Broadband deal worth £20m signed by West Sussex County Council

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West Sussex County Council has signed a £20 million deal to bring Superfast Broadband to 44,000 rural homes and businesses across the county.

Fibre broadband will be rolled out to around 98 per cent of West Sussex homes and businesses within the next three years, following a multi-million partnership project between West Sussex County Council and BT.

The Better Connected West Sussex Broadband project builds on BT’s on-going commercial fibre deployment across the county, and will provide broadband infrastructure to over 44,000 premises with superfast speeds of at least 24Mbps by the start of Spring 2016.

On completion of the rollout, the aim is for all premises within West Sussex to receive a minimum of 2Mbps but with a vast majority achieving speeds well in excess of this.

The new fibre network will transform broadband speeds across the county and its rural areas. According to Ofcom, the county’s average downstream speed is currently 11.7Mbps whilst 9.7 per cent of premises receive less than 2Mbps.

BT has been chosen following an extensive and thorough selection process. The company is contributing £7.6m towards the overall cost of deployment in “non-commercial” areas while the county council is contributing £6.26m, with £6.26m coming from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funds.

Leader of the council Louise Goldsmith, who is responsible for economic issues, said: “We are delighted to have entered into a partnership arrangement with BT that will significantly increase the county’s opportunity to grow its economy, and help all residents to enjoy the benefits of being online.

“West Sussex County Council is very aware of the problems that slow speeds or in some cases, no broadband at all can cause local businesses and people working and running businesses from home. This was a key rationale behind the Council’s decision to invest more than £6 million to provide more access to better, faster broadband across the county.

“We are now looking to BT, having won the contract, to deliver services to those areas which we know are without.”

Bill Murphy, managing director Next Generation Access (NGA) for BT, added: “This is super news for the people of West Sussex. The county is mainly rural and over half of it lies in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There is a need to balance new development and infrastructure needed by communities to reduce congestion and support a vibrant local economy while maintaining the character of the county. This is where fibre broadband can play a key role, for example, by revitalising small towns, villages and hamlets by making it possible to start and run a connected business from these locations.”

Engineers for Openreach, BT’s local network business, will build the new fibre infrastructure.

Fibre to the Cabinet will be the main technology deployed. This can deliver wholesale downstream speeds of over 24Mbps (and in some cases up to 80Mbps), and upstream speeds of up to 20Mbps. Fibre to the Premises technology – delivering ultra-fast wholesale speeds of up to 330Mbps – will also be deployed in certain areas and will be available on demand throughout the whole of the fibre footprint should local businesses want the ultra-fast speeds it offers.

The new fibre-based network will be open to all communications providers on an equivalent basis.

Households and businesses in West Sussex will therefore benefit from a highly competitive market, bringing greater choice and affordable prices from a wide range of service providers.

It will also boost the competitiveness of local businesses, helping them to find new customers and operate more efficiently, whilst opening up a host of new learning and development opportunities for households.

Superfast broadband benefits include users being able to use multiple bandwidth-hungry applications at the same time and sending and receiving large amounts of data much more quickly and efficiently. New fibre services are set to transform the way consumers use the internet, from the simple sharing of pictures and video to enjoying the growing boom in entertainment services available on-line.

For local businesses, the fibre network will underpin the introduction of many new services and applications. Big business applications driven by new ‘cloud’ services will be within the reach of enterprises of all sizes. Computer back up, storage and processing will be faster, and the use of high-quality videoconferencing will become a viable possibility.