Month: October 2014

Cheshire’s fibre broadband boost for 40,000 additional premises

Connecting Cheshire has now reached the half-way point in its roll-out – with more than 40,000 additional homes and businesses now able to upgrade to fibre broadband.

The new fibre networks have been built by Openreach, BT’s network provider, on behalf of the Connecting Cheshire Partnership of the four local authorities across Cheshire (Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Halton and Warrington borough councils) and BT, with additional funding from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and the European Union.

BT Openreach engineers have installed more than 200 new roadside cabinets and laid around 400 kilometres of fibre optic cable to date, often in challenging conditions underground in both urban and remote rural areas.

Areas now able to access fibre include:

  • Cheshire East – Alderley Edge, Disley, Poynton, Plumley and Sutton;
  • Cheshire West – Burton, Keslall, Kingsley, Sandiway and Weaverham;
  • Halton – Hale, Sandymoor, Manor Park and Widnes;
  • Warrington – Westbrook, Whittle Hall and Padgate.

Councillor David Brown, Deputy Leader of Cheshire East Council, on behalf of the Partnership said: “We are well on our way to reaching 96 per cent of premises and bringing a much-needed advantage to the county – both for businesses and home users

“I urge everyone to check their availability and upgrade to faster broadband, to shop around for the best deal and take advantage of the real benefits.”

To check availability visit the Connecting Cheshire website and enter either a postcode or telephone number – http://www.connectingcheshire.org.uk/check-availability

Mike Blackburn, BT’s regional director for the North West, said:  “Cheshire businesses and homes are half way there and it’s due, in large part,  to the efforts of the Openreach engineers who have worked flat out to make the network available to so many in such a short time.  There is still the other half to complete but soon this vital technology will have connected communities right across Cheshire.”

Sir Howard Bernstein, vice chair of the North West European Regional Development Fund local management committee, said: “This programme is already helping local businesses make the most of superfast broadband, improving performance and helping to create and safeguard jobs.

“It is providing a major boost to the Cheshire economy and the North West European Regional Development Fund* programme is pleased to be supporting it financially.”

The £28.5m Connecting Cheshire project will provide fibre broadband to more than 80,000 homes and businesses.

This builds on BT’s commercial investment so that 96 percent of Cheshire – around 400,000 premises – will have access to speeds of up to 80mbps by the end of 2015.

Cheshire’s fibre broadband boost for 40,000 additional premises [PDF – 336kb]

 

Picture: BT Openreach engineers at work deploying the fibre network across Cheshire:

From Left to Right: Barry Theaker and, John Orritt – Engineering Co-ordinators and Marc Dewhurst – Engineering Manager.

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Superfast broadband provides business boost for female entrepreneurs

Connecting Cheshire has awarded Blue Orchid a £75,000 contract to deliver specialist support and events for female entrepreneurs in Cheshire to help them boost their businesses by using the latest digital technologies.

The ‘Connecting Cheshire: Women in Business’ programme will give women-led businesses the comprehensive and practical advice they need to maximise the potential that faster broadband and digital technology can bring to business.

Blue Orchid Area Manager, Kerry Hall, explains: “The Internet has made connecting with a global market much easier and faster; but knowing where to start and how to build a solid infrastructure to expand and enhance your business can be quite a daunting challenge.

“Over the next five months we will be delivering a series of free workshops and awareness sessions providing practical tips and advice to women-led businesses and female entrepreneurs in Cheshire to give them the knowledge and skills that will benefit their business.”

Sessions will include mentors, business clubs, awareness and training. The programme is open to businesses owned or led by women; budding female entrepreneurs; and women returning to work and is available in the Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Warrington and Halton council areas.

One Cheshire based female entrepreneur who has already signed up to take advantage of the Connecting Cheshire: Women in Business programme is Emma Cornes, who recently won the Bentley Motors Young Business Person of the Year Award at the Cheshire Business Awards.

Emma produces luxury handbags made of British tweed and first worked with Blue Orchid in March 2013 when she needed advice on business planning.  Her business has gone from strength to strength and she is now selling on-line to markets as far a field as New Zealand.  Emma explains: “I’m keen to get to grips with the opportunities that new technology can bring. It isn’t just about working smarter – though that really helps – but it’s about being able to sell all round the world. We only sell online, so we’re completely dependent on the technology to build a profitable, sustainable business.”

Connecting Cheshire is a partnership between BT and Cheshire West and Chester, Cheshire East, Halton and Warrington councils, which is bringing Superfast fibre broadband to 96 per cent of homes and businesses by the end of 2015.

Funding for the programme has been provided by the Government’s Equalities Office Women and Broadband Challenge Fund.

Minister for Women and Equalities, Nicky Morgan, said: “This fund will give women the practical help needed to get their businesses on-line and take advantage of superfast broadband. This will include online mentors, business clubs and training courses so that women all over the country can benefit.”

A key aim of the programme is to help female entrepreneurs in Cheshire take advantage of digital technologies to transform the way they do business or set up a new business from home.  It will focus on women living in rural or semi-rural areas and those working in retail, creative industries and the visitor economy sectors.

Kerry continued: “We want to encourage all female entrepreneurs to take advantage of this programme whether they have experience and knowledge of digital technology and how it works or whether looking to use the technology for the first time.  Our practical sessions will be designed for all levels of skill and it is our intention to grow the number of successful women-led businesses in Cheshire through this programme.”

