Eight communities in Cornwall will be the first to receive superfast broadband services as part of a £132m EU-backed project to bring high-speed fibre links to the region.
More than 10,000 premises will be able to access the service by the end of March 2011 after BT announced the locations for the pilot phase of a wider roll-out that will deliver fibre broadband to between 80 and 90% of businesses and households in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly by 2014.
The project is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund Convergence programme, providing up to £53.5m depending on customer demand, and £78.5m from BT.
Carolyn Rule, Cornwall Council cabinet member for economy and regeneration, said, "The project has been making very good progress since it was announced less than two months ago. It shows the power of the public and private sectors working together to help build a bright, strong future for us all."
Nigel Ashcroft, director of next generation broadband for the Cornwall Development Company, said the region is looking forward to taking advantage of the fibre roll-out, said, "This is an incredibly innovative and pioneering project never before done on this scale. A pilot scheme in these eight locations will provide valuable feedback at an early stage as we prepare for the early phases of the roll-out programme primarily in the south-east of the county," he said.
"A huge amount of engineering work is required for this complex project, but our surveys have shown that these communities can be upgraded relatively quickly. It means that early next year the first Cornish customers will be experiencing the huge benefits offered by superfast broadband."
One BT rival has previously provoked controversy over BT's selection as the winning bidder for the project. Vtesse Networks, which was the losing bidder, complained to the European courts about unfair competition.
BT says the high-speed network installed by its regulated infrastructure arm Openreach will be available on an equal basis to any ISPs providing broadband services, but Vtesse argues that Openreach is failing to provide equivalent access to the network segment between the street cabinet and the local exchange on the same terms that it charges BT.
The eight chosen areas for the pilot are Leedstown, Chiverton Cross, St Agnes, Portreath, St Day, Devoran, Stenalees and Par.