North Yorkshire has announced that it is to be the first county in the country to deploy Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funds. This will give 90 per cent of county premises access to fibre broadband by the end of 2014 and will take total investment in North Yorkshire fibre broadband to about £70m.
The project, which will commence with immediate effect, will build on BT’s commercial investment so that 90 per cent of North Yorkshire homes and businesses – some 365,000 premises – will have access to world class broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps by the end of 2014. Ultra-fast broadband speeds of up to 330Mbps will also be deployed in certain areas and made available ‘on demand’ throughout the entire fibre footprint should North Yorkshire businesses want to upgrade to even faster speeds.
The remaining 10 per cent of premises will also see a speed uplift as the project aims to deliver 2Mbps or more by the end of 2014 to all homes and businesses. BT will also look to work with communities in the final 10 per cent to see if fibre can be extended further through innovative collaborative projects.
North Yorkshire is one of the most rural counties in England and so the project will transform broadband speeds across the county. The county’s average downstream speed is currently 6.6Mbps whilst 17 per cent of premises receive less than 2Mbps.
BT has been chosen following an extensive and thorough selection process. The company is contributing £10 million towards fibre deployment in “non-commercial” areas whilst the county is using its £17.8 million share of BDUK funds. The remaining £8.6 million is coming from the European Regional Development Fund.
BT has already committed around £23 million on deploying fibre broadband in the county. This forms part of its £2.5 billion overall commercial investment in UK fibre broadband. Further phases of this commercial deployment are due to be announced which will see the company invest a further £11 million in the county.
The additional investment will boost the local economy and help to create or protect local jobs. It will be of particular benefit to local businesses which can use the faster speeds to improve their competitiveness both within the UK and abroad.
BT’s network will be open to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis and so North Yorkshire consumers and businesses will benefit from a highly competitive market. This was an important stipulation in the tender process.
County Councillor Carl Les, the Deputy Leader of North Yorkshire County Council and Chairman of the Connecting North Yorkshire project said: “North Yorkshire is a large rural county with many remote premises. As a result, deploying broadband is a particular challenge.
“We believe the technology is vital to our economic future however and so we are delighted to have signed this agreement. The project will help local businesses to be competitive and ensure they remain in the county. It can also play an important role in attracting even more firms to the county thereby helping to create jobs for local people.”
The Government’s Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, said: “Superfast broadband is transforming the way we do business and live our lives. We want to make sure that no community is left behind, which is why Government is investing £17.8 million to help revolutionise the infrastructure in North Yorkshire.
“I’m delighted that North Yorkshire has unlocked further funding and is ready to start rolling out fibre broadband. It’s an ambitious project which will bring huge benefits to homes and businesses across the county.”
Bill Murphy, Managing Director, Next Generation Access, BT, added: “It is fantastic to see North Yorkshire be the first BDUK pilot to cross the finishing line. The race to provide the UK with the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015 is still very much on, and we’re looking forward to working with other local authorities and regions to bring the economic benefits of high speed broadband to businesses and communities everywhere.”
Fibre to the Cabinet will be the main technology deployed. This delivers wholesale downstream speeds of up to 80Mbps and upstream speeds of up to 20Mbps. Fibre to the Premise technology – delivering ultra-fast wholesale speeds of up to 330Mbps – will also be deployed in certain areas and will be available on demand throughout the whole of the fibre footprint.
For local businesses, the fibre network will underpin the introduction of many new services and applications. Big business applications driven by cloud services and data centres will be within the reach of enterprises of all sizes. Computer back up, storage and processing will be faster, and the use of high quality videoconferencing within firms and between them and their customers will become a viable possibility.
Users will be able to run multiple bandwidth-hungry applications at the same time and send and receive large amounts of data much more quickly and efficiently. New fibre services are also set to transform the way consumers use the internet, from the simple sharing of pictures and video to enjoying the growing boom in entertainment services available on-line.
Rural Affairs Minister, Richard Benyon commented: “This is exciting news for everyone who lives and works in North Yorkshire. Superfast broadband will open the doors to countless business opportunities in the county, boosting the rural economy and supporting thriving local communities.”
Julian Smith, the MP for Skipton and Ripon, led the Westminster campaign to win pilot status and Government investment and is organising the second Broadband North Yorkshire Conference on 29 September 2012 at Fountains Abbey near Ripon. He said: “This announcement is the modern day equivalent of the coming of the railways or the introduction of canals.
“The award of this contract marks an exciting moment in the development of high quality, high speed broadband across North Yorkshire. North Yorkshire and York Members of Parliament came together 18 months ago to support the bid for Government money to improve internet connections because, for too long, homes and businesses in this county have lagged behind more urban areas in the digital revolution.
“Over the next months and years, we will be working with North Yorkshire County Council and BT to ensure as many families and businesses as possible get connected to high speeds.”
Barry Dodd, Chairman of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership, commented: “This is great news for businesses in North Yorkshire as broadband is an enabling technology that will benefit almost everyone. The LEP’s role is to help our business community make the most of this fantastic opportunity.”
 This figure takes BT’s commercial investment in fibre broadband into account as well as the project itself.
 80Mbps and 330Mbps are wholesale speeds. ISPs may use different speeds in their advertising. Individual line speeds will depend on network infrastructure and the service chosen by the ISP
 Openreach plans to commercially launch FTTP on demand during Spring 2013 and will levy an installation charge for this service. It will be up to service providers to then decide whether they pass that onto businesses or consumers wishing to take advantage of the product.
 Ofcom UK Broadband Speeds Report June 2011.