More than 24,000 homes and businesses in Essex have been added to the Superfast Essex broadband rollout programme under a new multimillion-pound investment designed to reach many of the remaining areas not yet included in plans for superfast broadband.
Essex County Council has now signed three new contracts and one comprehensive contract change, which together make up Phase 3 of the Superfast Essex programme, to be delivered in parallel with Phase 2 and set for completion by December 2019.
Under the £24 million latest phase, the County Council is continuing its successful collaboration with BT, which will deliver superfast fibre broadband connectivity to a further 16,000 premises in central and south-eastern Essex. In addition, Superfast Essex has built on the success of its Rural Challenge pilot project and is now expanding the partnership with Gigaclear plc, who will extend their ultrafast fibre network in Essex to reach more than 8,000 premises in north-west Essex.
The new rollout phase is funded from project delivery savings from the Phase 1 rollout, which is now complete, as well as the re-investment of Phase 1 subsidy, which is being reclaimed from BT due to higher-than expected take-up of the new superfast broadband services by local households and businesses. In addition, a new local funding contribution from Uttlesford District Council and matching government grant from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) are being invested to boost coverage in Uttlesford District. All public funding for this rollout is being complemented by a significant investment from the private sector partners, BT and Gigaclear, bringing the total value of Superfast Essex Phase 3 to £24million.
The Superfast Essex interactive rollout map at www.superfastessex.org/maps has been updated to reflect the additional planned coverage and initial completion timescales have been included so far as known at this stage. Due to the significant additional work being added alongside the existing programme, we are in the process of making a number of adjustments to the rollout schedule to streamline the deployment work and ensure that the overall programme can be delivered in what is now a very challenging completion timescale.
Essex County Councillor Gagan Mohindra, Deputy Cabinet Member for Economic Growth, Infrastructure, Skills and the Digital Economy, said: “The achievement of the Superfast Essex rollout so far has been fantastic and I’m thrilled that there is plenty more to come. These new contracts show our determination to become one of the best connected counties in the UK and I look forward to hearing about more success in the future.”
Steve Haines, Managing Director for Openreach, the local network business which is part of BT Group, said: “The excellent progress on this project is a great achievement. This demonstrates the strength of the partnership between BT and Essex County Council, as well as the determination of the people working on the programme, and we’ll continue working well together to deliver the next stages of the rollout to reach even more properties. This exciting technology is making a major contribution to the success and prosperity of Essex because whatever you do online you can do it better with superfast fibre broadband.”
Joe Frost, Gigaclear’s Business Development Director, said: “We are delighted to be continuing our partnership with Superfast Essex following the success of the Rural Challenge pilot project. For this project, we’ve already dug more than 220km of trench, 90% of the projected total, to install this new ultrafast fibre network across the Epping Forest district. This network is already transforming the online experience for residents and businesses and, working with Superfast Essex, we look forward to upgrading many more communities to an ultrafast experience thanks to Phase 3.”
Cllr Howard Ryles, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “As a largely rural district, we are well aware of the impact of not having access to superfast broadband. Improving digital connectivity across Uttlesford has been a key priority for the council and so we are delighted that the Phase 3 is set to bring faster and more reliable broadband to our residents and businesses. Investing in this project will make Uttlesford one of the best connected districts in the county, and will particularly help to ensure it is a place where businesses can thrive, wherever people want to work.”
Superfast Essex together with partners from local government, central government, business associations and local communities marked the signing of the new contracts at two events hosted jointly with each of its delivery partners, at the BT Tower in London and at the Radisson Blu Hotel, in Stansted.
All new work will build on the existing success of the programme which to date has enabled 85,000 homes and businesses across all of Essex to get superfast broadband. Superfast Essex is on track to reach more than 144,000 Essex premises by December 2019.
Minister of State for Digital, Matt Hancock, said: “The Government’s rollout of superfast broadband in Essex has been a tremendous success to date, and we’ve already taken superfast speeds to more than 85,000 local homes and businesses. We want as many people as possible to benefit from the nationwide superfast rollout, and I’m delighted that another 24,000 premises have now been added to the Superfast Essex programme.”
To find out if your property is due to be upgraded as part of the partnership’s new rollout plans, check the Superfast Essex interactive map which displays address level information: www.superfastessex.org/maps.
Preparations are now under way to add a ‘Last Phase’ to the Superfast Essex programme, aimed at securing superfast connectivity to the remaining premises not included in the new plans. Further announcements on this will follow during the summer.
Anyone not currently due for an upgrade can register their demand for faster broadband by completing the Make the Connection Survey: www.superfastessex.org/registerdemand.
The work planned under Phase 3 is as follows:
Uttlesford District (Gigaclear) - More than 4,600 properties to be reached in Uttlesford District.
Central North (Gigaclear) - More than 3,700 properties to be reached across communities in Braintree District, Colchester Borough and Chelmsford City.
South East (Openreach) - More than 6,700 properties to be reached in parts of Basildon and Castle Point districts, and the rural coastline of Maldon and Rochford districts.
In addition, a further 9,000 properties have been added to the existing Phase 2a rollout plan (across Basildon, Braintree, Brentwood, Colchester, Chelmsford and Maldon districts) as a result of reinvestment from Openreach due to higher than expected take up of the new services made available by the Superfast Essex programme.