THE COUNTY of Lancashire is hoping for an economic boost after its council agreed to a £62.5m project with BT.
The Lancashire County Council (LCC) yesterday announced that it has become the first to snap up cash provided by the government through the national Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme designed to make fast data connections available across the country.
The deal will see BT cough up £30m towards the project. An additional £10.8m will come from BDUK while £16.5m will come from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and £5.2m from local councils.
In addition, LCC has created a £500,000 community fund to help reach the most remote premises with an initial pilot planned to the east of Lancaster.
Fibre to the Cabinet will be the prevalent technology deployed under the project. This will deliver download speeds of up to 80Mbit/s and upload speeds of up to 20Mbit/s. The average download speed in Lancashire at present is around 7Mbit/s. Fibre to the Premises technology delivering speeds of up to 300Mbit/s will also be deployed in certain areas and will be available on demand.
According to BT estimates, the rollout will extend access to fibre broadband to 97 per cent of premises in Lancashire by the end of 2014, making it one of the best connected counties in the UK. The telco said that this expansion of broadband access will also boost the local economy by creating around 2,500 jobs.
"Independent economic analysis of the ERDF investment indicates this will equate to a £100m uplift in Lancashire's economy," BT said.
Estimates by Ofcom are that around 15 per cent of premises in Lancashire receive less than 2Mbit/s, but that percentage will plummet to "virtually zero", the LCC predicts.
BT stressed that its network will be open to all communications providers on an "equal wholesale basis", ensuring completion for the retail sale of services in the county. µ