Superfast Essex marks halfway milestone with visit from new UK Culture Secretary

The newly appointed Secretary of State for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Essex MP, John Whittingdale, met the Superfast Essex team as the multi-million pound programme reached the halfway milestone in its rollout.

The partnership has now made superfast broadband available to 32,500 homes and businesses – 50% of the overall 65,000 expected to be superfast-enabled by the end of the first phase in summer 2016.

It comes at the same time as DCMS announced the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme has reached a new national milestone – giving 2.5million UK premises access to superfast broadband across all 47 regional broadband improvement programmes.

The UK Culture Secretary, with responsibility for broadband, joined Essex County Council and BT representatives in the Maldon District, on Friday 15 May to hear about the Superfast Essex programme achievements to date.

He met the officers leading the work in Essex, was given an overview of the Superfast Essex programme since deployment began in April 2014 and was shown inside one of the 157 fibre broadband cabinets installed by the programme to date, in Wickham Bishops, Maldon.

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said: “I am delighted at the tremendous progress Superfast Essex has made with their rollout of superfast broadband. Access to superfast speeds has never been more important, in both our home and working lives. The Government’s rollout of superfast broadband will make sure that rural homes and businesses are not left behind and that the UK is properly equipped to meet the challenges of the digital age.”

Essex County Councillor Penny Channer, Deputy Cabinet Member for Economic Growth & Infrastructure and Waste and Recycling, said: “It is a great accolade for Essex to receive national recognition for the success of the county’s broadband rollout and a pleasure to welcome the Secretary of State and have the support acknowledged in person.

“Credit goes to the joint efforts of the team working here in Essex for reaching the halfway milestone. Long may the great work continue through the rest of this rollout and into the next phase.”

Bill Murphy, BT’s Managing Director Next Generation Access, said: “Today marks a giant step forward in the rollout of fibre broadband in Essex.

“Working in partnership with Essex County Council we have been able to reach into the heart of scores of communities across the county that have so far been beyond the reach of this vital technology. The partnership builds on BT’s commercial fibre broadband programme, which has already made fibre broadband available to more than 581,000 households and businesses in the county. Already we can see the impact that fibre is having nationally with the Government’s estimate of more than 56,000 jobs created as a result of this rollout by 2024 and rural economies benefiting by around £9 million every day due to the work being done now.”

The multi-million pound Superfast Essex programme is working with BT to increase superfast broadband coverage in the county. A second phase of work (Phase 2) is currently being planned, aiming to increase superfast coverage across the county to 95%.Residents and businesses can find out what work has been completed already in their local area and what further deployment is planned, by searching the interactive map or viewing the list of upgraded cabinets on the website at www.superfastessex.org/postcode.

Once fibre is available in an area residents and businesses will need to contact a broadband service provider of their choice to get connected.