Minister visits Cheshire to celebrate BDUK's two million milestone for fibre broadband

Government Minister for Business and Enterprise Matthew Hancock has visited Cheshire to celebrate the county’s progress in helping superfast broadband reach a key milestone of two million premises nationally.

High speed fibre broadband is now available to 55,000 premises, including more than 20,000 businesses, across the county under the Connecting Cheshire partnership, set up to boost the availability of this advanced technology outside of commercial roll-out areas.

Connecting Cheshire has funding from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, as well as four councils – Cheshire West and Chester, Cheshire East, Halton and Warrington – and BT, with additional funding from the EU.

The £28.5m project will provide fibre broadband to more than 80,000 homes and businesses by the end of 2015. This builds on commercial investments so that 96 percent of Cheshire - more than 400,000 premises - will have access to speeds of up to 80Mbps in total.

Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “Today there are two million more UK homes and businesses with access to superfast broadband than there were two years ago as a result of this ambitious project. This is a tremendous result that is already making a huge difference to millions of people. We want everyone in the UK to be able to enjoy the benefits of superfast broadband, that’s why we’ve begun work on reaching the last five per cent of communities not covered by existing plans.”

Matthew Hancock MP, Minister for Business, said: “Securing fast and reliable broadband is essential for business to grow and create jobs. The superfast broadband roll-out combined with a comprehensive business support programme is helping hundreds of businesses harness digital tools, and is part of our plan to make Britain the best place in the world to start and grow your business.”

Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director for next generation access, said: “Today marks a giant step forward in the rollout of fibre broadband across the UK. Working in partnership with the four Cheshire councils, we have been able to reach into the heart of communities that have so far been beyond the reach of this vital technology.

“Already, we can see the impact that fibre is having with the Government’s estimate of more than 56,000 jobs created as a result of this rollout by 2024 and rural economies benefiting by around £9m every day due to the work being done now.

“We are proud to be delivering on our promises and BT’s high-speed fibre network now reaches almost 22 million premises nationwide – around three quarters of the UK – but we recognise there’s more to do.”

Julian Cobley, Project Director Connecting Cheshire said: “We are delighted to join in with the national celebration of reaching two million premises with fibre. Across Cheshire, we have reached over 90% of premises when combined with commercial roll-outs, and are looking forward to reaching many more during the year ahead. The take-up so far has been very strong and many homes and businesses are now enjoying substantially higher speeds as a result of the Connecting Cheshire project.”

As part of the roll-out of fibre broadband Connecting Cheshire has run a Superfast Business support programme. Based in Chester, Operational Command Training Organisation (OCTO) is one of 600 businesses across Cheshire to have benefited from the programme. OCTO provides leadership and crisis management of challenging situations for a wide range of clients including government departments and large corporations across many sectors.

Mark Hart, OCTO Principal Consultant said: “We’ve worked with Connecting Cheshire Superfast Business for over eight months, their support has proved timely and effective. Their friendly, focused and professional advice has translated into improved connectivity and client-customer communications; the programme has undoubtedly enhanced our national and international reach better enabling us to deliver in a global marketplace.”

Cheshire residents and businesses can check availability of fibre broadband by visiting the website www.connectingcheshire.org.uk If it is available, they need to contact their internet service provider, shop around for the best deal for them and order an upgrade to fibre broadband.

The network, being built by more than 100 planners and engineers at Openreach, BT’s local network business, is open to all communications providers on an equal basis. Currently, more than 140 communications providers offer fibre broadband services over BT’s network. This will enable the people of Cheshire to choose the provider and broadband package that best suits their needs. Around 875 miles of fibre-optic cable will be laid and more than 400 new roadside cabinets installed as a result of the project.

Photo Caption: Photo Caption: Pictured with the Connecting Cheshire Fibre Guys billboard are L-R: Andrew Arditti – Connecting Cheshire; Stephen Mosley – MP Chester; Matthew Hancock MP - Minister of State for Business and Enterprise; Cllr Stuart Parker – Cheshire West and Chester Council; Kieran Charleson – BT Partnership Director; Mark Hart – OCTO and Steve Travers – BT
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, 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. 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