Month: December 2014

New £6 million scheme gives Superfast Broadband boost to thousands more Cheshire homes and businesses

Connecting Cheshire has announced a multi-million pound boost to its roll-out of superfast fibre broadband, which will result in the technology becoming available to thousands more homes and businesses. Another 10,000 Cheshire homes and businesses are expected to have access to fibre broadband by summer 2017 as a result of the £6m project signed between four Cheshire councils and BT for a second phase “Superfast Extension Programme”.

It is expected to take fibre broadband coverage in Cheshire to more than 400,000 homes and businesses when BT’s commercial roll-out of the technology is also taken into account.

It was revealed at a signing ceremony that BT had won the contract to extend the superfast network across the county. Work will start on the planning of the additional network in autumn 2015.  The money has come from Government, and Cheshire councils and it will be supplemented by funding from BT.

Councillor David Brown, Deputy Leader of Cheshire East Council said: “I am delighted we are able to extend the coverage of the Connecting Cheshire project to reach even more premises, particularly in our rural areas, where we know so many people are struggling with slow and unreliable broadband speeds. This is great news for small businesses, students and people of all ages who need and rely on excellent-quality broadband for so many of their modern-day needs.”

Julian Cobley Connecting Cheshire Project Director said: “The response to our current roll-out has been tremendous, with ever more homes and businesses taking the opportunity to upgrade to faster broadband.  So to be able to extend this opportunity to 10,000 additional premises is fantastic news.”

Bill Murphy, managing director of Next Generation Access for BT, which is contributing some £1.7m towards the new programme, said:  “BT has always said there is more to do in Cheshire truly to encourage businesses and residents to create the connected communities they want and deserve. So we are delighted to be given the chance to give a further 10,000 Cheshire homes and businesses the opportunity to invent a new, more prosperous future.”

The fibre broadband network built by Connecting Cheshire, a partnership of four Cheshire councils, BT and the European Regional Development Fund, will give thousands access to this ground-breaking technology.  More than 48,000 premises have already been passed out of a total of 80,000 covered by the first phase of the Connecting Cheshire programme which will finish at the end of 2015.

And, in part of this second phase, more than £600,000 from the Rural Community Broadband Fund will be targeted at especially difficult places to reach in Cheshire.  Connecting Cheshire has just finished a consultation to pinpoint the areas to be included in this part of the programme.  Further announcements about the areas with additional coverage will be made during 2015 once the network planning and design phase has been completed by BT. Fibre broadband, which can boost the competitiveness of businesses, helping them to grow and work more efficiently, also helps people to work from home and to set up businesses from home. It was hailed by Cheshire’s Tatton MP, The Rt Hon George Osborne, in a broadband launch last month at Lower Peover, as “helping to reinvent the rural economy”.

The technology also offers new online learning and entertainment opportunities for households and transforms TV watching, gaming and film streaming.

Among the many people who are finding that high-speed fibre broadband has transformed their life at home and at work is Mike Gibbons, the managing director of Definteco based in Runcorn, which specialises in the design and project management of integrated technology solutions.  These include audio visual systems, security and data networks, for super-yachts worldwide. Since he upgraded to fibre in October, Mike, who lives in Sandymoor, Halton, has seen his  broadband speed increase from 5 Mbps to 75 Mbps, which allows him to  spend more time working from home and with his family.

He said: “With two teenage daughters we are heavy users of social media, streaming films and catch-up TV.  We’ve gone from 5 Mbps to 75 Mbps, and the difference has been huge.  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.”

Pictured (from left): Bill Murphy, managing director of Next Generation Access for BT; Cllr David Brown, Deputy Leader of Cheshire East Council and Julian Cobley, programme director Connecting Cheshire.

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Government launches national ‘Go Superfast’ campaign

The government has launched an advertising and communications campaign, raising awareness of superfast broadband. It will focus on the benefits of the superfast network and the work that the government is doing to make sure people across the UK enjoy access to it.

The Government believes every business, community, family and individual should be able to share in the benefits of Superfast Broadband. Every £1 spent will see a £20 return on economic benefits, which is why it’s leading an ambitious programme to rapidly expand Superfast Broadband access, to (near) universal coverage of homes and businesses.

The campaign will include TV, radio and billboard advertising. To see the TV advert see here

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Connecting Cheshire launches Digital Learning Champions scheme

Connecting Cheshire is looking for volunteers to help others in their community get online, enjoy the benefits of the internet and gain basic digital skills.

We are not looking for IT experts, but people who are empathetic and encouraging; willing to give between 1 and 2 hours per week to help others enjoy the benefits of getting online and gain the confidence to get the most from their devices such as tablets or laptops.

What will a Digital Learning Champion do?

The main role of a Champion will be to support and encourage someone who may never have used a computer before or want to improve their skills.

Typical activities may include:

  • Showing them how to use email, browse the web or find information
  • Promoting the benefits of being online and showing them tools that might interest them e.g. tracing family history or pursuing a hobby
  • Signposting them to where they can learn more.
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