Businesses and communities in Cambridgeshire – including the major technology and industry hubs of Cambridge and Peterborough – will have some of the best fibre broadband coverage in the UK following a £45 million deal with BT to provide a county-wide high speed network by the end of 2015.
Cambridgeshire County Council has today signed a contract with BT that exceeds its ambitious targets to bring better broadband to the region.
The contract will build on the existing commercial fibre broadband network in the area – meaning that many more homes and businesses will be able to get superfast broadband and no community will be left without better broadband access when the roll-out is complete.
The new broadband infrastructure will contribute towards the Connecting Cambridgeshire programme targets so that superfast speeds of at least 24Mbps are available to more than 90 per cent of premises and a minimum of 2Mbps to virtually all premises over the next three years.
Combined with existing commercial broadband provision, completion of the roll-out under the contract will mean that 98 per cent of homes and businesses across the county can expect to have access to fibre-based broadband by the end of 2015.
Without the intervention of the Connecting Cambridgeshire programme around a third of premises would not have been able to access faster broadband services. The scale of the county-wide roll-out will mean some areas will be connected sooner than other, but by starting work now everyone will benefit from better broadband by the end of 2015.
BT was chosen by the council following a competitive selection process. The company will contribute £16m to the £45m project with the rest of the investment coming from Cambridgeshire County Council, Peterborough City Council and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).
Cambridgeshire already has some of the most innovative businesses in the world and investment in better broadband is vital to drive future economic growth. It is anticipated that the roll-out of the new broadband infrastructure across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will bring an additional £500 million to the local economy in the five years following completion.
This means that every £1 invested will bring a return of £11 to the local economy. It will also help to develop new and more cost-effective approaches to the delivery of public services.
Communications Minister Ed Vaizey, said: “The nationwide roll out of superfast broadband is going to deliver massive benefits to businesses and communities across the UK.
“The UK does more business online than other European country, and it’s estimated that by delivering fibre-based broadband to 98 per cent of Cambridgeshire’s homes and businesses by 2015, we will bring an additional £500 million to the local economy within five years of completion.”
The project was helped by more than 24,000 households and businesses registering for the Connecting Cambridgeshire campaign – making it the most effective in the country – and the fantastic support of over 100 broadband champions.
Work on the project will start immediately with the first locations expected to get fibre later this year. The three-year roll-out will begin with a period of planning and detailed surveying, before Openreach, BT’s local network business, starts work on the ground.
The large-scale project will involve enabling over 100 telephone exchanges and many more cabinets. Big business applications driven by cloud services will now be within the reach of firms of all sizes.
Computer back-up, storage and processing will be faster, and the use of high quality videoconferencing by firms and their customers will be possible, which can also help to reduce transport demand.
Faster speeds will also transform the way people use the internet in the home – enabling them to run multiple bandwidth-hungry applications at the same time, speeding up the simple sharing of pictures and video and enjoying the growing boom in entertainment services available online.
Technology entrepreneur David Cleevely, a long-term campaigner for faster and more cost-effective broadband delivery for the Cambridge region, raised “three cheers for the people of Cambridgeshire.
“If you go down the procurement route you must stimulate demand from the people to stand up and say ‘we want broadband’ – that way the cost the broadband provider wants to charge will go down because they know the demand is there.
“So it has to be a big thank you to the people of Cambridgeshire; it is their campaign that has secured this breakthrough.”
Dr Cleevely led Cambridge’s fight with the Government to secure initial broadband services in the late 1990s. He successfully manoeuvred Cambridge into the first tranche of the initial rollout when otherwise they were halfway down the list.
“This new super broadband service is vital for Cambridge and the wider region. it is critical for businesses, whether they are in technology, biotechnology, industry or other SMEs.
“And I suspect it will become increasingly important as more and more people decide to work from home. Broadband in rural and urban areas is as important in a modern business context as the invention of the wheel, steampower or electricity.”
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Dr David Cleevely