Officials in south-west England are thrilled with an announcement from BT that another 31 local communities will be added to the company's fibre network by next spring. The addition of these communities pushes the total number of homes and businesses in the south-west with access to fibre broadband up to 44,000.
The project is part of an organised effort made possible by a joint venture between BT and local authorities – the project known as “Connecting Devon and Somerset”. The venture aims to connect more than 90% of the region's homes and businesses to the high-speed optical fibre network by the end of 2016.
Funding for the expanded network is being provided through a £32 million central government grant, with an additional £21 million from the Devon and Somerset councils and a £42 million contribution from BT. When complete, customers will have access to high-speed Internet at speeds of up to 24 Mbps.
In a prepared statement, minister Ed Vaizey welcomed the BT announcement as good for both local residents and the regional economy. He noted that the UK is already the European leader in doing online business and that adding such a large area to existing optical fibre networks would boost local economies even further.
Between both public and private high-speed Internet projects, the UK easily leads Europe in providing high-speed Internet access to businesses and residences. The country is also a leader in developing new Internet and networking technologies that are shaping the course of the digital future. The UK is definitely the place to be for anyone involved in the tech sector in Europe.
Economic Dividends Realised
Connecting Devon and Somerset have gone to great lengths to study the economic impact of high-speed Internet service in developing plans for their project's roll-out. What they have observed suggests the potential of measurable economic dividends for the local economy.
For example, studies show that Internet users who do not enjoy a pleasant experience with a given website are not likely to stay on it long enough to make a purchase or access a service. Likewise, consumers with slow Internet speeds are less likely to be involved in online commerce. When high-speed access is available to both consumers and business owners, online commerce is encouraged. Officials expect to see that exact scenario play out as more communities are added to the fibre network.
From an administrative standpoint, the faster speeds also make implementing IT services and commercial data communications a lot more attractive. We would expect to see more technology companies courting local businesses that might be willing to purchase a suite of managed services for online business operations.
Connecting Devon and Somerset will continue working to get more communities online even as the current plans are implemented over the next few months. At the conclusion of the rather ambitious project, the south-west of England should be more than capable of competing in the online marketplace. Hopefully, their success will be replicated in other regions of the UK.