Shropshire new town Telford is hoping to jump on the county’s broadband bandwagon after its own plans fell short of new targets.
Telford & Wrekin Council stayed out of Shropshire’s original application for the government’s BDUK funds because of widespread Virgin Media coverage, but has applied to join a new round of handouts.
The latest national pot of £250 million includes £11.38 million for Shropshire and £1.43 million for Telford & Wrekin, but the councils will have to match it pound for poind from their own funds.
Russell Griffin of Telford & Wrekin Council told The Shropshire Star: “Whilst Telford & Wrekin is not covered in the current programme, the council has submitted an expression of interest for the programme extension which has recently been announced by Government.
“The council is now working on a business case which will look at whether coverage can be increased from the 89 per cent of residential and business premises that currently have access to fibre broadband.”
The government now wants 95 per cent of the British population to be in reach of a superfast connection faster than 24Mbps by 2017, which left Telford short of the target despite good coverage.
December 2013 saw Telford become the first town in the UK to record an average broadband speed over 24Mbps, and it has the UK’s fastest street: Woodside Way, with speeds of up to 71Mbps.
The new funds will be targeted at older, rural areas of Telford & Wrekin, such as Ironbridge, which don’t have access to the town’s cable network.
Meanwhile Shropshire’s own efforts to roll out superfast broadband continue, with BT Openreach laying more than 80km of fibre cables to cabinets around the county in the first year.
Connecting Shropshire, a partnership with BT under Broadband Delivery for the UK, announced that around 6,500 extra homes and businesses are now able to access fibre broadband with Albrighton, Cosford, Halfway House, Minsterley, Pontesbury, Westbury and Yockleton going live in the last two weeks.
Ian Binks, BT’s regional manager for Shropshire and the West Midlands, said: “Today marks another major milestone for the partnership. We’ve achieved so much in the first year, but we’re already focused on the work that needs to be done in the year ahead.”
“It’s a huge engineering project, but we’re on course to reach the half-way point around this time next year.”
As with many BDUK projects, the final percentage of homes and businesses which can get superfast broadband will be limited by the distance from the cabinet to the customer, and the capacity of some BT cabinets to connect the whole community.