Connecting Cheshire maps out fibre broadband expansion plans

Connecting Cheshire has revealed a fibre broadband rollout map just seven months after the signing of a £28.5m deal between BT and four Cheshire councils 1 to bring fibre broadband to 96 per cent of Cheshire. 

The map shows where communities throughout the county can expect the high-speed technology to arrive by the end of summer 2015 2. 

Both residents and businesses can check the map by visitingwww.connectingcheshire.org.uk/check-availability to find out more. 

The map shows the many areas already able to access fibre broadband through the private sector’s commercial roll-out, largely in urban areas, and those planned to be connected under the Connecting Cheshire programme, which will extend the network to over 80,000 premises in mainly outlying and rural communities, plus those areas still under evaluation. 

The Connecting Cheshire broadband programme will be delivered by Openreach - BT’s local network business - building on BT’s commercial investment in the county already committed as part of its £2.5 billion overall commercial investment in UK fibre broadband. 

A massive 875 miles of fibre-optic cable will be laid – more than the distance between Lands end and John O’ Groats. This will be a significant engineering challenge testing BT’s engineers to the full as they work to upgrade the county’s infrastructure, both underground and up telegraph poles, in all weather and often at night, to minimise traffic disruption. 

As a result of the programme, broadband speeds will increase significantly. Ninety six per cent of Cheshire premises will have access to speeds of up to 80Mbps 3 , whereas Cheshire’s current average downstream speed is 16Mbps (Ofcom UK Broadband Speeds Report; June 2013). 

The final 4% of premises are under evaluation and the project is seeking additional funding or technological solutions to upgrade them to high speed broadband as soon as practicable. In any event these areas will see faster speeds as the project aims to deliver 2Mbps or more to all homes and businesses by the end of 2016 via enhancements to the existing copper network. This will be a significant speed boost for the most remote homes and businesses as 12% currently receive less than 2Mbps. 

BT’s network will be open to all internet service providers providers on an equal wholesale basis and so Cheshire households and businesses will benefit from a highly-competitive market, in turn bringing greater choice and lower prices. 

There are a range of factors which impact on the viability of the upgrades to fibre within the Connecting Cheshire programme; these include the number and density of premises, the deployment cost, the proximity to existing fibre infrastructure and whether eligible small or medium sized businesses would be served – which is a condition of the project’s European funding. 

Connecting Cheshire expects to announce in early December which specific areas will be included in the first stage of its roll-out, with further phased announcements thereafter. 

Homes and businesses in at least 20 telephone exchange areas will see upgrades as part of the first phase and be able to contact their internet service provider to order a switch to fibre broadband from the end of March 2014 onwards. 

Councillor David Brown, Deputy Leader of Cheshire East Council, on behalf of the Connecting Cheshire Partnership said: “Superfast broadband will open the doors to countless business and social benefits, everything from making it easier for businesses to connect with customers to helping children with their homework. 

“Deploying fibre broadband is vital to help local businesses to be competitive and ensure they remain here. It can also play an important role in attracting firms to Cheshire, thereby helping to create even more jobs for local people.” 

Bill Murphy, managing director of BT Next Generation Access, said: “We’ve made great progress planning our network for Cheshire but, with a programme of this size, it’s not possible to upgrade every area at the same time and, sadly, not all exchange areas will become live on the same date. So please bear with us – we are going to be working as fast as we can to bring more fibre to more people over the next two years.” 

To view the Connecting Cheshire broadband rollout and coverage map visit www.connectingcheshire.org.uk and click the Check Availability tab. 

1 Connecting Cheshire is a joint partnership between Cheshire East Council, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Halton Borough Council and Warrington Borough Council. 

2 The information shown on the map is subject to survey and may change; all information, including forecast dates, is indicative only. Forecast dates may move forwards as well as backwards; The areas shown as being already covered commercially by fibre broadband are not included in this project; in those areas not included for fibre we are working to extend the coverage of fibre broadband or use other technologies in these areas; it is not necessarily the case that all premises within an area due to receive fibre broadband will receive it at the same time– different premises within that area may be served by different supporting infrastructure. 

3 80Mbps is the wholesale speed. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may use different speeds in their advertising. Individual line speeds will depend on network infrastructure and the service chosen by the ISP. 

Note to Editors 
Superfast Britain is a Government investment of £1.08bn in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race. The portfolio comprises three linked programmes: 

● £780m to extend superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the UK by 2017; 
● £150m to provide high speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities; 
● £150m to improve quality and coverage of mobile phone and 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 Connecting Cheshire 
The Connecting Cheshire project was launched in April 2013, following the signing of the contract between four Cheshire councils (Cheshire East Council, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Halton Borough Council and Warrington Borough Council) and BT, which will see a total fibre broadband investment in the county of around £28.5m. 
The project will reach those areas outside of any commercial broadband roll-out using a partnership approach to ensure all communities have access to the fastest possible broadband speeds. 

About ERDF 
The project is part financed by the North West Competitiveness Programme, European Regional Development Fund Programme 2007 to 2013. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme, which is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs. For more information visit www.gov.uk/erdf-programmes-progress-and-achievements