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Hampshire village first to sign up to new superfast broadband grant scheme from BT

Press Release   •   Aug 24, 2016 14:10 BST

Ditcham receives £17,500 grant from BT to help co-fund the local fibre roll out

The village of Ditcham in Hampshire has become the first UK community to benefit from a BT grant scheme aimed at bringing superfast fibre broadband to parts of the country which are hard-to-reach.

The new scheme is available to those communities in the so-called “final five per cent” of the country not covered by any private or publicly funded fibre broadband rollout plans. Eligible communities can apply for match funding of up to £20,000 towards the cost of a new local fibre network as long as the technology is capable of serving the local school.

The Ditcham community was awarded more than £17,500 by BT to help bring fibre broadband to the Ditcham Park Schooland village. Engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business have already begun work to connect the community to superfast broadband. Once the new Openreach fibre network has been switched on, local residents will be able to choose high-speed services from a wide range of competing providers.

The grant scheme is part of BT’s Community Fibre Partnerships programme, which gives communities the opportunity to jointly fund an upgrade to fibre broadband alongside Openreach if they are not included in any current private or public sector plans.

The new scheme greatly reduces the contribution needed from local residents and encourages people of all ages to equip themselves with the essential digital skills needed to access online services.

Chris Pickett, Chair of Governors, at Ditcham Park School, said: “The outstanding contributions from BT and Openreach to get this fibre optic network both designed and installed, whilst offering a very generous grant towards this community project, has ensured that our teachers and pupils can enjoy faster internet access. This will improve the opportunities we are able to offer to our pupils for the commencement of our new academic year.”

Ditcham resident Chris Taee said: “We’re delighted with the grant of more than £17,500 that BT has awarded our community to help with our new fibre broadband infrastructure. Ditcham Park School and its pupils will be able to enjoy the many benefits of having faster internet access – and so too will our local community. It will be revolutionary for us all.”

Kim Mears, managing director of infrastructure at Openreach, said: “Getting faster speeds to communities in the final few percent of the UK is a top priority for Openreach and the people of Ditcham are pioneering a new way to achieve this.

“Nearly 90 per cent of households and businesses in Hampshire now have access to superfast speeds and this will rise to 95 per cent by the end of 2017, largely thanks to our commercial investment and our multi million pound partnership with Hampshire council. More than 120 communities across the country have already signed up to our co-funded Community Fibre Partnerships scheme, with 60 already enjoying the benefits of superfast broadband. We hope that the availability of these new grants will encourage even more communities to work with us on bringing high-speed connectivity to their town or village.”

John Fisher, chief executive of Citizens Online, said: “ Schools and communities will enjoy many benefits from a faster internet connection and young people in communities can become better connected and better aware of how technology and data are the foundations of today’s society and more confident with modern IT skills.”

“All eligible applicants will be considered equally irrespective of the type or location of the community.”

BT’s long term ambition is to help and inspire young people in the UK to make the most of technology through initiatives such as the BT Tech Literacy Programme.

Communities interested in making an application for a grant should register their interest online at http://www.communityfibre.bt.com/.