Minister for Digital Matt Hancock has hailed Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s rapid progress as a leading digital county, which is aiming to bring superfast broadband to 99% of homes and businesses by the end of 2020.
More than 95% of premises across the county can now upgrade to superfast speeds of 24Mbps+ and take-up of fibre broadband by local households and businesses is among the highest in the country at almost 50%.
It means the Connecting Cambridgeshire programme, led by Cambridgeshire County Council, has already exceeded the Government’s national target of reaching 95% superfast broadband coverage by the end of 2017, and is aiming for over 99% superfast coverage by the end of 2020, as part of an ambitious digital connectivity strategy.
Working with BT Group and Openreach, the superfast rollout has already reached 125,000 premises across the county that would not have got it otherwise. Thousands more premises are due to be covered from 2017 to 2019, and planning is underway to fill remaining gaps using a range of technologies.
Minister for Digital, Matt Hancock, said: “It's great news that Connecting Cambridgeshire has exceeded 95 per cent coverage and I’m delighted to hear of the programme’s ambitions to extend the rollout and reach everyone who wants high speed broadband.
“We know there’s still more to do but this government is committed to ensure that 100 per cent of the UK can get affordable, fast and reliable broadband by 2020."
The Minister was speaking at a high profile ‘Connected Futures Conference’ hosted by Connecting Cambridgeshire to mark progress of the high-speed broadband rollout and discuss future digital connectivity options, including trialling full fibre networks and 5G mobile.
Held at the cutting-edge Bradfield Centre on Cambridge’s Science Park, the event brought council leaders, telecoms providers, and tech’ experts, together with broadband champions and businesspeople, to highlight the importance of digital connectivity and ambitions for the area.
Cambridgeshire County Council Leader, Councillor Steve Count, said:
“Digital technology underpins almost every aspect of modern living across work, travel, leisure and health fast, reliable Internet access is now widely viewed as the ‘4th utility’.
“I am proud that Cambridgeshire has maintained its position as a leading digital county by exceeding the national target of 95% superfast coverage several months early, which is testament to our strong working partnership with BT and Openreach.
“We know there is more work to do to fill the remaining gaps and the high take-up of fibre broadband means we can now extend the rollout at no extra cost to the County Council with money that the County has secured from BT and has returned to the programme for reinvestment.
“Connecting Cambridgeshire continues to have high aspirations and is also bidding for further funding to improve digital connectivity so that our rural businesses can grow and compete, wherever they are based.”
The Connecting Cambridgeshire programme is working with a range of telecoms providers to bring superfast broadband to as many premises as possible including BT Group, Virgin Media, business and community providers.
As part of the contract with the County Council, Openreach engineers and contractors have laid over 1200km of fibre optic cable, installed more than 700 fibre broadband structures, cut back scores of overhanging trees and overcome technical challenges, such as crossing the A14 and railway lines.
Most premises have been connected to the fibre network via roadside cabinets (FTTC), while other technologies, such as Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) and G.fast are offering ultrafast speeds of 100Mbps+.
Steve Haines, Openreach’s managing director of next generation access, said:
"Our project teams have been working very hard to get Connecting Cambridgeshire to the key milestone of 95% superfast broadband coverage as quickly as possible. The fact we have now surpassed this target demonstrates the strength of the partnership with Cambridgeshire County Council, and we’ll continue working well together to deliver the next stages of the rollout to reach even more properties.
“Fibre broadband offers tremendous opportunities. It enables a household to benefit from high broadband speeds when they are using several different devices at the same time, so, for example, children can play online games or do their homework online whilst parents watch catch-up television, do online shopping or upload photos.
“It breaks down the barriers to doing business in the digital world, helping small businesses to find new markets, sell new products, try new ways of working and compete on an equal footing with larger businesses. Next generation broadband is no longer a nice to have – it is a must have.”
The Openreach fibre network is open to all broadband service providers on an equivalent basis, which means households and businesses can upgrade to a fibre broadband package of their choice.
- Use the postcode checker at www.ConnectingCambridgeshire.co.uk to check current or planned superfast broadband coverage in your postcode area, and find out how to upgrade.