RESIDENTS and businesses across the Black Country are being urged to make the most of the new superfast broadband technology being rolled out across the region. The call comes as the multi-million pound Black Country Broadband Project – led by the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and BT – announced it had now reached another major milestone, making faster fibre broadband available to more than 40,000 local premises. The ambitious partnership also confirmed it had secured additional investment for the area from the LEP, the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme and BT, where an extra ?1.2m will enable the Black Country Broadband Project to make the technology available to an additional 2,000 local premises.
Areas to benefit from the recent move include Blackheath, Brierley Hill, Cradley Heath, Dudley, Halesowen, Kingswinford, Lye, Sedgley and Stourbridge. Ninder Johal, board member for the Black Country LEP, said: “This additional funding will help us to roll out fibre broadband even further than we’d originally planned, which is even more great news for Black Country residents and businesses.
“The Black Country Broadband Project is making terrific progress, but we’re keen for more local people to take advantage and upgrade their broadband service, which they can do at little or no extra cost, to ensure they don’t get left behind in a world where so many things rely on us having access to fast, reliable broadband.”
So far, engineers from Openreach – the local network business which is part of BT group – have installed nearly 200,000 kilometres of optical fibre and around 370 fibre broadband road-side cabinets for the Black Country Broadband Project, which is part of the Government’s BDUK programme. Ian Binks, BT’s regional manager for the Black Country and the West Midlands, said: “High-speed fibre broadband enables businesses to share information with their customers and suppliers more easily and quickly, whether that’s around the region or on the other side of the world.
“At home it opens up new learning and leisure opportunities, making it easier for families to connect several devices to the internet at the same time to download music, play games, watch catch-up TV and do research and online shopping, without worrying about buffering.”
The Black Country Broadband Project was launched to bring fibre broadband to areas of the region that are not already able to access faster fibre broadband as a result of any commercial roll-outs of fibre broadband by the private sector.
It is the second community fibre partnership deal to be spearheaded by Staffordshire County Council and BT through Superfast Staffordshire, which is part of the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.
Around 35 small businesses based at Brookside Business Park in Coldmeece near Stone will be able to access some of the fastest broadband speeds in the country when the upgrade work is completed.
The project is being co-funded by business park owner Roger Harris and Staffordshire County Council and BT, as part of the Superfast Staffordshire roll-out of superfast fibre broadband. Additional investment is coming from Openreach, BT’s local network business, through BT’s Community Fibre Partnership programme. This new deal for Brookside Business Park follows a similar agreement with residents in the hamlet of nearby Cotwalton, which became the first Staffordshire community to sign up for this innovative co-funding approach near the end of last year.
Staffordshire County Council launched the Community Fibre Partnership Support Fund as part of its plans to reach the final four per cent of county premises not currently part of any public or private sector fibre broadband upgrade plans.
The deal involves the use of Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology, which is capable of delivering ultrafast download speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second and upload speeds of up to 220 megabits per second (Mbps)*. Engineers from Openreach are expected to complete the extensive upgrade work by spring 2018.
Roger Harris, owner of the Brookside Business Park, said: “This community fibre partnership approach is a great way to ensure small, rural businesses get access to the same technology as those based in towns and cities.
“Making ultrafast fibre broadband available to the firms based here in Brookside Business Park will help them remain competitive and operate even more effectively, without having to leave their countryside base. At the same time it could appeal to other businesses who might be looking for a move to a new site in a more rural location where access and parking is less of a problem.”
Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth leader Mark Winnington said: “The great thing about our co-funding fibre partnerships is that any small community can benefit – home-owners and business communities alike. I would therefore urge other communities and businesses who find themselves in a similar situation to consider this option.
“We hope to be able to work with more local people and organisations across the county to collaboratively fund similar projects so even more of our smallest communities and businesses can access high-speed fibre broadband in the future.
“We are making every effort to ensure as many communities in Staffordshire are able to connect to high-speed broadband as possible, meaning they are better connected and able to access more employment, education and leisure opportunities.”
So far Superfast Staffordshire has enabled around 70,000 households and businesses to connect to superfast broadband speeds. The figure rises to more than 469,000** when combined with commercial fibre roll-outs by private sector companies, such as BT. Kim Mears, Openreach’s managing director for infrastructure delivery, said: “Partnerships like this help us to bring high-speed connections to challenging areas that the private sector would have difficulty reaching alone.
“More than 92 per cent of the UK can access superfast speeds today, and we’re committed to making fibre broadband as widely available as possible in the UK.
That’s why we’re investing in hundreds of similar projects across the UK, working in partnership with business and residential communities to deliver faster speeds from a wide choice of competing internet service providers.
“I have no doubt that Brookside Business Park will see real benefits thanks to the faster connectivity and variety of services we’re delivering.”
Ian Binks, BT’s regional manager for Staffordshire and the West Midlands, said: “Every day we’re hearing how fibre broadband is changing people’s lives for the better.
Whether someone is working from home or running a business that involves sharing large amounts of information or updating their website regularly, or a family wanting to connect different devices to the internet at the same time, everything is easier, better and quicker with this new technology.”
The number of people in Shropshire enjoying the benefits of faster fibre broadband has more than doubled in the past two years, according to new figures announced by BT.
A BT Openreach engineer works on a roadside fibre broadband cabinet
Around 50,000* households and businesses across Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin are now using the high-speed technology – up from around 22,000 in December 2014. In the past 12 months alone, around 15,000 have opted for an upgrade – equivalent to nearly 300 new fibre broadband users a week. The wide-ranging benefits of using the technology include high quality, speedy online access when connecting several devices to the internet at the same time as well as being able to share large files and photos.
Ian Binks, BT’s regional manager for Shropshire and the West Midlands, said: “At this busy time of the year, it’s especially great that so many households and businesses are now choosing faster fibre broadband.
“Whether you’re doing some Christmas shopping online, ‘clicking and collecting’, working from home, or using the internet to stay in touch with customers, colleagues or loved ones, all those things are easier, faster and better with fibre broadband.
“More than 181,000 premises across Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin are now able to access faster fibre broadband as a result of the multi-million pound investment by ourselves and our partners in the public sector, including Government and local authorities – and that figure is continuing to rise.
“In the meantime, we’re working hard to find solutions for any communities not yet covered by any public or private sector broadband roll-out.”
The fibre optic network being installed by Openreach, BT’s local network business, is ‘open’, which means local households and businesses opting for an upgrade have a wide choice of fibre broadband providers, and so can benefit from competitive pricing and products.
*The figures quoted refer to households and businesses that have chosen to be upgraded to faster fibre broadband as a result of BT’s commercial roll-out or as a result of being able to access the technology through a public-private sector partnership programme, in which BT is a co-funding partner.