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Five Forest of Dean communities are first to benefit from multi-million pound ‘Fastershire’ project

Press Release   •   Mar 19, 2013 00:00 GMT

 Around 15,000 homes and businesses in the Forest of Dean will be first to benefit 
• More than a million engineering man hours needed to complete Fastershire project 

Work has started in the first Gloucestershire communities to benefit from the ambitious, multi-million pound project to roll-out faster broadband throughout the county, BT and Gloucestershire County Council announced today. 

Engineers are now planning and building the new fibre network in Cinderford, Coleford, Drybrook, Longhope and Lydbrook. 

Around 15,000 homes and businesses will have access to faster broadband once the new network is complete in these towns and villages, with the first customers expected to be connected during the autumn. 

The newly named ‘Fastershire’ project will involve hundreds of engineers working for BT’s local network business Openreach, laying around 2,500 kilometres of optical fibre cable and installing around 800 new fibre broadband cabinets throughout the Gloucestershire and Herefordshire project area. 

The deal between the two councils and BT should enable 90 per cent* of homes and businesses to have access to fibre broadband by the end of 2016. The councils’ ultimate target is to provide access to broadband speeds of 24 megabits per second (Mbps) or above for all who want it by 2018 with speeds of up to 80Mbps** being typical. Small businesses will also have access to speeds of up to 330Mbps** through BT’s fibre on demand service which starts to become available during this spring***. 

In addition, the £56.6 million project intends to address those premises across both counties receiving a connection of less than 2Mbps by aiming to ensure all areas receive that speed as a minimum by the end of 2016. 

Cllr Mark Hawthorne, leader of Gloucestershire County Council, said: “I’m delighted we can now announce the first communities to benefit from this important project. We have made this significant investment in the county’s broadband infrastructure so that businesses and communities of all sizes can grow – this is about improving broadband access for all and I look forward to seeing the first cabinets go live later this year.” 

It is estimated that engineers will complete more than a million man hours of work planning and building the network in both counties during the lifetime of the project. 

Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director for Next Generation Access, said: “We have been working hard to get us to where we are today. This is an exciting time for Gloucestershire and the beginning of a journey that will see the communications landscape completely transformed. 

“This ambitious project will boost the productivity of local businesses and help to attract a more diverse range of high-growth companies to the area. It will play a major role in creating greater prosperity for the county.” 

Openreach, BT’s local network division, will install the fibre network which will be open to all communications providers on an equivalent basis****. Households and businesses in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire will therefore benefit from a highly competitive market, bringing greater choice and affordable prices from the service provider of their choice. 

It will also boost the competitiveness of local businesses, helping them to find new customers and operate more efficiently, whilst opening up a host of new learning and development opportunities for households. 
Fibre broadband benefits include users being able to run multiple bandwidth-hungry applications at the same time and sending and receiving large amounts of data much more quickly and efficiently. 

Computer processing and storage of files will also become more sophisticated and secure using ‘cloud computing’ technology. There will be faster back-up of computer systems and wider use of high quality videoconferencing within businesses and between them and their customers. 

More detailed information on the roll-out will also be available at the new website,www.fastershire.com 

ENDS 

Notes to editors 
Planning and building of the new network has also started in Herefordshire communities announced today as part of the ‘Fastershire’ project. They are Much Marcle, Ross on Wye, Symonds Yat, Upton Bishop, and St Weonards. 

More than 140,000 premises across both counties were identified as being eligible for public sector funding, because the industry had classed them as not being commercially viable. Without the support of this public sector investment these premises would have been very unlikely to see an improved service. This partnership excludes the part of Gloucestershire covered by South Gloucestershire Council. 

* When adding the contract area to BT’s own commercial roll-out, this will deliver access to fibre broadband to 90% of premises across both counties. 

**330Mbps and 80Mbps are the top wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary. 

***Openreach plans to commercially launch fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) on demand during spring 2013 and will levy an installation charge for the service. 

****Openreach provides external CPs (Communications Providers) with a variety of ways in which they can offer fibre broadband to their customers. These include an ‘active’ product – GEA – which comes in various speed combinations and a ‘passive’ product – PIA – whereby CPs can lay their own fibre via our ducts and poles if they want greater control over the service they offer.