A £56.6m project to give Herefordshire and Gloucestershire world-class broadband communications within four years was announced today. It is the first broadband initiative of its type to be launched in England in which two local authorities will be working together in partnership.
Herefordshire and Gloucestershire county councils and BT have agreed a deal which should enable around 90 per cent of homes and businesses in the two counties to have access to fibre broadband by the end of 2016, with the ultimate aim to provide access to broadband speeds of 24 megabits per second (Mbps) or above for all who want it by 2018.
It is estimated this investment could boost the local economy by almost £42m a year. The project, which is set to benefit more than 140,000 homes and businesses, builds on BT's commercial roll-out of fibre broadband across the two counties.
Today's partnership is the latest to be announced under the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme. £18.17m of the funds will come from BDUK, £10.1 million from Herefordshire Council, £7.5m from Gloucestershire County Council and £20.9 million from BT.
The aim of the councils' partnership, which is managed by both councils, economic development company GFirst and BDUK, is to have a majority of homes and businesses covered by this project able to enjoy speeds of 30 Mbps or more, with speeds of up to 80Mbps being typical. Small businesses will also have access to speeds of up to 330Mbps through BT's fibre on demand service available from Spring 2013.
The project also intends to address those premises across both counties receiving a connection of less than 2Mbps by aiming to ensure all areas receive a minimum of 2Mbps by the end of 2016.
Homes and businesses that are harder to reach with a fixed fibre line in the remaining ten per cent will be connected using alternative new broadband technologies.
Improved broadband will open up opportunities for businesses, creating jobs and strengthening dispersed rural communities.
Following the contract signing, there will be a period of planning, with work expected to start on the ground during the second half of next year and being completed by the end of 2016.
A website will be launched early in 2013 to enable communities across the two counties to see how the new network will be built.
Herefordshire Council Leader, John Jarvis, said: "Today's announcement will see Herefordshire becoming one of the most fibre-enabled counties in the country, after struggling with slower broadband speeds in the past. This project will really put the county on the map, attracting more businesses to the county, helping existing ones grow and enabling rural properties become less isolated."
Gloucestershire County Council Leader, Mark Hawthorne, said: "The County Council has a commitment to help Gloucestershire grow by investing in better skills, infrastructure and homes – for young people, for business and for the community.
"This deal enables us to put in place an infrastructure to support growing businesses and help people live where they want to live."
Bill Murphy, Managing Director, Next Generation Broadband from BT Group added: "It's great to see Herefordshire and Gloucestershire working in partnership to bring the best possible broadband to their rural communities. We're delighted to have been awarded the contract and look forward to working together on this exciting project which will provide a powerful, sustainable platform for growth."
Openreach, BT's local network division, will install the fibre network which will be open to all communications providers on an equivalent basis. This means consumers and businesses in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire will benefit from a highly competitive market, bringing greater choice and affordable prices from the service provider of their choice.
Fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC), where high-speed fibre cabling is connected to a street cabinet near a user's home or business, will be the main technology employed, delivering potential downstream speeds of up to 80Mbps and upstream speeds of up to 20Mbps. Fibre-to-the-premises technology (FTTP) – delivering speeds of up to 330Mbps – will also be deployed in certain areas and will be available on demand throughout the whole of the fibre footprint should local businesses want the ultra-fast speed it offers.
The fibre network will allow businesses to introduce many new services and applications. Big business applications driven by cloud services and data centres will be within the reach of firms of all sizes. Computer back-up, storage and processing will be faster, and the use of high quality videoconferencing by firms and their customers will be possible.
Users will be able to run multiple bandwidth-hungry applications at the same time and send and receive large amounts of data much quicker. New fibre services are also set to transform the way consumers use the internet, from speeding up the simple sharing of pictures and video to enjoying the growing boom in entertainment services available online.
With a slow internet connection you can have problems doing more than one thing at a time online. With faster broadband the whole family can be online doing homework, watching iPlayer, keeping in touch with friends on Skype or Facetime and doing the weekly shop all at the same time without any time delay or frozen screen.
Working from home can now be as fast and effective as working from the office. This could save you time and money, as well as helping you to achieve a better work life balance. With faster broadband you could even consider setting up your own business from home as you would have the world class connectivity that could give you the edge.
Store photos, documents, music and videos online in the cloud rather than on the computer at home. Your files will be kept safe and you can access them anywhere. Fast upstream speeds mean backing up files is done in the blink of an eye.
