Worcestershire County Council today announced two new schemes designed to help even more of the county’s households and businesses to get high-speed fibre broadband.
The first is a co-funding initiative, where the costs of deploying the expensive infrastructure is shared between the County Council, Openreach and local residents wanting to upgrade.
Meanwhile, local firms wanting to improve their broadband speeds can apply for one of the County Council’s new business broadband vouchers to help them with the cost of upgrading.
These two new schemes are part of the authority’s drive to reach the final four per cent of county households and businesses not yet covered by any public or private sector roll-out programme.
Stuart Yorke-Brooks, a resident of Broughton Green near Droitwich, who plans to use the co-funding scheme to benefit his community, said: “Broughton Green is a tiny village and would never be economically viable for connection through the Superfast Worcestershire programme or commercial deployment.
“The co-funding scheme is a way communities like ours can get some financial support, which we can combine with our own funding to get our village connected. We are delighted to be part of Worcestershire County Council’s continued commitment to connect isolated and rural communities to 21st century technology.
“Having the option of Worcestershire County Council contributing to getting us connected will reduce the cost to our community even further. High-speed broadband promises to touch and improve on nearly every aspect of modern-day life. This will have a significant impact on all members of our community, whether they are school children accessing online educational material, companies running businesses or residents working from home.
“I’d definitely recommend that any communities that are not included in the Superfast Worcestershire roll-out get in touch with the County Council. This new scheme will ensure our community gets connected, and effectively gives those previously isolated communities a voice and identity in the digital landscape.”
The co-funding scheme – known as a Local Body Partnership (LBP) – aims to bring high-speed broadband to more of the county’s smallest, remote communities not yet earmarked for any public or private sector roll-outs, by sharing the infrastructure and installation costs, which would otherwise be too expensive. The County Council has set aside £500,000 to support communities through the scheme, which can be used to contribute towards money raised by eligible communities to make the technology available.
Currently 94 per cent of county premises can access superfast broadband. This is as a result of the Superfast Worcestershire programme, which is being led by Worcestershire County Council and BT Group, as part of the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.
The Business Connection Voucher Scheme, funded through the European Regional Development Fund, will help local businesses get connected by offering a voucher of up to £1,500 to each eligible business in need of faster fibre broadband. The scheme will assist businesses to meet up to half of the costs of installing a fibre broadband connection to their premises.
In addition to the new schemes, that allow communities and businesses to take control of their future broadband provision, Worcestershire County Council is seeking additional funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The County Council is committed to taking coverage further by also investing elements of underspend or other funds arising from earlier contracts to extend superfast broadband infrastructure further into Worcestershire.
Councillor Ken Pollock, Cabinet Member responsible for Economy and Infrastructure, said: “Bringing the latest technology to the final four per cent of Worcestershire premises is challenging and requires innovative solutions. Our co-funding scheme for communities and the voucher scheme for businesses are just two of the ways where we are working hard to ensure that even our most rural communities have access to superfast broadband. Access to fast and reliable broadband is essential for everyone who lives, works and invests in Worcestershire, and it will ensure that our county is, and remains, Open for Business.”
The County Council’s new co-funding initiative complements the one run by Openreach, the business responsible for Britain’s largest telephone and broadband network.
Steve Haines, Openreach’s Managing Director of Next Generation Access, said: “We know how vital fast internet is to communities. Bringing new technology to tiny, remote communities can be challenging and expensive, which is why these kinds of initiatives are becoming increasingly important and popular.
“Whether it’s streaming TV in the home, doing homework online, or downloading large files in the office – superfast broadband makes doing anything online faster. With a choice of many broadband providers and the variety of services and prices they offer, the Openreach network provides real choice.”
For full details on how to apply to the schemes, and to check if your community or business is eligible, visit: www.superfastworcestershire.com
Residents and businesses in the affected areas should consider which option is most suitable for their community. If in doubt, the programme team can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.