Month: November 2014

Digital Challenge Awards 2014 success

Connecting Cheshire is celebrating its success at the NextGen Digital Challenge Awards in Derby in November 2014 for its work rolling out urban and rural broadband.

In the fourth annual awards ceremony, Connecting Cheshire was named runner-up in the “Urban & Rural Broadband Award.”

NextGen Digital Challenge Awards showcase the best in next generation digital access infrastructure innovation, with the aim of developing aspects of the UK’s digital economy. The awards recognise innovative and inspiring examples of projects they feel deserve wider recognition. This year the awards categories included achievements in Open Data, Digital Inclusion, Connected Cities, Urban and Rural Broadband and Digital Education & Expertise.

The runner-up award was presented to Connecting Cheshire by Lesley Cowley OBE to Cllr David Brown, Deputy Leader of Cheshire East Council and Andrew Arditti, Connecting Cheshire’s Digital Engagement Manager.

The award comes after previous recognition in the Government’s Improvement Efficiency Awards 2014 and the Municipal Journal Awards 2014.

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Chancellor joins Connecting Cheshire’s superfast celebration

Chancellor George Osborne has helped give superfast broadband a boost in Cheshire East. The Tatton MP switched-on the latest fibre broadband cabinet to join Connecting Cheshire’s superfast fibre broadband network in Lower Peover.

The celebration also marked a year since Holmes Chapel became the first community to benefit from the Connecting Cheshire roll-out in.

During its first year the project has reached almost 50,000 additional premises with fibre broadband bringing more than 90 per cent coverage to Cheshire, Halton and Warrington.

The Rt Hon George Osborne MP said: “I’ve been a huge supporter of getting high-speed broadband across Cheshire on behalf of the people I represent.

“The work Connecting Cheshire and BT are doing, bringing additional fibre broadband to homes and businesses, is vital for the local economy.  It allows people to work where they want and brings entertainment and knowledge to people and families at home.”

Mr Osborne also provided answers to the following questions:

Why is investing in faster broadband, especially for rural areas so important?
“The Connecting Cheshire projects, and over 40 others across the country, are working hard to ensure a more level playing field for rural communities: over the past year in Cheshire almost 50,000 additional premises can now access faster broadband. For too long rural areas have literally been in the slow lane when it came to broadband and this project is making great strides to ensure everyone can exploit the benefits of superfast broadband, wherever they live or work.”

What impact will the investment have on the Cheshire economy?
“All the businesses I meet locally tell me that good connectivity is crucial to their survival. Britain is leading the world in e-commerce and it makes up a growing proportion of our GDP, currently approaching 20 per cent. (source ONS ) Thanks to Connecting Cheshire, a business in Plumley or Alderley Edge can now access broadband speeds on a par with London. Other benefits such as being able to video conference customers and suppliers all over the world from your office rather than having to drive or fly to meet is one example of how faster broadband is transforming business.”

What would be your message to anyone unsure about upgrading to fibre broadband?
“The broadband market in the UK is very competitive, via the Openreach network, residents and business have access to many internet service providers offering a range of packages to suit all requirements, whether for home or business use. My advice would be to shop around for the best deal and take advantage of the benefits – remember it doesn’t happen automatically – you need to order an upgrade once its available in your area.”

What about those premises outside of the current roll-out?
“A further programme to extend fibre broadband coverage to even more premises was announced earlier this year. Cheshire’s allocation of £2.12m from the government’s Broadband Delivery UK’s (BDUK) superfast extension programme is being matched by the Connecting Cheshire partnership to invest further and extend coverage to around 99 per cent of premises by the end of 2017. Combined with advances in technology from BT and others, we should soon be able to ensure even the most remote premises can benefit from faster speeds, which will be especially welcomed by our more remote farming and rural communities.”

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 BDUK and the European Union.

Lower Peover joins nearby communities in Plumley, Chelford, Knutsford and Sutton which have recently had their first cabinets upgraded with fibre. More cabinets will be added to the network in the coming months as the network is expanded to reach 96 per cent coverage by the end of 2015.

To check availability enter either a postcode or telephone number.

With more than 20 internet service providers active, there is a wide choice of broadband packages for home and business use. To upgrade contact a service provider or shop around for the best deal, the upgrade does not happen automatically.

Mike Blackburn, BT’s regional director for the North West, said: “BT is keenly aware of the need to provide the fibre broadband network and technology to support the local economy in Cheshire whether people are working from offices or their homes.

“BT has spent £2.5 billion building its own UK-wide network and is pleased that the Government has supplied the BDUK funding to help boost coverage in Cheshire to 96 per cent with the Connecting Cheshire programme by the end of next year.”

Councillor David Brown, Deputy Leader of Cheshire East Council, on behalf of the partnership said “Over the past year we have reached many homes and businesses that otherwise would still be languishing in the internet slow lane.

“Connecting Cheshire has made a great start but further challenges remain and we will continue in our quest to reach more premises with faster and more reliable broadband.”

Sir Howard Bernstein, vice chair of the North West European Regional Development Fund local management committee, said: “Now a year into its roll-out, 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.

Photo caption: Marc Dewhurst – BT Openreach Engineering Manager shows George Osborne MP the newly live fibre optic cabinet in Lower Peover.

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