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‘Superfast broadband will be the railways of the 21st century’: Yorkshire MP

Superfast broadband pilot area North Yorkshire is poised to sign a deal that will bring a boom like the arrival of railways 200 years ago.

North Yorkshire County Council is expecting to announce later this month whether BT or Fujitsu has been chosen to build fibre-optic broadband network.

The council will hand out more than £25million in UK and European funds to the winning firm, after two years of negotiations.

Julian Smith, MP Skipton and Ripon, by Broadband North Yorkshire

Julian Smith, MP for Skipton and Ripon, blogged: “We are on the brink of transforming the economic prospects for North Yorkshire and bringing high quality broadband connections to homes and businesses across the county.

“I believe the developments in the coming years will be the equivalent of the installation of the canals or railways for our part of the world.

“Whether it’s by allowing businesses to set-up or expand in North Yorkshire, giving older people the opportunity to connect to their families online or allowing younger people to learn remotely, better internet access will provide a major boost narrowing the digital divide that currently exists between our major towns and cities and our rural communities.”

The final contract will be worth around £50m, with the winner matching funds from Broadband Delivery UK and the European Union.

North Yorkshire will be the first of four pilot areas to announce a winner: Cumbria recently rejected unsatisfactory bids from BT and Fujitsu, while both Herefordshire and the Scottish Highlands and Islands have yet to put their projects out to tender.

The pilot areas were selected in 2010 to work through the challenges of providing next-generation broadband in rural areas.

Gary Fielding, assistant chief executive at North Yorkshire County Council, told the Yorkshire Post: “We have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of broadband coverage we can get as a result of this process.

“The future of these small villages is under threat. When people move house now they want to know that broadband is available.

“If it’s not there then people don’t come to the village. People need it for their business, their kids need it for their homework. It’s about making our villages a more attractive place to come to.

“High-quality internet access is essential, too, for hotels, B&Bs and campsites. For our small businesses it is a real enabler – they are able to work differently and more efficiently than before.”

The government’s target is to get superfast broadband to 90 per cent of the UK by 2016, but the Country Land and Business Association said it doesn’t expect this to be met because there’s too much focus on fibre broadband to every location instead of using appropriate tech in different situations.

Image: Broadband North Yorkshire