BT’s Superfast Cornwall partnership with the EU and Cornwall Council is mainly about bringing up to 80Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) lines to the peninsula and the Isles of Scilly. Close to 100,000 lines were ready to go last month, with a view to getting the entire region fibred up by the end of 2014.
But a new initiative will see research into fields where 80Mbps broadband can benefit residents of Cornwall in ways other than being able to stream multiple HD movies.
The Superfast Cornwall Labs project will launch research into areas such as delivery of public and remote e-services (similar to NHS Direct), distance learning and other creative endeavours. The Labs will create three PhD placements for research into these areas.
There’s already a ‘University of the Village’ project, a tie-up between the University College of Falmouth and the University of Glamorgan in Wales, BT and local communities which has seen a film-making course being run in a local pub in St. Agnes and an archive of village history in Ystrad Mynach.
Superfast Cornwall Labs will also oversee trials of Vconect, an EU-funded advanced video conferencing system. BT says that this will take videocalling ‘beyond the traditional business uses,’ but doesn’t elucidate further. There’s plenty of ways in which HD videocalling could be useful in NHS Direct-style situations, online community meetings, as well as facilitating projects like the film course and local history archive mentioned above.
Ranulf Scarbrough, Superfast Cornwall programme director for BT, said: “We want to look at all opportunities to harness the full power of superfast broadband so that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly can benefit fully in the years to come. The potential is huge. There are opportunities in almost every area, ranging from boosting jobs and the economy to smarter working, better educational opportunities and environmental benefits.”
Nigel Ashcroft, Superfast Cornwall programme development director for Cornwall Development Company, added: “Superfast Cornwall’s roll-out of faster broadband is already setting the standard for rural communities across Europe, but our aims and objectives go much further. We also want to be a leader in innovation and for our businesses, households and communities to be able to make the most of this exciting technology.
“The Superfast Cornwall Labs banner will bring together a wide variety of innovative thinking in the county, ranging from superfast broadband workshops for householders, businesses and public sector organisations to projects, such as University of the Village and Vconect.”
More details will emerge on Thursday at the opening of the UCF’s Academy for Innovation and Research (AIR) on Thursday May 17 in Penryn.