largely rural county, so needed to connect to those communities to complement commercial provision in our towns. To enable 97 per cent of properties now is a huge success, but we continue to explore other solutions for the final 20,000 premises.

While this scheme has been completed, we are now looking forward by developing a long-term digital strategy for Staffordshire. This will focus on gigabit technology provision for all communities, maximising the benefits of 5G roll-out, connecting isolated areas and growing our digital economy."

Kasam Hussain, Openreach's Regional Partnership Director in the Midlands, said: "Staffordshire County Council has been a great partner from the outset, and alongside it, we've delivered a huge amount of good work across the county. Technology moves at pace, so although today is about celebrating the fantastic achievement of reaching 97 per cent of premises with superfast broadband, work is already in full flow as we make ultrafast full fibre broadband widely available.

We are also fully aware that there are still some properties – in the most rural and remote parts of Staffordshire – that are still without a broadband connection that's as quick as they might like. We're investing heavily in rural broadband, and the council has a number of schemes available, so it's certainly worth getting in touch to find out more."