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Saturday 10 May 2014

High-speed broadband arrives in Cheshire for 15,000 homes and businesses


The £28.5m Connecting Cheshire partnership today announced that its new fibre-optic network - bringing speeds of up to 80 megabits per second (Mbps) - is now available to more than 15,000 homes and businesses. 

Residents and businesses can check availability of fibre broadband by contacting their broadband provider or by visiting the Connecting Cheshire website:

Reaching the first 15,000 homes and businesses was marked with May Day celebrations in Alderley Edge, Weaverham and Westwood in Warrington as the first areas switched on to fibre.

Connecting Cheshire, a partnership between BT and Cheshire West and Chester, Cheshire East, Halton and Warrington Councils, aims to have made fibre broadband available to 80,000 homes and businesses by the time it is completed at the end of 2015.

This is in addition to BT’s commercial investment in fibre across Cheshire, Halton and Warrington and by the end of 2015 a total of 400,000 premises (around 96 per cent) are expected to have access to high-speed broadband.

Mike Blackburn, BT’s North West regional director, said the completion of the first phase of the partnership’s work within 12 months was an engineering triumph. 

He added: “The BT team are working flat out to bring high-speed broadband to Cheshire, Halton and Warrington.  This is a complex engineering task that will ensure people and businesses across Cheshire can have fibre broadband as part of their everyday lives and work.”

The first phase of the roll-out, set to transform the running of businesses and home lives for families, has brought fibre broadband to communities including Alderley Edge in Cheshire East, Weaverham in Cheshire West and Westwood in Warrington with more areas to follow in the coming months.

A team of more than 100 engineers and planners from Openreach, BT’s local network business, has taken on the challenge of bringing fibre to Cheshire. They will upgrade exchanges and networks with more than 875 miles of fibre-optic cable.  More than 400 new road-side cabinets will be installed as part of the project.

Fibre broadband has already transformed day-to-day lives across the UK – from children doing their homework to caring for our elderly people and from social media to e-commerce and home entertainment, fast broadband is a crucial factor.

Cheshire East Council Cabinet member for strategic communities Councillor David Brown said the network would boost the local economy, helping to create and protect local jobs. 

He said: “Access to high-speed access to the internet has never been more important, whether you are a small business wishing to build your company, a student taking advantage of online learning resources, an elderly person living on their own or a family making use of online shopping and entertainment or just keeping in touch with friends and family. In today’s rapidly-moving world, fast and sophisticated communications are absolutely vital.”

Sir Howard Bernstein, vice chair of the North West European Regional Development Fund local management committee, said: “This programme will help local businesses make the most of superfast broadband, improving performance and helping to create and safeguard jobs.

“It will provide a major boost to the Cheshire economy and the North West European Regional Development Fund programme is pleased to be supporting it financially.”

The new fibre network is open to all broadband service providers on an equal wholesale basis so households and businesses will benefit from a highly competitive market.

Key fibre facts for Connecting Cheshire:

· The Connecting Cheshire Partnership builds on BT’s commercial investment – providing additional fibre broadband to over 80,000 premises - so that 96 per cent of Cheshire homes and businesses – some 400,000 premises – will have access to fibre broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps by the end of 2015;

· The £28.5m project consists of £9m from BT, whilst the Partnership is contributing £1.85m, with a further £4m coming from the Government’s Broadband Delivery (BDUK) funds and £13.6m from European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)*;

· Connecting Cheshire Partnership was launched in April, 2013, following the signing of the contract between four authorities (Cheshire East Council , Cheshire West and Chester Council,  Halton Borough Council and Warrington Borough Council) and  BT;

· A recent study for Cheshire, Warrington and Halton estimated full coverage of superfast broadband would generate a gross impact of £13bn in gross value-added (GVA) over 15-years and create 11,500 jobs, with a further £330m of economic benefits to households (source – Regeneris).

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