Broadband upgrade to bring £299m to Gloucestershire
UPGRADING Gloucestershire's broadband network could give the local economy a £299m boost, it has been revealed.
Shire Hall councillors will today decide whether or not to proceed with the final negotiations on the terms of a contract to dramatically improve internet access across the county.
The estimated economic boost of the Borders Broadband project, which would be delivered in partnership with Herefordshire Council, is £32m a year – or almost £300m over a 10-year period.
The project is part of the Grow Gloucestershire campaign, which is set to improve the county's economic prospects, and help get young people into work.
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The Borders Broadband scheme would use a mix of public sector money and private investment to bring super fast broadband to isolated rural areas, including the Cotswolds, the Forest of Dean and parts of Cheltenham.
Proposed public sector investment in the scheme currently stands at £35.4m, including £7.5m from Gloucestershire.
The county council's ambition is to provide basic broadband to every premises by 2015 and 'next generation' access of 30mbps to as close to 100 per cent of premises as possible by 2018.
It is hoped the council's plans to improve broadband will add to the county's appeal as a business location.
Mike Cuttell, the owner of Ullenwood Court Business Park which installed its own broadband line, is fully supportive of the plans. He said: "You cannot run a business park nowadays without having good broadband. It's absolutely vital. If you haven't got good broadband you are immediately at a disadvantage."
Gloucestershire County Council leader Mark Hawthorne said: "This is a major opportunity for Gloucestershire and in tough times we have to be willing to make brave decisions. High-speed broadband will make a huge difference to our rural communities."