People living and working in two Staffordshire communities are looking forward to getting some of the fastest broadband speeds in the country thanks to an innovative scheme to ensure the county’s most remote areas don’t miss out on the latest technology.
Eight residents and businesses in Marchington Woodlands, near Uttoxeter, and 30 in Rushton Spencer, near Leek, are the latest to sign up for Staffordshire County Council’s Community Fibre Partnership Support Fund (CFPSF) which is marking its first anniversary.
Stephen Perrins, who lives in Marchington Woodlands with his wife Karen, said:
“We can’t wait to get fibre broadband installed. It’s going to be great to bring our part of the Woodlands into the 21st century, and being able to get download speeds of up to 330Mbps will mean less time screaming at the PC and more time spent streaming our favourite TV shows via BBC iPlayer.”
The £400,000 co-funding scheme is run by the Superfast Staffordshire partnership, which is part of the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme and supported by Openreach, the business responsible for Britain’s largest phone and broadband network.
The scheme has already helped scores of households and businesses in the communities of Cotwalton, Cold Norton and Brookside Business Park boost their broadband speeds with the latest Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology.
Roger Harris, owner of Brookside Business Park, said:
“Being a rurally based business park we have the opportunity to offer certain advantages to businesses. I have plenty of office space and lots of parking and reasonably easy accessibility. The one downside was that we didn’t have very good broadband connectivity. Due to the Superfast Staffordshire partnership we were able to get superfast broadband here reasonably quickly and it’s made a fantastic difference to enable us to attract clients and to stabilise businesses that are already on the park.”
One of those businesses is Oyster Group Ltd, the digital marketing group, owned by Phil Osman. He said:
“We converted over to superfast broadband as a result of the broadband partnership at Brookside. We’re now enjoying speeds of up to 80mbps. The service has been so much more reliable and it’s made a huge difference to our business.
“One of our problems was uploading files to a remote server. Now we can do in seconds what used to take us three hours using satellite broadband or 20 minutes on standard ADSL broadband.
“Improving the reliability of our broadband service has certainly reduced stress levels. We’re able to send files much more quickly so that’s making us more efficient.”
There’s still funding available and Staffordshire County Council wants to hear from other communities not yet earmarked for any public or private sector roll-out, who might be eligible for its co-funding project.
As part of the scheme, any money raised by households and businesses in an eligible community can be matched by the Superfast Staffordshire Community Fibre Partnership Support Fund. Openreach can also provide funding through its Community Fibre Partnership programme, which is already working with hundreds of communities across the country.
Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth leader Mark Winnington said:
“The Superfast Staffordshire programme has been a huge success – connecting communities across the county to faster broadband which the private sector’s commercial roll-out hadn’t reached. It means 95 per cent of Staffordshire is now covered.
“However, we have always maintained our commitment to finding solutions for remaining communities and our Community Fibre Partnership Support Fund initiative is one of a number of ways we can do that. The programme team has demonstrated its innovation through the delivery of the partnership support fund.
“We’re pleased to mark the support fund’s first anniversary with some rural businesses already benefiting from the scheme even as we announce more communities signing up. These businesses tell us connection has improved efficiency while residents can now do things many people take for granted like downloading larger documents or films quickly and with ease.”
Steve Haines, Openreach’s managing director of next generation access, said:
“These partnerships are vital to help ensure that the most rural and hard to reach locations are not left behind in the digital age and the Superfast Staffordshire project is one of many successful partnerships in which we are involved across the country that are helping these communities to thrive.
“Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology will help transform the broadband picture in the UK by ushering in a new era where ultrafast speeds are widely available. Openreach recently pledged to accelerate its own commercial FTTP roll-out, with the aim of making it available to three million homes and businesses around the UK by the end of 2020.”
So far, Superfast Staffordshire has enabled more than 75,000 households and businesses to connect to superfast broadband speeds. The figure rises to more than 480,400 when combined with commercial fibre broadband roll-outs by private sector businesses, such as Openreach.
People can follow the progress of the roll-out via the Superfast Staffordshire website: www.superfaststaffordshire.co.uk and via Twitter @superfaststaffs or Facebook.
Because the fibre broadband network is being installed by Openreach, households and businesses have a wide choice of fibre broadband providers. Upgrades do not happen automatically. Anyone wanting to benefit needs to place an order with their chosen fibre broadband provider.