Moves to roll-out superfast broadband to homes and businesses across Cheshire have been given another major boost following a green light this week (Nov, 20) from the EU.
European state-aid approval paves the way for the UK’s £530m rural broadband scheme to start in earnest, meaning that work can begin laying the cables for local authority broadband projects all around the UK.
The go-ahead follows a direct intervention from the Culture Secretary in Brussels last week, after several months of delay in Europe.
This decision lifts a significant blockage on progress to move forward with our ambitious plans to deliver more than 90 per cent superfast broadband coverage for Cheshire, Halton and Warrington, under the Connecting Cheshire partnership of four local authorities.
In Cheshire, Council funding will be used to match Government funding of £3.24m already received to date, combined with an anticipated £15m grant from the European Union to deploy new superfast broadband networks, from 2013, in areas where commercial providers have not yet upgraded the existing broadband infrastructure.
Connecting Cheshire expects to appoint either BT Openreach or Fujitsu as its partner next spring, in line with a national procurement exercise overseen by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).
The appointed telecom company will also provide matched funds and this combined investment is expected to ensure that the project will exceed the Government’s target of 90 per cent of homes and businesses being able to connect to superfast broadband by 2015.
It is estimated that faster broadband will boost the whole of Cheshire’s economy by £1.3 billion over the next 15 years and create around 11,000 jobs.
Councillor David Brown, Deputy Leader of Cheshire East Council and Cabinet member in charge of strategic communities, said: “This is excellent news and a really significant step forward. We are now that much closer in our drive to ensure Cheshire can benefit fully, both socially and economically, from faster broadband speeds. We can now crack on with delivering broadband plans – boosting growth and jobs.
“As the Connecting Cheshire project moves into closer dialogue with telecom providers, it will be crucial to demonstrate a high level of demand. So I urge everyone to join our campaign for Better Broadband in Cheshire.
“Over 4,500 residents and 650 businesses have registered so far. This takes just a matter of minutes and will help ensure your community or businesses can be prioritised for investment in faster broadband. Simply register at www.connectingcheshire.org.uk”
Christine Gaskell, Chair of the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is great news for Cheshire and Warrington and a major step forward following long delays.
“Faster broadband has the potential to boost Cheshire’s economy by £1.3 billion over the next 15 years and create more than 11,000 jobs. It is essential that the LEP and all its partners continue work tirelessly to make sure that we deliver broadband to Cheshire and Warrington and secure much needed business growth.”