In the 21st Century having a reliable means of communication is one of the most important things available to people, so I am pleased with the on-going progress of the Superfast Northamptonshire project which aims to see superfast broadband available county wide by the end of 2017.
Over 56,200 premises now have access to superfast broadband as a result of public investment through the Superfast Northamptonshire project. Current Stage 1 and 2 plans secured by the County Council with BT will take coverage to over 95% by the end of 2017. The roll out with BT is currently expected to see over 74,250 premises benefit from access line speeds above 24Mbps, and many of these much higher, by the end of 2017. Having started earlier than expected, Stage 2 is now well underway and making good progress. Some of the latest areas to benefit include parts of Preston Capes, Everdon, Denton, Brafield on the Green, Easton Maudit, Wollaston and Fotheringhay, as well as parts of Kettering, Northampton and Wellingborough.
I am delighted to confirm to you that the County Council has selected Gigaclear for two contracts to help deliver Stage 3 of this project. This new partnership raises the game on broadband speeds by bringing ultrafast broadband (up to 1 gigabit) to more communities and premises in parts of rural Northamptonshire. About 6,300 premises will be connected under the two contracts.
You may already be aware of Gigaclear as it has already passed over 5,500 premises in the county as part of their own commercial plans. The deal with the County Council means that many more areas will benefit from a full fibre solution. The network will reach rural areas where there are no commercial plans and which otherwise would be unlikely to be served. The two contracts involve £6.58m of public funding, including £1.68m from the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) and £4.9m from the County Council. Gigaclear are investing over £3.65m in the target area.
This latest initiative from Superfast Northamptonshire takes the project substantially towards the ultimate target of full coverage, meaning either connectivity is already in place or plans confirmed for about 98% of all premises. The County Council is now working with Gigaclear to mobilise the deployment, including the commencement of the more detailed planning and survey work required before the network build can commence. More detailed information on the roll out programme will be available once this work is completed, hopefully by April/May 2017. The fibre build will commence later this year and will be completed by December 2018.
One of the Government’s key goals is the continued investment in digital infrastructure across the UK. Through the Digital Economy Bill currently before the House, the Government seeks to ensure the provision of broadband meets the basic needs of its users, and this includes the delivery of better coverage in rural areas through greater investment and faster rollout of broadband infrastructure. The Superfast Northamptonshire project is making great progress in this area and I hope it continues to do so for the benefit of my constituents.