A total of 82% of premises in Cornwall can now access superfast broadband through the Superfast Cornwall project, which aims to connect 95% by the end of 2014.
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More than 35,000 homes and around 4,130 small businesses are now making use of the superfast connection.
The project, which is funded by the EU, Cornwall Council and BT now has connections to 200,000 premises in Cornwall. Currently, about 18% of these have taken up the broadband that offers speeds between 24Mbps and 330Mbps. Cornwall wants 30% of its connections to the premises to be fibre, compared to the UK average of 0.3%.
Nigel Ashcroft, Superfast Cornwall programme director at the Cornwall Development company, said the percentage of coverage is not as important as the number of people using it.
“People are obsessed with the percentage but I am more interested in who is actually using it,” he said.
Research carried out by Plymouth University has revealed that the superfast broadband is already benefiting the country’s businesses.
It revealed that from the sample of businesses surveyed, there were 767 jobs created by the superfast broadband and 1390 protected. “More than 2000 jobs that would not have been in Cornwall if it was not for superfast broadband,” said Adrian Dawson, head of projects and partnerships at Plymouth University/Serio.
The lack of connectivity in Cornwall had held businesses back and many had left the region.
Alun Morgan, technical director at Cornwall based ARCOL UK, which manufactures resistors for electronic equipment, said superfast broadband is “Cornwall’s HS2.”
“We had wanted to invest in a new company management system and IT infrastructure for a long time. Our old system was slow and we simply didn’t have the bandwidth to allow staff to log in remotely while on business trips or working from home. Likewise, we would often need to run reports overnight to avoid crashing the system.
"We wanted a system that would allow us to make the best use of cloud technology to have a company-wide enterprise management system (ERP) that integrates all aspects of the business.
"A key feature for us was the need to be able to access the system remotely whilst we are away on business abroad, as well as providing key customers with portal facilities so that they can place and manage their orders on line. Our new bespoke ERP system allows us to do all this and more. None of this would have been possible without superfast broadband.”
We are a fast-growing business and superfast broadband has enabled us to invest in cutting-edge technology
Jess Ratty, KEO Digital
Jess Ratty, communications manager at digital marketing company KEO Digital, said: “The fact that superfast broadband was in Newquay was an important factor in the decision to relocate to Cornwall. We simply could not run our digital business effectively without superfast connectivity.
“We are a fast growing business and superfast broadband has enabled us to invest in cutting-edge technology and high-calibre people. Our digital projects have a massive reach from Newquay, across the UK – and the world.”
To increase the take-up by local businesses and residents there is a communications challenge ahead. “It’s as much about communications as the stuff in the ground,” said Ranulf Scarbrough, programme director at BT.
Once 95% coverage is reached, the council aims to boost the connectivity of the remaining 5% (13,000 premises) using alternative technology. But as yet the remaining 5% is unknown to alternative service providers because BT has not allowed councils to release the details due to “commercial sensitivity.”
Brussels awarded Cornwall £270m in 2006 from the EU’s Convergence scheme to bring the area out of the monetary doldrums. Following a consultation, £53.5m of the European Regional Development Fund’s cash was allocated towards making Cornwall one of the most connected counties in the world.
The Superfast Cornwall project was born. With additional funding from telecoms giant BT and Cornwall Council, the overall fund reached £132m and the Cornwall Development Company (CDC) was put in.