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Thursday 8 January 2015

New £6.5m scheme gives superfast broadband boost to further 10,000 Cheshire homes and businesses


Cheshire is to get a multi-million-pound boost to its roll-out of superfast fibre broadband – with the new technology becoming available to thousands more homes and businesses.

Another 10,000 Cheshire homes and businesses will have access to fibre broadband by summer 2017 as a result of the £6.5m project signed between four Cheshire councils and BT for a second phase ‘Superfast Extension Programme’.

The Connecting Cheshire announcement will take fibre broadband coverage in Cheshire to more than 400,000 homes and businesses when BT’s commercial roll-out of the technology is also taken into account.

It was revealed at a signing ceremony that BT had won the contract to extend the superfast network across the county.

Work will start on the planning of the additional network in autumn 2015.  The money has come from Government, and Cheshire councils and it will be supplemented by funding from BT.*

Councillor David Brown, Deputy Leader of Cheshire East Council said: “I am delighted we are able to extend the coverage of the Connecting Cheshire project to reach even more premises, particularly in our rural areas, where we know so many people are struggling with slow and unreliable broadband speeds.

“This is great news for small businesses, students and people of all ages who need and rely on excellent-quality broadband for so many of their modern-day needs.”

Connecting Cheshire project director Julian Cobley said: “The response to our current roll-out has been tremendous, with ever more homes and businesses taking the opportunity to upgrade to faster broadband. So to be able to extend this opportunity to 10,000 additional premises is fantastic news.”

Bill Murphy, managing director of Next Generation Access for BT, which is contributing some £1.7m towards the new programme, said:  “BT has always said there is more to do in Cheshire truly to encourage businesses and residents to create the connected communities they want and deserve.

“So we are delighted to be given the chance to give a further 10,000 Cheshire homes and businesses the opportunity to invent a new, more prosperous future.”

The fibre broadband network built by Connecting Cheshire, a partnership of four Cheshire councils, BT and the European Regional Development Fund, will give thousands access to this ground-breaking technology. More than 48,000 premises have already been passed out of a total of 80,000 covered by the first phase of the Connecting Cheshire programme, which will finish at the end of 2015.

And, in part of this second phase, more than £600,000 from the Rural Community Broadband Fund will be targeted at especially difficult places to reach in Cheshire. 

Connecting Cheshire has just finished a consultation to pinpoint the areas to be included in this part of the programme. Further announcements about the areas with additional coverage will be made during 2015, once the network planning and design phase has been completed by BT.

Fibre broadband, which can boost the competitiveness of businesses, helping them to grow and work more efficiently, also helps people to work from home and to set up businesses from home. It was hailed by Cheshire’s Tatton MP, The Rt Hon George Osborne, in a broadband launch last month at Lower Peover, as ‘helping to reinvent the rural economy’.

The technology also offers new online learning and entertainment opportunities for households and transforms TV watching, gaming and film streaming.

Among the many people who are finding that high-speed fibre broadband has transformed their life at home and at work is Mike Gibbons, the managing director of Runcorn-based Definteco, which specialises in the design and project management of integrated technology solutions. These include audio visual systems, security and data networks, for super-yachts worldwide.

Since he upgraded to fibre in October, Mike, who lives in Sandymoor, Halton, has seen his broadband speed increase from 5mbps to 75mbps, which allows him to spend more time working from home and with his family.

He said: “With two teenage daughters we are heavy users of social media, streaming films and catch-up TV. We’ve gone from 5mbps to 75mbps and the difference has been huge.

“For my business, things are now much better too. I can upload and download large files and technical drawings, video conference with clients and, as I travel a lot, my family can now keep in touch with me via video calls wherever I’m working.”

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