The extent and scale of the multi-million pound Fastershire programme has been revealed in new figures on the roll-out of fibre broadband released by Herefordshire Council and BT.
The Fastershire project, working to make faster broadband more widely available, has already reached more than 22,000 Herefordshire homes and businesses, many of them in some of the more remote parts of one of the UK’s most rural counties.
The high number of sparsely populated communities in Herefordshire has brought different challenges as well as requiring additional infrastructure to be installed. Engineers working on the Fastershire roll-out have so far had to put up more than 700 new telephone poles, remove more than 1,200 tonnes of earth, and undertake tree cutting along more than 13 kilometres of road and lanes. In the Michaelchurch Escley area alone, engineers are currently installing around 14 kilometres of overhead cable to enable local homes and businesses to access fibre broadband in the New Year.
The project has already deployed faster fibre broadband in rural areas, such as Bartestree Cross, Canon Pyon and Fownhope, and - when combined with BT’s commercial roll-out in Hereford, Ledbury and Leominster – means that more than 65 per cent of the county’s households and businesses can now get the high-speed technology.
Fastershire is a partnership between Herefordshire Council and Gloucestershire County Council with a contract with BT to deploy the fibre network funded by local and national government. The rollout plan in Herefordshire to reach more rural areas is based on seven geographical areas. By the end of December 2016 it is expected around 90 per cent of Herefordshire households and businesses will be able to access fibre broadband, with most achieving speeds of 30 megabits per second (Mbps).
Councillor Graham Powell, the lead cabinet member for broadband, said: “Our Fastershire project teams have achieved so much already but we know there is more to do and there are still whole communities that have not yet benefitted. A great deal has changed since we signed the contract with BT in 2012 and we look to the future to understand the best way of making sure Herefordshire continues to lead in the deployment of superfast broadband in rural areas.”
Ian Binks, BT’s regional manager for Herefordshire and the West Midlands, said: “For those Herefordshire people looking forward to their first Christmas since upgrading to fibre broadband, they’re really going to notice a difference. It’s great for anyone wanting to combine shopping online and use of ‘click and collect’ services with browsing the web to see what local retailers have to offer. Fibre broadband also enables people to use several different devices at the same time, so children can play online games or do their homework without interfering with parents watching catch-up television or uploading photos.
“We recognise the positive impact that better connectivity can have on rural communities, which is why our project teams are working hard to ensure as many people as possiblehave access to fibre broadband as quickly as possible. We have now reached more than 22,500 premises as a result of the Fastershire programme in Herefordshire. When added to our own roll-out of fibre broadband in the county, more than 65 percent of households and businesses in Herefordshire now have access to fibre broadband. The roll-out of the network is a huge engineering task, made particularly challenging in Herefordshire, which is an extraordinarily rural county where no single community outside of the city of Hereford has more than 12,000 residents.*”
A mix of technologies is currently being used to deliver faster fibre broadband in Herefordshire. While Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) is the more common method of deployment, due to the high number of sparsely populated rural areas of the county, another type of technology - Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) - is also being used. In fact, it is expected that around one third of the Fastershire roll-out in Herefordshire will be FTTP, which is one of the highest levels in the country.
Areas where FTTP is being rolled out include parts of: Peterstow, St. Owens Cross, Sellack, Llangarron, Dinedor, Peterchurch, St Weonards, Symonds Yat, Upton Bishop, Perrystone Hill and Wellington.
The Fastershire project will also deliver on the Government’s universal service commitment of a minimum 2Mbps to all premises in the eligible area. Those households and businesses getting less than 2Mbps in areas covered by BT’s commercial rollout could be eligible for a satellite solution. For more information visit www.fastershire.com/how-to-go-faster/satellite. Herefordshire Council also has a unique bursary scheme for businesses that can demonstrate a need for faster broadband speeds, for more information visit www.passport2fastershire.com.
Looking further ahead, additional funding has been secured from central Government that will enable the further rollout of faster broadband, with Herefordshire Council recently adopting a revised broadband strategy outlining the next stages of roll-out of fibre.
Note to editors
*Herefordshire is the second most sparsely populated county in England with 82 people per square kilometre, second only to Northumberland which has 63 people per square kilometre. Source ONS.
Issued by Herefordshire County Council and BT on behalf of Fastershire.
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Fastershire is the project established by a partnership between Herefordshire Council, Gloucestershire County Council and the private sector to provide faster broadband in hard to reach areas of both counties. It uses funding from a range of European, central and local government funding sources to match private sector funds and deliver the infrastructure required to increase the availability of faster broadband.
The first phase of Fastershire, delivered in partnership with BT, is a £56.6m project to increase the availability of faster fibre broadband to around 90 per cent of Herefordshire homes and businesses by the end of 2016.
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
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