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Left to right: Clive Fenton, Bill Murphy, Mark Winnington, Andrew Field from BDUK.

Staffordshire superfast fibre broadband programme to reach most remote communities is UK first

An innovative programme to make superfast fibre broadband available in some of Staffordshire’s most remote communities is the first of its kind in the UK.

Superfast Staffordshire – the partnership led by Staffordshire County Council and BT – launched its Community Fibre Partnership Support Fund at Norton Bridge Golf Club, near Stone, one of the rural businesses looking forward to benefiting from the new scheme.

Staffordshire County Council devised the Community Fibre Partnership Support Fund (CFPSF) – believed to be the first local authority-led initiative of its kind – as part of its drive to reach the final four per cent of county premises not currently part of any public or private sector fibre broadband upgrade plans.

The Superfast Staffordshire partnership, which is part of the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, has set aside £400,000 for co-funding projects through its CFPSF.

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. Additional funding towards the extensive engineering work will come from Openreach, BT’s local network business, through BT’s Community Fibre Partnership programme, which is already working with hundreds of communities across the country.

Staffordshire’s unique approach has already been piloted in two communities – Cotwalton village and the Brookside Business Park, near Stone – where upgrade work will be completed later this year.

Today, nearby Cold Norton became the latest community to benefit from the Community Fibre Partnership Support Fund. As a result of this latest deal, around 50 premises in Cold Norton – including the recently opened Norton Bridge Golf Club – will be able to access some of the fastest broadband speeds in the country when the extensive upgrade work is completed within the next 12 months*.

Engineers from Openreach will be installing Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology, which is capable of delivering Ultrafast download speeds up to 1 Gigabit and upload speeds of up to 220Mbps.

Culture Secretary, Karen Bradley said:

Nine out of ten homes and businesses in the UK can now get superfast broadband, but we know there is still more to do. We’ve already taken superfast broadband to an extra 71,000 Staffordshire premises who would otherwise have missed out. Community Partnerships like this will help connect some of the hardest to reach places in the county, making sure no-one is left behind.”

Clive Fenton, resident of Cold Norton and community lead for the Community Fibre Partnership, said:

It was hard to accept that our community was not going to automatically have access to high speed broadband and that, to get this technology, we would need to make a contribution towards the cost. We looked at all the options but could see no sustainable solution. However, we were able to make a strong connection with BT and the Superfast Staffordshire team, who were determined to find an achievable solution for the community, and it is fantastic that the ultrafast fibre to the premises (FTTP) technology to be installed will future proof Cold Norton’s access to high speed communications.”

Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth leader, said:

Staffordshire is leading the way with a unique solution to connect our most hard to reach communities to superfast fibre broadband. The Superfast Staffordshire partnership has been a resounding success and will enable 96 per cent of properties to access fast broadband by the end of 2018. We have always said we would do all we could to reach the final four per cent and the Community Fibre Partnership Support Fund initiative is one of a number of ways we can do that. It is the first of its kind in the UK and other areas are already looking to follow our example. Access to superfast broadband improves quality of life and means businesses can thrive and that is why connecting communities is a priority to us.”

Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of next generation access, said:

“Partnerships like these help us to bring high-speed connections to challenging areas that the private sector would have difficulty reaching alone.
“Already more than 92 per cent of the UK can access superfast speeds and we’re committed to going even further, making fibre broadband as widely available as possible. This innovative approach in Staffordshire is giving an important new dimension to our Community Fibre Partnerships programme, which is already helping hundreds of similar projects across the UK. As a result, more households and businesses will be able to access faster broadband speeds at highly competitive prices from a wide choice of internet service providers.”

Andy Dennis, owner and manager of the Norton Bridge Golf Club, said:

A good broadband service is vital for our business, and we’re looking forward to being able to offer our members and visitors free, reliable wi-fi when they’re relaxing in the club house after a game.”

For more information and to apply to the Superfast Staffordshire Community Fibre Partnership Support Fund, people should go to: www.superfaststaffordshire.co.uk/other-information/CFPFund

More information about BT’s Community Fibre Partnership programme is available from: www.communityfibre.bt.com

So far Superfast Staffordshire has enabled around 71,000 households and businesses to connect to superfast broadband speeds. The figure rises to more than 470,000** when combined with commercial fibre roll-outs by private sector companies, such as BT.