With faster broadband you can download the latest blockbuster before the kettle has boiled or watch your favourite TV show online instantly.
With faster broadband you can study online with flexible hours and video tutorials that work immediately.
New telecare services mean that people who are unwell, have a disability or older people can stay safe and independent at home.
Did you know that you can now access a whole host of council services and information online, such as reporting a pothole, paying your council tax, finding out when your rubbish or recycling will be collected and checking library opening times?
Pudleston in north Herefordshire is one of the communities that we be fibre enabled under phase 2 of the Fastershire rollout. Phase 2 will be delivered by Gigaclear and will provide a new full fibre network and access to speeds up to 1000mbps.
In these community diaries the residents of Pudleston will document their experiences throughout the deployment.
To see if your property is included in phase 2 or if you can already access faster broadband, please use the address checker above.
The 'Keep Connected' grant is being offered by Herefordshire Council and Fastershire to help groups and organisations in Herefordshire change their approach so that they can continue to deliver their activity, service or support during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Groups and organisations can access a grant up to £500 to fund new software subscriptions, online platforms or technology, such as microphones, headsets, cameras or large screens, and will have access to free expert support to help them set-up and operate the new technology. Community groups, registered charities, Social Enterprises, Community Interest Companies and Parish/Town Councils may email@example.com .
Local community organisations, groups, clubs and other not-for-profit organisations in Herefordshire can apply for up to £2,500 funding to arrange internet support and training so that local people can make the most of the benefits of going online.
Do you know of a group or club in your community in Herefordshire who would like to find out more about using the internet and the benefits of going online?
Fastershire can arrange for a tutor to bring laptops and tablets to the group’s usual meeting place, or another venue with internet access, to demonstrate how to send emails, search for information about the local area, or shop or pay bills online, and then support them to ‘have a go’ themselves.
To find out more please email firstname.lastname@example.org. These free sessions could lead to a longer course for those who are interested in developing their skills at going online.
Learn My Way (www.learnmyway.com) is a website of free online courses for beginners, helping you to develop digital skills to make the most of the online world. It's also got courses and resources to help you inspire people in your community to use the internet and help them improve their digital skills - including a 'How to be a Digital Champion' course.
We also have a whole host of training guides here that you can download for your own learning or to use when training someone else.
There are many organisations across Herefordshire who regularly offer computer courses and support for beginners. Information about just some of the training offered is available here. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, please contact the organiser for up-to-date information on whether they are open and offering training.
For details of the free monthly workshops at Libraries in Herefordshire visit our events page. These aren't running currently due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Please complete the form and we will contact you as soon as this changes.
Details of beginners' computer courses offered by Adult Education in Gloucestershire are here. Please contact them for up-to-date information on whether they are currently able to offer training.
If you would like to be notified about beginners’ computer courses offered by organisations in Herefordshire please complete this form.
Here's a list of home broadband providers who offer packages for homes connected by Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) or Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), with links to their web sites, so you can find out if they're up and running where you live.
Fibre to the premises (FTTP) is one of the world's most cutting edge types of fibre broadband with blistering speeds of up to 330Mbps and 1000Mbps.
If you get enabled with FTTP, you can order it through one of the following Service Providers.
We'll update this page as more ISPs start to offer FTTP.
Here's a list of home broadband providers who offer packages for homes connected to Gigaclear's ultrafast broadband network, with links to their web sites, so you can find out if they're up and running where you live.
Below is a list of videos from our YouTube channel.
Get the most out of the internet with FREE training from Fastershire in Ross-on-Wye and Cinderford.
Booking is essential, please call 01432 260026.
No experience is necessary and equipment will be provided if required.
The Larruperz Centre, Grammar School Close, HR9 7QD
How to use your tablet
Wednesday 6 June, 2pm-4pm
How to use the internet
Monday 11 June,10am-12pm
Introduction to email
Friday 22 June, 5pm-7pm
Belle Vue Centre, 6 Belle Vue Road, GL14 2AB
How to use the internet
Tuesday 5 June, 10am-12pm
Introduction to email
Wednesday 13 June, 2pm-4pm
How to use your tablet
Monday 18 June, 5pm-7pm
Faster broadband is being rolled out across Herefordshire and Gloucestershire between now but it is not possible to flick a switch to make every area go live on the same day and some areas will go live before this. Register your interest today and we'll let you know when you can order.