George Osborne joins Connecting Cheshire’s superfast celebration

George Osborne has helped give superfast broadband a boost in Cheshire East.

The Tatton MP switched-on the latest fibre broadband cabinet to join Connecting Cheshire’s superfast fibre broadband network in Lower Peover.

The celebration also marked a year since Holmes Chapel became the first community to benefit from the Connecting Cheshire roll-out in.

During its first year, the project has made fibre broadband available to almost 50,000 additional premises and already achieved more than 90 per cent coverage in Cheshire, Halton and Warrington.

The Rt Hon George Osborne MP said: “I’ve been a huge supporter of getting high-speed broadband across Cheshire on behalf of the people I represent.

“The work Connecting Cheshire and BT are doing, bringing additional fibre broadband to homes and businesses, is vital for the local economy. It allows people to work where they want and brings entertainment and knowledge to people and families at home.”

Mr Osborne also provided answers to the following questions:

Why is investing in faster broadband, especially important for rural areas?
“Superfast broadband is helping reinvent the rural economy. The Connecting Cheshire project and over 40 others across the country, are working hard to ensure a more level playing field for rural communities: over the past year in Cheshire almost 50,000 additional premises can now access faster broadband. For too long rural areas have literally been in the slow lane when it came to broadband and this project is making great strides to ensure everyone can exploit the benefits of superfast broadband, wherever they live or work.”

What impact will the investment have on the Cheshire economy?
“All the businesses I meet locally tell me that good connectivity is crucial to their survival. Britain is leading the world in e-commerce and it makes up a growing proportion of our GDP, currently approaching 20 per cent. (source ONS ) Thanks to Connecting Cheshire, a business in Plumley or Alderley Edge can now access broadband speeds on a par with London. Being able to video conference customers and suppliers all over the world from your office rather than having to drive or fly to meet, is one example of how faster broadband is transforming business.”

What would be your message to anyone unsure about upgrading to fibre broadband?
“The broadband market in the UK is very competitive, via the Openreach network, residents and business have access to many internet service providers offering a range of packages to suit all requirements, whether for home or business use. My advice would be to shop around for the best deal and take advantage of the benefits – remember it doesn’t happen automatically – you need to order an upgrade once its available in your area.”

What about those premises outside of the current roll-out?
“A further programme to extend fibre broadband coverage to even more premises was announced earlier this year. Cheshire’s allocation of £2.12m from the government’s Broadband Delivery UK’s (BDUK) superfast extension programme is being matched by the Connecting Cheshire partnership to invest further and extend coverage to around 99 per cent of premises by the end of 2017. Combined with advances in technology from BT and others, we should soon be able to ensure even the most remote premises can benefit from faster speeds, which will be especially welcomed by our more remote farming and rural communities.”

The new fibre network has been built by Openreach, BT’s local network business , on behalf of the Connecting Cheshire partnership of the four local authorities across Cheshire (Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Halton and Warrington borough councils) and BT, with additional funding from BDUK and the European Union.

Lower Peover joins nearby communities in Plumley, Chelford, Knutsford and Sutton which have recently had their first cabinets upgraded with fibre. More cabinets will be added to the network in the coming months as the network is expanded to reach 96 per cent coverage by the end of 2015.

To check availability visit the Connecting Cheshire website and enter either a postcode or telephone number – www.connectingcheshire.org.uk.

Comment: please confirm this number is correct. Shouldn’t it be higher? With more than 20 internet service providers active, there is a wide choice of broadband packages for home and business use. To upgrade contact a service provider or shop around for the best deal, the upgrade does not happen automatically.

Mike Blackburn, BT’s regional director for the North West, said: “BT is keenly aware of the need to provide the fibre broadband network and technology to support the local economy in Cheshire, whether people are working from offices or their homes.

“BT has spent £2.5 billion on its own commercial roll-out of fibre broadband in the UK and is pleased that the Government has supplied the BDUK funding to help boost coverage in Cheshire to 96 per cent with the Connecting Cheshire programme by the end of next year.”

Councillor David Brown, Deputy Leader of Cheshire East Council, on behalf of the partnership, said “Over the past year we have reached many homes and businesses that otherwise would still be languishing in the internet slow lane.

“Connecting Cheshire has made a great start but further challenges remain and we will continue in our quest to reach more premises with faster and more reliable broadband.”

Sir Howard Bernstein, vice chair of the North West European Regional Development Fund local management committee, said: “Now a year into its roll-out, this programme is already helping local businesses make the most of superfast broadband, improving performance and helping to create and safeguard jobs.

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

The £28.5m Connecting Cheshire project will provide fibre broadband to more than 80,000 homes and businesses. This builds on BT’s commercial investment so that 96 percent of Cheshire – around 400,000 premises – will have access to speeds of up to 80mbps by the end of 2015.


Photo captions:

Cabinet Group, left to right: Cllr George Walton, Mike Blackburn – BT North West Regional Director; Ros Kendall - Chair, Lower Peover Parish Council; Jamie Potter – Broadband Delivery UK; Kevin Rutterford – BT; George Osborne MP; Mike Suarez – Chief Executive, Cheshire East Council and Liz McGrath - Clerk to Lower Peover and Peover Parish Councils.
Marc Dewhurst – BT Openreach Engineering Manager shows George Osborne MP the newly live fibre optic cabinet in Lower Peover.

Connecting Cheshire media contacts:

Media Relations Officer: Tim Oliver
Direct line: 01270 686591
Mobile: 07879 117185
Email: tim.oliver@cheshireeast.gov.uk


BT NW Regional Press Office: Graham Taylor
Direct line: 0800 085 0660
Mobile: 07435 669479
Email: graham.2.taylor@bt.com

Notes to Editors:
About Superfast Britain
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, and is a partnership of four councils – Cheshire West and Chester, Cheshire East, Halton and Warrington – and BT. It is funded by £13.6m from the European Development Fund, £9m from BT, £4m from BDUK with £1.85m provided jointly from the councils.

The £28.5m project will provide fibre broadband to more than 80,000 homes and businesses. This builds on BT’s commercial investment so that 96 percent of Cheshire –around 400,000 premises – will have access to speeds of up to 80mbps by the end of 2015.

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. For more information visit www.connectingcheshire.org.uk

*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