Superfast broadband heading to Lancashire

Work has started in the first locations as part of Superfast Lancashire, the ambitious, multi-million pound project to make superfast broadband available throughout the county.

BT broadandThe project could create as many as 2,500 jobs, secure a further 1,200 and will see the creation of a new dedicated business centre. Engineers have now begun work in Caton, Chatburn, Forton and Galgate.

Around 2,500 homes and businesses in these communities will have access to fibre broadband (with speeds of up to 80Mbps) - once this initial phase of the county-wide roll-out is completed. The first customers are expected to be able to connect by September 2013. Further coverage in these areas will be delivered in future phases.

There will also be a substantial investment in making fibre broadband more widely available in areas which already have the high-speed technology such as Blackburn, Burnley, Lancaster and Leyland. In total, the first phase of the project should see more than 13,000 homes and businesses gain access to fibre broadband services.

Openreach engineers from BT will start work on laying around 2,700 kilometres of optical fibre cable and installing a total of around 700 new fibre broadband cabinets throughout the Superfast Lancashire Broadband Project area. It is estimated that engineers will complete over a million man hours of work planning and building the network during the lifetime of the project.

The project will use public and private sector funds to deliver high-speed broadband to parts of the country not covered by commercial roll out plans and will see the total amount invested in this technology in Lancashire rise to around £130m, including £16.5m of support from the European Regional Development Fund North West programme.

It also includes funds from supporting council partners Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen. The project will transform the broadband landscape across the county by extending access to fibre broadband to 97 per cent of premises by the end of 2015. This will ensure that Lancashire is one of the best connected counties in the UK.

Superfast Lancashire will also benefit those Lancashire premises which currently receive downstream speeds of less than 2Mbps. Ofcom believes that around 12 per cent of premises in Lancashire currently receive less than 2Mbps but that percentage will plummet to virtually zero as the Project will ensure they benefit from faster speeds.

The local economy will also benefit with the creation of 2,500 jobs and the protection of more than 1,200 jobs over the next few years. The county’s Enterprise Zones are a key priority as super-fast broadband will help local businesses to become even more competitive.

As part of the drive to stimulate business growth, funding from the project is being used to launch a Business Support Programme. A team of business advisors have been recruited to support the growth and development of local SMEs by showing them how super-fast broadband can be used to enhance their business. A specialised Business Support Centre will open in the summer. More detailed information on the roll-out will also be available at a new website: www.superfastlancashire.com in the coming months.

Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “Superfast Lancashire is hugely important for the county. This project will ensure that our people and businesses can benefit from the next generation of superfast broadband. Completing this project will put Lancashire at the forefront of the digital revolution." Mike Blackburn, BT’s regional director for the North West, said: “This ambitious Project will boost the productivity of local businesses and help to attract a more diverse range of high-growth companies to the area. It will play a major role in creating prosperity in the county.”