Secretary of State launches £12.2m deal to bring high-speed fibre broadband to the Black Country

  •  Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, launches The Black Country Broadband Partnership in Sandwell with partners the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), BT and the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.
  • Project will extend the reach of high-speed fibre broadband to 98 per cent of homes and businesses in the Black Country.

Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, today hailed the official launch of The Black Country Broadband Project, which intends to extend the availability of high-speed fibre broadband to 98 per cent of homes and businesses across Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton in less than three years.

He joined local councils and representatives from the partnership organisations – the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), BT and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme - for the official launch in Sandwell of the £12.2 million project. Funding for the programme is made up of £2.9 million from the Government’s Broadband Delivery (BDUK) programme, £6.4 million from BT and £2.9 million from the Black Country LEP’s Growing Places Fund. *

Engineers from Openreach – BT’s local network business – intend to lay new fibre optic cables and upgrade more than 400 road-side cabinets to enable local people to connect to the new fibre broadband network.

The investment in high-speed fibre broadband aims to help businesses across the Black Country to become more competitive and grow their businesses both in the UK and overseas.

It will also enable local people to better access a range of public services online, as well as new leisure, educational and training opportunities.

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Today marks the beginning of an incredible transformation of broadband in the Black Country. Government fully appreciates that access to fast and reliable broadband is no longer a luxury – it is a necessity, which is precisely why we are funding projects like this one all over the UK. As a result of this £12m investment, 98 per cent of the Black Country will be able to access superfast speeds by 2017 and this will provide a terrific boost to the local economy.”

Ninder Johal, Chair Black Country Broadband Group, LEP Board member said: “Today’s launch is an important step in delivering our ambition of a minimum 98 per cent high-speed fibre broadband availability by the end of June 2017. Small businesses across the Black Country identified slow broadband speeds as a barrier to growth so this partnership is great news for businesses in our area. The Black Country LEP is the first LEP to contribute funding under the new BDUK programme, which has made this project possible.”

Bill Murphy, Managing Director of Next Generation Access for BT said: “Combined investments by BT and other communications providers means high-speed fibre broadband is already available to around 92 per cent of the area – more than 468,000 homes and businesses.

“Working together, The Black Country Broadband Project will ensure we go further and enable nearly all of the area’s businesses and homes to take advantage of this exciting technology.

“Fibre broadband enables everyone to do things differently and better. For some it’s a leap of faith to switch from first generation broadband to the new fibre optic technology, but as those local people who are already using it will testify, upgrading is easy and worth doing for a far superior experience.”

The project will begin with several months of planning and survey work before the first services become available towards the end of 2015.

Businesses will have access to high-speed connectivity, with fibre broadband enabling faster online activities, the benefits of which are considerable: business can do far more in less time, firms can speed up file and data transfers, collaborate with colleagues and customers on conference or video calls or swap their hardware and expensive software licenses for files, processing power and software from cloud computing. Staff can work as effectively from home as they would in the office.
For more information on the Black Country Broadband project visit www.blackcountrylep.co.uk


Notes to Editors
*The Growing Places Fund enables organisations to apply for funding to invest in Capital projects, including land, property and infrastructure, which unlock economic growth and create jobs

About the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)
1. The Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) aligns activity across private and public sectors to create the right environment for businesses with a remit to tackle barriers to business growth and create a globally competitive local economy.

2. Programmes to deliver our vision are structured around three areas of activity:
• Business: supporting skills and competitiveness
• People: raising skills and employability, for example through our City Deal and Skills Factory;
• Place: including the provision of more high quality employment land through our Enterprise Zone and City Deal.

3. The LEP Board has identified seven priority areas where action will have the most impact on the Black Country and its contribution to the national economy:
• Exploiting the potential of the Black Country as a place to live, do business and invest; focusing on our housing offer, the quality of employment land, and the distinctive role of our four strategic centres.
• Using supply chains to build business commitment to skills and growth
• Supporting innovation at our major science and business parks
• Building a close relationship with our top 600 companies
• Raising our skills levels
• Securing inward investment
• Developing a more entrepreneurial culture

4. The Black Country located at the heart of the national transport network, comprises the metropolitan boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall and the City of Wolverhampton. It covers 356 sq kilometres, is home to 1.14 million people, with 23 per cent ethnic minority residents and approximately half a million jobs in 31,000 companies.
For more information on the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership visit www.blackcountrylep.co.uk , follow on Twitter: @blackcountrylep