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Notts leading race for faster broadband as second rollout phase begins

Press Release   •   May 05, 2016 13:13 BST

Superfast fibre broadband is now available for 95 per cent of homes and businesses in Nottinghamshire – a year ahead of the national target set by Government, it was revealed today.

The news comes as the Better Broadband for Nottinghamshire (BBfN) partnership between Nottinghamshire County Council and BT announces the successful completion – on time and within budget - of the first part of its fibre broadband programme.

Work on a second phase of work, extending fibre broadband coverage even further, to 98 per cent of premises by 2018, is now pressing ahead.

BBfN is one of the biggest civil engineering projects ever to be undertaken in the county. The first phase of the programme has seen nearly £20 million invested in upgrading the county’s telecommunications infrastructure.

And according to the independent website, ThinkBroadband.com, Nottinghamshire is leading the way with the percentage of homes and business with access to superfast broadband (24Mbps and over):

  • England – 91.3 per cent
  • East Midlands – 94 per cent
  • Nottinghamshire – 95.4 per cent

BBfN is only being rolled-out in areas which are not served by commercial providers such as BT or Virgin Media – often giving homes and business access to fibre broadband, with download speeds of up to 80Mbps, for the first time.

And residents and businesses have been quick to take advantage.

Over a quarter of the homes and businesses (27%) in areas covered by the first phase of BBfN have already signed up to receive a fibre broadband service. In fact, in some Nottinghamshire wards, take-up has been in excess of 50 per cent and the capacity of fibre cabinets has been increased to meet demand.

The County Council’s contract with BT includes a ‘gainshare’ mechanism, which means that the more people that take out a broadband service, the more money is returned to the Council to be reinvested in expanding broadband availability further or in new technologies.

Phase two of BBfN is starting immediately – nine months earlier than initially planned - and will see more than 130 towns and villages in the county either get access to fibre broadband for the first time, or see existing provision boosted to superfast speeds over the next two years.

More than 17,000 homes and businesses will benefit from phase two of the programme, at a cost of £9.2m, which includes funding from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, BT and Nottinghamshire County Council.

Communities in every district of the county will be upgraded but the majority of improvements will be targeted at rural areas of Bassetlaw, Newark and Sherwood and Rushcliffe.

By the time the work is completed in Spring 2018, more than 80,000 properties in Nottinghamshire will have been provided with access to superfast broadband by the BBfN programme. When combined with the private sector’s commercial coverage in the county, it will mean 98% of Nottinghamshire homes and businesses will have access to fibre broadband, enhancing Nottinghamshire’s status as one of the most digitally connected counties in the country.

Councillor Diana Meale, Chair of Economic Development Committee at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “Access to good quality broadband is just as important as access to basic utilities for many residents and businesses today, making BBfN a vital investment in Nottinghamshire’s infrastructure and future economic prospects.

“Delivering the scheme in a diverse county like Nottinghamshire has been challenging, but I am delighted that we have been able to deliver the first phase of such a huge project ahead of schedule and within budget.

“Whilst it will always be our ambition for every home and business in the county to have access to superfast broadband, the fact that coverage in Nottinghamshire is well ahead of the national and regional average should be celebrated and places our area at an advantage when trying to attract the inward investment, jobs and better quality of life for our residents that we crave.

“Phase two of BBfN is being more targeted at those districts with more rural areas where, despite making large strides in improving coverage, more investment is needed to bring them up to the level of coverage enjoyed in the rest of the county. In many cases, people and businesses living in those towns and villages have been unable to access the online services, learning, communication and opportunities that many of us now take for granted – but not for much longer.”

Steve Henderson, BT’s regional director for next generation access, said: “Nottinghamshire has been a real success story as the rollout of fibre broadband across the county has gathered pace. We’ve delivered the first contract on-time and within budget, transforming the online fortunes of tens of thousands of homes and businesses. Attention now turns to contract two and the difficult challenge of making fibre broadband available in some of the most rural areas.”

David Ralph, Chief Executive of D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "Widening access to faster, fibre optic-based broadband is a core priority for D2N2.

"Better Broadband for Nottinghamshire represents an opportunity to boost economic growth and create jobs for all businesses, but we see the programme as of particular benefit to the creative and digital industries, which we have identified as a key economic sector in our area."

Residents and businesses can find out more about the benefits of broadband and check if their property falls within the BBfN roll out areas at www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/broadband

Broadband upgrades are not made automatically and businesses and residents will need to make arrangements with an internet service provider to access the faster fibre services once they are available.

Benefits of fibre broadband include faster download and upload speeds; the ability to access the internet via multiple devices without experiencing a slow connection, faster downloads of films and music, a better online gaming experience, improved file sharing for businesses, solutions based on Cloud computing and being able to work more flexibly.