Broadband speeds set to soar in tiny Staffordshire community thanks to pioneering deal

Households and businesses in Cotwalton, near Stone, have made a giant leap towards joining the information superhighway thanks to a ground-breaking agreement, which will bring some of the fastest broadband speeds in the country to the picturesque hamlet.

Households and businesses in Cotwalton, near Stone, have made a giant leap towards joining the information superhighway thanks to a ground-breaking agreement, which will bring some of the fastest broadband speeds in the country to the picturesque hamlet.

Villagers joined forces to find a way of getting high-speed broadband after finding out their community was not part of any current fibre broadband roll-out plans.

The result is an innovative co-funding agreement between local residents and the Superfast Staffordshire partnership – led by Staffordshire County Council, BT and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme. Additional investment is coming from Openreach, BT’s local network business, through BT’s Community Fibre Partnership programme.

It’s the first time any of the 40-plus BDUK projects across the UK has invested in a Community Fibre Partnership to top up the money raised by the local community.

Superfast Staffordshire and BT hope this joint funding formula could be repeated in other remote parts of the county so more of its smallest communities not earmarked for technology upgrades can access high-speed fibre broadband in the future.

The deal will enable around a dozen households and businesses in Cotwalton to access ultrafast download speeds of up to 330 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of up to 30Mbps* from a choice fibre broadband providers.

Engineers from Openreach are expected to complete the extensive engineering work, which includes installing around three kilometres of fibre optic cabling, next year.

Wendy Lewis, co-owner of Cotwalton firm, Stone Building Services Ltd, said: “My husband and I run a small business from home and we can’t communicate effectively with our customers due to our painfully slow internet. When we heard about BT’s Community Fibre Partnership programme we knew, as a community, this was the way to go.

“Having superfast broadband will be amazing for our business – it can’t come quickly enough. Our home lives will benefit massively too. At the moment I have to drive over to my son’s house a few miles away to download an album and things like internet banking are virtually impossible with our current broadband speed of around 1Mbps.”

Cotwalton resident and broadband champion Brian Scott said: “I’m delighted and impressed at how easy it’s been to work with BT and Staffordshire County Council on our community broadband programme. Thanks to the county council’s backing of our scheme – through its Superfast Staffordshire partnership – with additional funding from BT’s Community Fibre Partnership programme - our small rural community has been able to afford to help fund this new fibre infrastructure.

“The benefits of superfast broadband to the village of Cotwalton are huge and will far outweigh the costs. What I’m looking forward to most is finally being able to stream TV and video without any buffering and the dreaded timer. Also, as a keen photographer, I can’t wait for the day when I can back up my photos to ‘the cloud’ for safekeeping.”

Councillor Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth leader, said: “We’re pleased to partner with BT and the Cotwalton community to connect them to the national fibre infrastructure. The great contribution from these local residents at last made it viable to bring ultrafast broadband to this community, so this partnership approach is a win-win situation for everyone involved. Piloting this arrangement with BT is a real way forward and we’re looking to work with more local communities to collaboratively fund similar projects. This means we can make the BDUK money go further as we’ve funded this based on our local arrangement.”

So far Superfast Staffordshire has enabled around 91,000 households and businesses to connect to fast broadband speeds. The figure rises to more than 465,000 when combined with commercial fibre roll-outs by private sector companies, such as BT.

Kim Mears, Openreach’s managing director for infrastructure delivery, said: “More than nine out of 10 homes and businesses in the UK can now order a superfast broadband service, and partnerships like this one are an excellent solution for communities which fall outside the plans of the private or public sector.

“We’re committed to working with hard-to-reach communities like Cotwalton to help them achieve their goal of a fast fibre connection. Rural areas often present the most complex challenges, and working together gives us the best chance possible of finding a suitable and affordable way forward.

“We’re already working with around 140 UK communities where local people have got together and pooled their funds alongside Openreach’s substantial investment.”

Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of next generation access, said: “This is a significant ‘first’ for our Community Fibre Partnership programme and for Staffordshire. We hope we’ll be able to replicate this approach elsewhere, and we’re keen to have discussions with other local bodies who might wish to consider a similar project.”

More information about Community Fibre Partnership-based solutions is available from: www.communityfibre.bt.com

Notes to Editors

*Superfast Staffordshire is deploying a mixture of technologies.

Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) – being rolled out in Cotwalton - provides superfast fibre broadband direct into a building, enabling the business or household to access download speeds up to 330Mbps and upload speeds of up to 30Mbps.

Earlier this year Lymedale Business Centre in Newcastle-Under-Lyme became the first place to get FTTP as part of Superfast Staffordshire.

Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) provides download speeds of up to 80Mbps and download speeds of up to 20Mbps.

These are the top wholesale speeds available from BT’s local network business Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.

People can find out more about the Superfast Staffordshire programme at: www.superfaststaffordshire.co.uk


Issued by Staffordshire County Council and BT.

For further information about this news release Tom Hobbins at the Staffordshire County Council press office on 01785 276832 or email: tom.hobbins@staffordshire.gov.uk

OrEmma Tennant at the BT Regional press office on 0800 085 0660 or email: emma.tennant@bt.com Twitter: @EmmaTennantBT

All BT news releases can be read at www.bt.com/newscentre

Photos of the roll-out of Superfast Staffordshire can be downloaded for free from: https://flic.kr/s/aHsk1eZqD3

About Superfast Staffordshire

Superfast Staffordshire is a partnership between Staffordshire County Council, BDUK and BT. It builds on the commercial roll-outs in the county.

The first phase of the Superfast Staffordshire roll-out programme represents an investment of more than £27 million (£7.44 million from Staffordshire County Council, £7.44m from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK and £12.47m from BT.)

Staffordshire County Council will receive an extra £2.4m from BT following higher than expected take up of fibre broadband. This will be modelled in due course.

The new deal injects further funding into the County Council’s contract with BT, with a further £1.68m coming from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Superfast Extension Programme (SEP) and £630,000 from BT.

For those premises not included in the fibre footprint, Superfast Staffordshire is aiming to improve broadband speeds using alternative technologies.

About Superfast Britain

Superfast Britain is a Government programme of investment in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race. The portfolio is comprised of three elements:

  1. £790m to extend superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017;
  2. £150m to provide high speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities; and
  3. £150m to improve quality and coverage of mobile phone and basic data network services.

    Administered on behalf of Government by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), Superfast Britain is transforming Britain by promoting growth, enabling skills and learning, and improving quality of life.

    For further information: https://www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk

    About Openreach

    Openreach is responsible for the last mile of the UK access network – the copper wires and fibre connecting homes and businesses to their local telephone exchanges.Openreach provides communications providers with services and products associated with that network.

    About BT

    BT’s purpose is to use the power of communications to make a better world. It is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed-mobile products and services.BT consists of six customer-facing lines of business: Consumer, EE, Business and Public Sector, Global Services, Wholesale and Ventures, and Openreach.

    For the year ended 31 March 2016, BT Group’s reported revenue was £19,042m with reported profit before taxation of £3,029m.

    British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.

    For more information, visit www.btplc.com