Multi-million pound investment in superfast broadband for an additional 51,000 homes and businesses confirmed by ECC

Essex County Council’s commitment to invest in extending the reach of high-speed fibre broadband to even more homes and businesses was confirmed today with the approval to grant BT a second contract to deliver ‘Phase 2’ of the Superfast Essex programme, subject to Government backing.

The County Council Cabinet approved the decision to award BT the delivery contract on Tuesday 24 March, subject to approval from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), the team within Government tasked with co-ordinating the national programme. BDUK are set to consider the contract decision later this week with the contract signature expected to follow shortly afterwards.

The proposed second phase of work will build on the current rollout. The Superfast Essex programme overall is aiming to enable up to 95% of premises in Essex to gain access to superfast broadband (determined as download speeds of 24Mbps and above).

Essex County Councillor Kevin Bentley, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Growth, Infrastructure and Waste & Recycling, said: “Essex aspires to become one of the best connected counties in the UK and this is the next step in helping us to achieve this aim.

“I am very pleased to note that some of our districts have recognised the need to invest in broadband infrastructure in their rural areas. Braintree, Tendring, Maldon and Epping Forest have all contributed to the funding for this next stage of our Superfast Essex programme, which means that across those districts we will be investing over a million pounds more than we could have without their support.”

Bill Murphy, BT’s Managing Director for Next Generation Access, said: “We are pleased to have been selected as the preferred partner for this project. This project will build upon the success of both our own commercial rollout in the county as well as our existing partnership with Essex County Council. We look forward to extending this exciting technology even further to bring the benefits of fibre broadband to even more parts of the county. We will be working closely with Essex County Council to complete the signing of the contract.”

Digital Economy Minister, Ed Vaizey, said: “The Superfast Essex Programme has already made tremendous progress in rolling out superfast broadband across the county. I'm delighted that this additional funding from UK and local government means that another 51,000 Essex homes and businesses are now going to have access to superfast speeds.”

Improving broadband connectivity is one of Essex County Council’s priorities, to help local economic growth and improve the quality of life for the people of Essex. Superfast broadband is set to transform the way households use the internet, from sharing of pictures and video, online training and research, and accessing public services, to enjoying the growing boom in entertainment services available online.

The current rollout (also known as Phase 1) is on track to enable 65,000 premises in Essex to access superfast broadband by the end of summer 2016.

So far more than 25,000 premises have been enabled to access superfast broadband services from more than 100 green cabinets which have been upgraded to fibre by the Superfast Essex programme. Engineers from Openreach, BT’s local access network business, have deployed 217km spine fibre cabling to date, the same length as the Badwater Ultramarathon - the world’s toughest foot race!

The proposed Phase 2 deployment is expected to enable a further 51,000 premises in rural Essex for superfast broadband. The rollout plan is currently being defined, with the first draft expected to be published in May.

The new fibre network is available to all internet service providers, which means Essex residents and businesses have a choice of who to buy their service from, ensuring competitive pricing and products.

To find out if your area is due for a broadband upgrade in Phase 1 visit, www.superfastessex.org/postcode. To register your demand for superfast broadband, visit www.superfastessex.org/getinvolved.

View the full Essex County Council Cabinet report Superfast Essex Phase 2 Project 2a – Contract Award considered on Tuesday 24th March.