Residents in a picturesque Lancashire village are celebrating becoming the first rural community in the county to benefit from the multi-million pound Superfast Lancashire project.
The completion of engineering work means most of the 240 premises in the village of Belthorn will now be able to connect to super-fast fibre broadband.
Superfast Lancashire will bring high-speed broadband to 97 per cent of the county’s homes and businesses by the end of 2015.
Villagers can look forward to download speeds of up to 80 megabits per second and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps , enabling them to download and share large files of
information, upload photographs, download music, films and television programmes, and surf the internet more quickly than ever before.
Local MP Graham Jones, said: “The fact that a rural community like Belthorn is among the first to benefit from this partnership demonstrates the collective determination to get this exciting technology to local villages.
“Superfast broadband can transform businesses and communities, improve productivity and enable business to access new markets, and is vital for places like Belthorn and constituencies like Haslingden and Hyndburn in particular where unemployment needs to fall and the economy become more competitive in the digital age. It will also provide a transformational improvement in the delivery of public information and services.”
Delighted landlord Nicholas Parker, who runs the Dog Inn, said: “We offer free Wi-Fi to customers but with the current connections the service is a bit hit and miss. With fibre we plan to offer a wireless hub for business customers to hold meetings, a sports hub so fans can watch games on their hand-held devices, and an entertainment hub to keep the youngsters occupied watching a film, playing online games or using social media - all at the same time. I believe this service will be a huge benefit to us and cannot wait to get it up and running.”
Local business UK Insulations Ltd was the first premise in the village to order a fibre broadband service and is already seeing the benefits.
Finance director Ian Billing, said: “We’re expanding and have customers around the world from China to South America. Having super-fast broadband will help us to compete with larger businesses, in this global marketplace, on an equal footing.
“The fact that we are a relatively small enterprise in a tiny village in the north of England doesn’t matter in the digital world. Customers expect you to be able to offer the same level of service as a large corporate. Super-fast broadband helps us to react quickly to customer demands and gives us that competitive edge.”
“With fibre we can have staff working remotely or from home, which will save on travel time and costs. Increasingly, customers don’t want the time and expense of travel either and, with fibre broadband, we can look at communicating more with customers online via Skype and video conferencing.”
Work on the Superfast Lancashire project is well underway across the county – with a total of around 17,000 homes and businesses expected to be connected to fibre broadband by the end of this year. Openreach engineers from BT will work on laying around 2,700 kilometres of optical fibre cable and installing a total of around 700 new fibre broadband cabinets throughout the Superfast Lancashire Broadband Project area. It is estimated that engineers will complete over a million man hours of work planning and building the network during the lifetime of the project.
The Openreach network is open to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis, so residents will be able to choose from a number of different suppliers of fibre broadband.
Superfast Lancashire is a partnership between Lancashire County Council and BT, with additional funding from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK, as well as the
European Regional Development Fund, Blackburn with Darwen Council and Blackpool Council.
County Councillor, Jennifer Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “We are determined that the more rural parts of the county also benefit from Superfast Lancashire so it is great to see communities like Belthorn starting to enjoy the advantages that the project is bringing. I look forward to many more rural communities getting connected."
Steve Edwards, BT director for Next Generation Access for the north of the UK, added: “Increasingly the internet is playing an even more important part in all our lives - whether it’s children doing their homework or playing games, grandparents staying in touch with their grandchildren, or working from home. Each of these things is made easier and quicker by superfast fibre broadband.”
In addition to the rollout of high-speed broadband across the county, a Business Support Centre has opened as part of Superfast Lancashire run by a team of specialists to
advise small and medium-sized businesses across the county how to use the new technology to enhance their business.
More information is available from: www.superfastlancashire.com
Notes to Editors
Superfast Lancashire’s Business Support Programme is governed by eligibility criteria defined by the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) based on size, primary activity, turnover etc. Businesses will be expected to complete an initial short self-certification form which will be validated by one of the advisors.
The programme will link with other key support initiatives across Lancashire. This will enable businesses to gain from the extended benefits of complementary programmes such as Regenerate Pennine Lancashire, subject to not having exceeded their ERDF allowance.
The Business Support Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in partnership with Superfast Lancashire.
BT is contributing £30 million to the project whilst £10.8 million will come from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), £16.5 million from the European Regional Development Fund and £5.2 million from local councils (£4.7m from LCC, £300,000 from Blackburn with Darwen Council and £230,000 from Blackpool Council.
This project is part financed by the North West 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 https://www.gov.uk/erdf-programmes-and-resources#north-west
Superfast Britain is a Government programme of investment 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 is comprised of three elements:
• £780m to extend superfast broadband to 95% 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 basic 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