Broadband up to speed
More than 750 rural homes and businesses will get gigabit-capable broadband by December 2021 as part of a £2.1 million scheme to extend the fibre-optic network further into Buckinghamshire’s countryside.
The project is a partnership between Buckinghamshire Council, Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and telecoms provider Openreach.
The Buckinghamshire Rural Business Broadband project will provide ‘fibre to the premises’ connections capable of gigabit (1,000mbps) speeds to 270 of the county’s most rural businesses, and 485 residential premises in the surrounding communities.
The scheme is funded by a £1.8m grant through the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and a contribution from Openreach.
Welcoming the news, Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire Council, said local authorities in the county had a strong track record of support for broadband improvements for residents and businesses in areas considered commercially unviable.
Since 2013, through partnership schemes with the partnership, superfast broadband had been connected to more than 50,000 homes and businesses in the county, and 96.4% of premises now have superfast broadband speeds – up from 68.3% when the work began in 2013.
Mr Tett said: ‘In Buckinghamshire we have one of the highest percentages of small businesses of any council area, and they make a significant contribution to the national economy.
‘While we’re building a gigabit Britain, many of our rural residents and businesses are still struggling to operate with broadband at a snail’s pace, and I’m pleased this project brings many more out from a digital backwater and on to the superfast highway.’
Martin said the council and the partnership would work with the Government to ensure that all residents and businesses in Buckinghamshire can benefit from improved digital connectivity, and see how the county could benefit from the £5 billion Whitehall has set aside for gigabit-capable broadband.
Richard Harrington, CEO of Buckinghamshire LEP, said: ‘We are thrilled to be able to support this project in its aim to provide better connectivity to our poorest served businesses.
‘It is vital we support businesses in their aims to digitise, especially as we look past COVID-19 and the changes to workplace models we are seeing. Buckinghamshire LEP are working towards a new digital strategy for Buckinghamshire, and better digital infrastructure forms a core component of this.’
Laura Whelan, Openreach Regional Partnerships Director South and East, said: ‘We have already made a great deal of progress across Buckinghamshire as a result of our partnership on the Connected Counties programme, making faster broadband available to tens of thousands of properties for the first time.
“The last five months have proved the vital importance of being connected. We know there is more to do, particularly in the most remote areas, and that’s why we’re delighted to be working with Buckinghamshire Council on extending that reach even further.
‘We’ve also recently announced our own Openreach commitment to extend our fibre build to include the Gerrards Cross and Penn exchanges as part of our ambition to cover more harder to reach areas in the county.’
Fibre optic engineer up a telegraph pole.