Forest of Dean first to benefit from £56.6m 'Fastershire' broadband project
Work has started in the first Gloucestershire communities to benefit from a multi-million pound project to roll out faster broadband throughout the county.
Engineers are now planning and building the new fibre network in Cinderford, Coleford, Drybrook, Longhope and Lydbrook.
About 15,000 homes and businesses will have access to faster broadband once the new network is complete in these towns and villages, with the first customers expected to be connected during the autumn.
The newly named 'Fastershire' project will involve hundreds of engineers working for BT's local network business Openreach, laying around 2,500 kilometres of optical fibre cable and installing around 800 new fibre broadband cabinets throughout the Gloucestershire and Herefordshire project area.
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The deal between the Gloucestershire and Herefordshire county councils and BT should enable 90 per cent of homes and businesses to have access to fibre broadband by the end of 2016. The councils' ultimate target is to provide access to broadband speeds of 24 megabits per second (Mbps) or above for all who want it by 2018 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 which starts to become available during this spring.
In addition, the £56.6 million project intends to address those premises across both counties receiving a connection of less than 2Mbps by aiming to ensure all areas receive that speed as a minimum by the end of 2016.
Cllr Mark Hawthorne, leader of Gloucestershire County Council, said: "I'm delighted we can now announce the first communities to benefit from this important project. We have made this significant investment in the county's broadband infrastructure so that businesses and communities of all sizes can grow – this is about improving broadband access for all and I look forward to seeing the first cabinets go live later this year."
It is estimated that engineers will complete more than a million man hours of work planning and building the network in both counties during the lifetime of the project.
Bill Murphy, BT's managing director for Next Generation Access, said: "We have been working hard to get us to where we are today. This is an exciting time for Gloucestershire and the beginning of a journey that will see the communications landscape completely transformed.
"This ambitious project will boost the productivity of local businesses and help to attract a more diverse range of high-growth companies to the area. It will play a major role in creating greater prosperity for the county."
More detailed information on the roll-out will also be available at the scheme's new website, www.fastershire.com.