Thousands of Staffordshire people and businesses will have more opportunities opened up to them through superfast broadband access, following a multi-million pound partnership announced on Thursday May 23.
The Staffordshire Broadband project – led by the county council with colleagues at Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership – has signed a deal with BT to deliver high-speed fibre broadband to the county by spring 2016.
The partnership will build on commercial rollouts already taking place across Staffordshire, which, together, will result in more than 472,000 premises – around 97 per cent of homes and businesses – having access to fibre broadband. Around 95 per cent will have access to broadband speeds of 24 megabits per second (Mbps) and above.
Access to superfast broadband for Staffordshire residents is seen as a priority for the county council as it provides the means to increase opportunities for residents and boost the local economy. Therefore the county council has invested £7.44 million - with an additional £7.44 million from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) framework and £12.47 million from BT - ensuring people across the county can access a range of services whether it be for work, leisure or health; whilst businesses will not be restricted by location.
The remaining few per cent of premises that currently experience low speeds will also see improvements, as the project aims to deliver a minimum of 2Mbps to all homes and businesses.
Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for economy and infrastructure, Mark Winnington, said: “Today’s contract signing with BT marks perhaps the most significant milestone in the project so far – meaning work to improve essential superfast broadband access to Staffordshire people can now begin.
“We see this infrastructure as important as road or rail in providing the accessibility and opportunities for our residents and businesses. It will ensure we can compete with other areas of the UK and Europe. That is why we took the crucial decision to invest £7.44million.
“It’s great to have BT on board to help deliver the project. While it will take a number of years to roll out across the county, work will start straight away and means that the first communities in Staffordshire will be enjoying high-speed broadband from early 2014 as a direct result of our partnership.”
Bill Murphy, managing director, BT Next Generation Access, added: “Staffordshire led the way in pioneering creative industries, so it is now fitting that the county is spearheading this dynamic partnership that will not only build on the county’s strong traditions but also, through the development of a high-speed communications infrastructure, harness economic growth that will herald a new era of creativity and prosperity for Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.”
BT was awarded the contract following a procurement exercise through the BDUK framework.
Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, said: “Today’s signing is fantastic news for the people and businesses of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent and will help deliver all the benefits of superfast broadband to 95 per cent of premises. The UK already does more business online than any other European country, and this project will provide a tremendous boost to the local economy.”
Openreach, BT’s local network division, will now begin the work on the ground with engineers surveying locations around the county and analysing the best way to roll out the network. The network will be open to all communications providers (CPs) on an equal basis – with more than 80 CPs in the UK already offering fibre services – so consumers and businesses across Staffordshire will benefit from a highly competitive market, in turn bringing greater choice and affordable prices.