More than 57,000 business and residential premises in Hampshire are set to benefit from superfast broadband connections to the internet following a £13.8 million deal with BT to provide a county-wide high speed network.
Hampshire County Council has today signed a contract with BT to build on the existing commercial footprint in the county so that at least 90% of all premises will have access to super-fast broadband by the end of 2015, and supporting the council's goal of ensuring everyone else will have access to at least 2Mbps (Megabits per second) broadband.
Hampshire County Council together with district and borough partners has invested £5 million in the project and were awarded the same figure from BDUK. BT is contributing an additional £3.8 million towards the cost of installing the new fibre infrastructure bringing the total investment in the project to just over £13.8 million.
The first communities to benefit from this project are expected to have access to the high-speed technology by the end of this year, with the programme due to be completed by the end of 2015. Without the intervention of the Hampshire Broadband Programme around 20% of premises in Hampshire would not have been able to access fibre broadband services.
One of the first areas to see improvements will be the Solent Enterprise Zone which is being developed at Daedalus in Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire. Daedalus, the former airfield of the Royal Navy, is one of 24 enterprise zones being set up nationally to support local economic and employment growth.
Commenting on the contract award Councillor Ken Thornber, Leader of Hampshire County Council said: "This is a great day for Hampshire and it marks the culmination of many months of hard work. I am very pleased that BT can now start work on putting in the necessary infrastructure that will benefit so many businesses and households, predominantly located in the less populated and 'harder to reach' areas of Hampshire.
"Access to the internet and fast broadband is crucial to the on-going social and economic prosperity of the region. Putting in this network infrastructure is as important as other major transport infrastructures like roads, rail, and airports. This exciting development will ensure that Hampshire continues to be a great place to live, work and thrive. Encouraging and enabling people and businesses to get online is one of our top priorities. It will allow Hampshire residents and businesses to transform the way they live, work and communicate benefiting from new social and economic opportunities as well as reducing the costs of public services."
Bill Murphy, managing director, Next Generation Access, BT, said: "This is fantastic news for Hampshire and this project will move the county well and truly into the broadband fast lane with fibre being rolled out to more than nine out of ten properties in the county. We are proud to be involved in this important programme which will boost the local economy and keep Hampshire connected and competitive for the future."
Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: "This is brilliant news - this ambitious project is going to deliver superfast broadband to more than 57,000 businesses and homes in Hampshire. The UK already does more business online than any other European country, and widespread access to superfast broadband will provide a tremendous boost to Hampshire's local economy."
Openreach, BT's local network division, will now begin the work on surveying locations across the county. This will allow BT to refine its draft designs to roll out fibre across the county to ensure as many premises as possible can receive super-fast broadband.
Alternative broadband technologies may be used alongside future fibre innovations to connect the hardest to reach premises that are scattered throughout the county. These properties currently have speeds of less than 2 Mbps or no access to broadband at all.
More than 19,000 households and business have registered their support for the Hampshire Broadband Programme. Driving up demand is a crucial part of delivering a successful project.
Councillor Thornber added: "High levels of demand demonstrate that there are plenty of potential customers who want to make use of this service. We want to encourage even more residents and businesses to register so that we can push beyond what we have committed to today and ensure that more premises receive faster broadband in the future."