Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey visited Northamptonshire this week to see the progress made by the Superfast Northamptonshire project.
The Minister looked at how the multi-million pound contracts between Northamptonshire County Council and BT are benefitting local residents and businesses.
The project is part of the Superfast Britain Programme led by the Department of Culture Media and Sport.
The first stage of the Superfast Northamptonshire project was completed in December – three months ahead of schedule and under budget – while work on Stage Two has started and the first areas to benefit have already gone live – nine months ahead of schedule. Six new fibre cabinets from this second stage are already live, serving parts of Corby, Horton and Piddington.
Since Stage One began in March 2013, fibre broadband infrastructure has been installed as part of a network which serves over 61,300 premises in the county, of which more than57,500 now have access to superfast broadband (download speeds above 24Mbps).
Stage One has involved the deployment of more than 300 new green roadside fibre broadband cabinets, with around 500km of fibre optic cable laid underground -equivalent to the distance from Northampton to Brussels.
In addition, the number of households signing up to a fibre broadband package is continuing to grow and is already higher than originally expected. Nearly a third of homes and businesses across Northamptonshire have already signed up, with some ward areas reaching more than 40 per cent.
Cllr Andre Gonzalez De Savage, county council cabinet member for strategic infrastructure, economic growth and public protection, said: “I’m delighted to welcome Ed Vaizey back to the county as we’re proud of the success we have achieved with the Superfast Northamptonshire project to date. It is great to hear that BDUK view Northamptonshire as one of the top performing projects in the UK.
“The project focuses on areas in need outside of commercial plans. Put simply, without government, county council and other local investment these premises would not have access to superfast broadband.”
Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: "The UK's digital landscape is undergoing a dramatic transformation and the progress made to date by Superfast Northamptonshire has been fantastic. The project has already made superfast broadband a reality for more than 57,600 additional homes and businesses in Northamptonshire - many ahead of schedule."
Steve Henderson, BT’s regional director for next generation access, said: “We’ve made huge progress in Northamptonshire, working in partnership with the county council, to make fibre broadband available to tens of thousands of homes and businesses. It’s a significant engineering challenge which has already involved many hours of planning, preparation and hard work.
“Fibre broadband is transforming the way people are able to live and work. Upgrading not only provides faster download and upload speeds, it also makes it easier for many people in the home to go online at the same time, each able to enjoy high speed connections thanks to the technology. BT looks forward to going even further with fibre deployment over the coming months.”
The county council has ambitions to see the whole of Northamptonshire benefit and has already secured plans for 96 per cent of the county to be able to access superfast broadband by December 2017 (when combined with existing and planned commercial coverage).
Together, the first two stages of the project will see more than 73,850 premises benefit from access to superfast broadband by December 2017, involving a £16.2m public commitment and £6.9m from BT. Stage One has come in under budget and these savings will help to support the next stage of the project which is now being progressed by the county council following cabinet backing in October 2015.
The work taking place as part of the county council’s partnership with BT is being carried out by Openreach, BT’s local network business, meaning people with access to the fibre network can choose from a range of internet providers and competitive pricing.
Much more information about the Superfast Northamptonshire project is available at www.superfastnorthamptonshire.net