Speedier internet

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A £62.5m project to bring fibre optic broadband to 97 per cent of the county, including rural north Lancashire, has been announced.

Lancashire will be the first county to benefit from funding from Government through Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) after the county council agreed a £62.5m project with BT.

The project, which is due to be completed by the end of 2014, will see the total amount invested in this technology in Lancashire rise to around £130m.

It will also boost the local economy by creating around 2,500 jobs and protecting more than 1,200 jobs over the next few years.

The county’s enterprise zones are a key priority as fibre broadband will help local businesses to become more competitive.

The project will also be of significant benefit to around 15 per cent business premises in Lancashire which currently receive speeds of less than 2Mbps, which will get faster speeds.

BT will contribute £30m to the project whilst £10.8m will come from BDUK, £16.5m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and £5.2m from local councils, including £4.7m from Lancashire County Council, which has also set aside a £500,000 community fund to help reach the most remote premises with an initial pilot taking place to the east of Lancaster.

It is hoped the project will deliver download speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps. The average download speed in Lancashire is currently around 7Mbps.

Edwin Booth, Chairman of Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is incredibly important for the success of the Lancashire economy. The project will transform the broadband landscape across the county and ensure that local businesses can become global businesses. It will ensure that firms remain here and it will also attract a more diverse range of high growth, high value companies to the county.”

Geoff Driver, Leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “Today our ambition to provide Lancashire’s citizens and business with a world-class broadband service turns into a reality.

“It is important that as many areas as possible benefit, and that is why we have ensured that even the more remote areas of the county see a significant improvement in their speeds.”

BT is already in the process of rolling out fibre broadband to homes and businesses in Lancashire as part of its commercial plan to reach around two-thirds of UK premises with the technology by the end of 2014. The project will extend the company’s fibre network so it covers the vast majority of areas in Lancashire that are not viable to supply on a commercial basis alone.