Month: March 2015

Connecting Cheshire reaches 60,000 premises

High-speed fibre broadband is now available to  more than 60,000 homes and businesses under the Connecting Cheshire Partnership, providing faster and more reliable broadband services across Cheshire.

Many rural areas are now joining the fibre fast lane and seeing a major increase in broadband speeds, often ten times their previous speeds. In some cases  speeds of up to 80mbps* are now available for premises close to the 320 new roadside fibre-optic cabinets installed by the partnership to date.

The expansion is part of a £28.5 million project between BT and four Cheshire Councils – Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Halton, and Warrington – rolling out high-speed fibre broadband across the county. They are working in addition to the private sector’s commercial programmes  to reach 80,000 premises with faster and more reliable broadband by the end of June this year. This will bring the total figure for Connecting Cheshire and commercial roll-out to 96 per cent coverage across Cheshire.

A second phase roll-out is under development which will see an additional 10,000 premises reached by the end of 2017, to provide more rural areas with much needed faster speeds.

The latest green street cabinet containing the fibre connections has just been switched on at Lymm, near Warrington. Other recent areas enabled with faster broadband include Mickle Trafford, Pickmere and Moore.

Julian Cobley, head of investment and project director for Connecting Cheshire, said:  said: “Reaching as many additional premises as possible with fibre has been a hugely rewarding investment in Cheshire’s economic and social development, but we realise there is still much work remaining to ensure more homes and businesses are not left behind without fast and reliable broadband.

“Work is underway to reach as many premises as we can, so please bear with us if we haven’t got to you yet, we know how important Internet access is to everyone – young or old and to businesses in particular.”

Mike Blackburn, BT’s regional director for the North West, said: “Our engineers and planners are working as fast as they can to deliver more fibre broadband and are connecting homes and businesses every day. From unblocking underground ducting to commissioning new roadside cabinets, their hard work and dedication is making a huge contribution to this project.”

Christine East, director of local business Lymm Pet Supplies, has recently benefited from the Connecting Cheshire Women in Business programme. This was an ideal opportunity for Chris to gain up to date knowledge and benefit from the free support and advice available. Support included setting up an electronic card payment system, a cloud based system for both invoicing and stock control and email marketing. When asked if she would recommend the service to others, she responded: “Absolutely! I have been able to immediately implement these tools into my business and see immediate results!”


Photo caption: BT Openreach engineer at work in Warrington Town Centre.

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News from the fibre front line

Dan Hague is the Senior Project Manager who leads the BT Openreach deployment team to delivering the fibre network for the Connecting Cheshire programme and we asked him some questions about the ongoing work.

  • How is the project progressing?

We’re progressing at pace and made huge progress over the last 6 months. We have now passed over 60 000 premises. Soon we will be over 70 000, both of which are great milestones.

  • What are the current issues that you’re facing?

Taking fibre optic cable to rural areas of Cheshire is challenging. Placing cables in the underground duct network involves ducts often not accessed for decades.  We face issues with blockages, collapsed ducts, silt, water and cable congestion. We have techniques to clear blockages but often have to dig the footway or highway. When we need to dig, we need permission from Highways departments and often traffic management. These elements require coordination and time, but the Openreach team has some of the best experts in this field to ensure we keep progressing quickly and safely.

  • Why are some areas taking longer to reach than others?

This type of engineering takes highly skilled engineers. Resources are a factor in speed of delivery.  Some areas are particularly challenging to reach; for example historic city centres where digging is a challenge and very rural areas when significant lengths of new duct are required to be placed in the ground, and even new poles for overhead cabling. We’ve made excellent progress in most areas. Some remain particularly challenging. In such cases there really has been no option but to press on and resolve issues ‘one at a time’.  This has taken time, but the Connecting Cheshire project remains committed to that delivery.

  • What are the challenges for the Phase 2 Superfast Extension Programme?

Challenges will continue into phase 2, with even harder to reach areas. We have highly motivated and skilled engineering teams that will ensure we take superfast broadband to even more people across Cheshire.

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Virgin launches demand registration scheme for their new roll-out

Virgin Media is asking communities across the country to register their interest in extending coverage through a ‘Cable my Street’ campaign.

You can give Virgin your postcode and they will keep you up-to-date directly.

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