The free sessions will take place across the region until March 2015.  Find out more by visiting  www.blueorchid.co.uk/connecting-cheshire

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Fibre broadband coverage increasing in Halton

Two new cabinets in Sandymoor in Runcorn have now been connected to fibre broadband thanks to the Connecting Cheshire project, meaning an additional 800 properties in Halton can now upgrade their broadband service. The new cabinets in Sandymoor follow cabinets that went live in Runcorn, Widnes and Hale earlier this year. Further cabinets in the borough will be going live early in 2015 as well. Across the county, over 36,000 properties can now access fibre broadband thanks to the Connecting Cheshire project with 2,887 of those in Halton.

Halton residents and businesses can check availability of fibre broadband. If it is available, you need to contact your internet service provider, or shop around for the best deal and order an upgrade to fibre broadband.

Connecting Cheshire is a partnership of four councils – Halton, Cheshire West and Chester, Cheshire East and Warrington – and BT, with additional funding from BDUK and the EU. The £28.5m project will provide fibre broadband to more than 80,000 homes and businesses. This builds on BT’s commercial investment so that 96 percent of Cheshire – around 400,000 premises – will have access to speeds of up to 80Mbps by the end of 2015.

Cllr Polhill, Leader of Halton Borough Council said: “Work in Halton is well underway and more of our residents and businesses are getting the chance to upgrade to fibre broadband, which will have real benefits for them. Our roll-out will be continuing and more areas in the borough will be able to upgrade soon.”

Councillors John and Marjorie Bradshaw (Daresbury Ward) say, “Fibre broadband coming to Sandymoor is great news and we are pleased that local residents can now upgrade and take advantage of improved and faster broadband. It will be a real boon for private users and even better for those working from home.”

Mike Blackburn BT’s north west regional director, said: “This further expansion of the fibre broadband network in Cheshire will bring real benefits to communities and business in Sandymoor. People and firms need to grasp this opportunity to create a truly connected community and sign up with their internet providers.”

One of the first Sandymoor residents to upgrade to fibre has been Mike Gibbons; who is also the Managing Director of Definteco Ltd based in Runcorn who specialise in the design and project management of integrated technology solutions, including audio visual systems, security, and data networks, for installation onto super yachts worldwide.

Mike is now in the often common situation whereby his home speed is now faster than his office, so it will mean he can spend more time working from home and with his family. Mike takes up the story: “We’ve now gone from 5Mbps to 75Mbps and the difference has been huge! With two teenage daughters we are heavy users of social media, streaming films and catch-up TV – and it’s all now happening instantly, whereas before fibre it was a slow and frustrating process keeping everyone online and entertained. For my business things are now much better too, I can upload and download large files and technical drawings, video conference with clients and as I travel a lot, my family can now keep in touch with me via video calls wherever I’m working.”

Sir Howard Bernstein, vice chair of the North West European Regional Development Fund local management committee, said: “This programme is already helping local businesses make the most of superfast broadband, improving performance and helping to create and safeguard jobs, it is providing a major boost to the Cheshire economy and the North West European Regional Development Fund programme is pleased to be supporting it financially.”

The amount of coverage of fibre broadband will also be increasing. Following a recent Government announcement the public sector partners within Connecting Cheshire will be working on its Superfast Extension Programme from March 2015. The extension programme will see a further £4m invested in superfast broadband infrastructure so that even more areas are connected. The network, being built by more than 100 planners and engineers at Openreach, BT’s local network business, will be open to all communications providers on an equal basis. Currently more than 140 communications providers offer fibre broadband services over BT’s network. This will enable the people of Cheshire to choose the provider and broadband package that best suits their need. Around 875 miles of fibre-optic cable will be laid and more than 400 new roadside cabinets installed by spring 2015.

Photograph: Mike Gibbons – local resident, Cllr John Bradshaw – HBC councillor – Daresbury ward, Cllr Marjorie Bradshaw – HBC councillor – Daresbury ward, Graham Evans MP for Weaver Vale.

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Connecting Cheshire’s Superfast Extension Programme

Connecting Cheshire is now well underway with our work to bring fibre broadband to 96% of Cheshire by 2015. Once this comes to an end, we will be starting work on our next phase of work to bring fibre broadband to areas which aren’t part of our current roll-out and bring our coverage up to around 99% of homes and businesses.

In order to expand fibre broadband coverage, we’ve secured two new funding streams which will help us to connect even more premises in Cheshire. We have been allocated £2.12m from the government’s Broadband Delivery UK’s (BDUK) Superfast Extension Programme. We’ve also been awarded £643,000 of BDUK funding to reach additional rural premises in some specific areas. Alongside this, we have funding from the four local authorities in the Connecting Cheshire Partnership (Cheshire East, Cheshire West & Chester, Halton Borough and Warrington Borough Councils). The combined £5.7m budget that we have will help us to increase our coverage of Cheshire from the planned 96% up to around 99% by 2017.

Preparation work has already begun on our Superfast Extension Programme. After a month-long consultation, which started in August, we have now issued an ‘Invitation to Tender’ document, which follows a national process that is set out by the Government to find a supplier. It is up to the bidders now to respond and tell us which premises they can reach and how they plan to do so within our budget. We will then evaluate this information and agree the specific coverage that our Superfast Extension Programme will provide. We hope to conclude the procurement in early 2015. This will be followed by a period of mobilisation and then a planning and survey phase. Until this point we will be unable to clarify the exact coverage.

The Superfast Extension Programme will help Connecting Cheshire in its commitment to bringing fibre broadband to as much of the county as is possible and we will keep you informed of our progress via our website and our new e-newsletter, and you can join our mailing list by registering your interest.

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