Oxfordshire County Council has awarded a multi-million-pound contract to BT, marking the start of a two and a half-year programme to bring better broadband to thousands more homes and businesses in the county.
The £25 million programme is made up of £10 million from the council, £4 million from the government and £11 million from BT. It will build on the existing commercial footprint in the county with the aim that at least 90 per cent of all premises will have access to superfast broadband speeds of 24Mbps and above by the end of 2015.
The deal will bring significant social and economic benefits to rural areas where broadband access may currently be slow. By stepping in to fill gaps not served commercially, the county council is ensuring that more people can get online and take advantage of a wide range of services many already take for granted.
Making sure that everyone has access to some form of broadband connection will boost business efficiency, streamline and reduce costs for providing the council’s numerous customer services and enrich leisure and social time. Almost everybody will benefit from this major investment.
Councillor Nick Carter, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Business and Customer Services, said: “This deal brings broadband to Oxfordshire two years ahead of the national roll-out programme. Broadband is now seen almost as a utility like water or electricity, yet there are still areas where access is non-existent or far too slow. However, everyone in the project area will soon benefit from this major investment.
“Oxfordshire is the most rural county in the South East, so we have had to be pragmatic in trying to extend the social and economic benefits of broadband to as many homes and businesses as possible.
“The deal we have struck is good value for money and demonstrates the county council’s ambition for a thriving Oxfordshire. Without this intervention there is a danger that rural areas would be seriously disadvantaged, amounting to as much as a third of the county.”
The Better Broadband for Oxfordshire programme will make superfast broadband available to more than 64,000 homes and businesses across the county by its completion.
It will build on BT’s own commercial roll-out of high speed fibre broadband, which has already made the sophisticated technology available to around 60 per cent of Oxfordshire homes and businesses.
While the initial aim of the programme is to deliver superfast broadband speeds to a minimum of 90% of premises across Oxfordshire, the county council will continue to work with BDUK and BT to secure additional funding to enable the programme to go further. The remaining very isolated rural pockets will receive a minimum of 2Mbps – enough to use email and the web efficiently.
Ed Vaizey, Communications Minister, said: “This is tremendous news for Oxfordshire, with more than 64,000 homes and businesses due to receive all the benefits high speed broadband has to offer by the end of 2015. We are witnessing a historic transformation in the nation’s broadband and the work we are now doing will reinforce the UK’s position as a leading digital economy and act as a major driver of local jobs and national growth.”
Bill Murphy, BT’s Managing Director for Next Generation Access, said: “This is exciting news for Oxfordshire. Fibre broadband will provide a strong, reliable connection to the rest of the world – a vital component in opening up new horizons for those living in rural as well as urban areas of the county.
“High speed access will help the local economy thrive, allowing local businesses to grow, attracting inward investment, creating jobs and stimulating growth. It will also provide new online learning and development opportunities for local people.”
The Better Broadband for Oxfordshire programme will take two and a half years with an anticipated completion by the end of 2015.
Superfast broadband is typically defined as more than 24Mbps, enabling users to stream video, share high-quality photos, download large files and video conference, for example.
The new fibre-based network will be open to all communications providers on an equivalent basis. There are more than 80 internet service providers (ISPs) currently offering or using fibre services over BT’s network in the UK.
BT engineers will soon begin surveying locations around the county and analysing the best way to roll out the network. Work will begin in January 2014.