County’s superfast broadband pledge

Edwin Booth: Superfast broadband has a critical role to play for business
Edwin Booth: Superfast broadband has a critical role to play for business

LANCASHIRE County Council will bring superfast broadband to 97% of the county by 2014 at speeds in excess of 30 Mbps, it has been announced.

Superfast broadband is already available (or plans are in place to provide it) to approximately two-thirds of Lancashire. BT’s appointment as Lancashire County Council’s delivery partner deals with the remaining third.

The roll-out will see public sector investment of £32 million, which will be spent on bringing superfast broadband to those parts of Lancashire (approximately one third) where there are no providers of superfast broadband and no commercial plans to deploy it.

The scheme will be delivered by 221 Lancashire jobs, create 25 new jobs as well as establishing 20 new apprenticeships. An early priority will be to provide superfast broadband to the county ’s enterprise zones.

Following an exhaustive procurement process, BT Group Plc has been selected to work with LCC to roll out the superfast broadband across the county – including Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool.

Public sector funding for the scheme is expected to come via:

l £10.8m from Broadband Delivery UK.

l £16.5m from the European Regional Development Fund.

l £4.7m from Lancashire County Council.

As part of the roll-out, a £3m fund will be established to help small and medium sized businesses get the best out of superfast broadband.

In addition, the county council will set up a £500,000 community fund aimed at working with communities to get superfast broadband to those few remote properties not reached under the main scheme.

At the very least these premises will receive access to 2Mbs. The rural area to the east of Lancaster has been designated as the first pilot for these ideas in Lancashire.

Further commercial funding will be provided by BT.

County Coun Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “We are determined to ensure that Lancashire continues to benefit from being at the forefront of this technology. Establishing this superfast broadband network will not only open up opportunities for businesses in Lancashire, it will revolutionise the way that people in the county, especially in rural or deprived areas, connect to the wider world.”

Edwin Booth, chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said: “Superfast broadband has a critical role to play in increasing productivity and innovation across all areas of the economy in Lancashire. We want a thriving economy here in Lancashire and this will help us to achieve it.

“In terms of providing the necessary infrastructure for business in the 21st century, creating this network could be as important as the construction of the canals and railways was to the Industrial Revolution.”