Hampshire County Council has signed a deal with BT to roll-out superfast broadband across the county.
The council will be investing £5m into the project – alongside £5m from the central government Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme – and BT will make up the remaining £3.8m which it claims will benefit 57,000 homes and business in the region.
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“Encouraging and enabling people and businesses to get online is one of our top priorities,” said the leader of Hampshire County Council, councillor Ken Thornber.
“It will allow Hampshire residents and businesses to transform the way they live, work and communicate benefiting from new social and economic opportunities as well as reducing the costs of public services.”
BT has promised the first connections will be ready by the end of this year. However, the overall target is to enable 90% of the county to get superfast broadband by the end of 2015, with the other 10% having access to a minimum of 2Mbps within the same timeframe – in line with government targets.
BT admitted it may have to use alternative technologies to reach more rural parts of the county, but it is conducting surveys to discover the best way to serve up the connectivity.
“This is fantastic news for Hampshire and this project will move the county well and truly into the broadband fast lane with fibre being rolled out to more than nine out of ten properties in the county,” said Bill Murphy, managing director of Next Generation Access at BT.
“We are proud to be involved in this important programme which will boost the local economy and keep Hampshire connected and competitive for the future.”
The contract being awarded to BT came as no surprise after it was revealed earlier this week its only rival in the BDUK bids had pulled out.
Fujitsu and BT were the only two operators to have all the criteria required by government to bid on local authority contracts to deploy broadband. However, the Japanese firm released a statement on Monday saying added caveats had destroyed its prospects of winning any deals, leaving little point in it continuing to bid.
“Various conditions surrounding the BDUK process, which we have discussed with the DCMS, effectively rule Fujitsu out of the competition for new areas,” said a spokesman.
“So while we remain supportive of the process and its objectives, we are not actively pursuing opportunities within it. Our focus now is very much on urban and city opportunities.”
The head of BT Openreach, Liv Garfield, has denied accusations of favouritism towards her firm, telling Computer Weekly: “These are just bids and it is a complete matter of choice – choice for every buyer.”