The programme initiative was started in 2011, under the umbrella of the Government’s (Broadband Delivery UK) national programme, set out to deliver superfast broadband to areas not serviced by the commercial plans of the private sector. Over the past five years the programme has driven superfast broadband coverage across the county from 87% to 95% under Phases 1 & 2.
Contracts have just been awarded to BT and Gigaclear under a third phase which is now under way and will see superfast coverage extended to more than 99.5% over the next 2 years. This will make Berkshire one of the best served counties for superfast broadband across the UK, benefiting residents and businesses alike. Contracts for the third phase have been signed with BT to extend coverage to 7,400 urban premises and Gigaclear to extend coverage to 6,100 rural premises. Not only is this good news at a county level, each of the 6 Berkshire districts will also achieve coverage of over 99%, providing much more equitable access for all areas of the county, a key objective of the phase 3 procurement. However, the work doesn’t stop there as Superfast Berkshire working with BT, Gigaclear and other suppliers under their commercial plans strive to hit the magic 100% target of total coverage for Berkshire.
In total more than £40m will have been invested in the Superfast Berkshire programme by both the private and public sector to deliver superfast broadband. This includes around £29.3m from partners BT, Gigaclear and Call Flow Solutions, £5.5m from Berkshire local authorities and Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and £5.2m from national government (BDUK).
Superfast Berkshire has also actively engaged with broadband market providers since the start of the programme to encourage expansion of their commercial plans, allowing public sector funds to be used where they are most needed. This has also given consumers more choice where superfast provision already existed or overlaps. Berkshire has seen the demand for faster and faster broadband speeds with more and more businesses, people working from home and normal family activity all with increasing numbers of applications relying on fast internet access. Take-up of superfast broadband products delivered under phase one has risen to over 47% so far (the third highest across the UK) and take-up under phase two is also starting to climb.
Speaking about the programme, West Berkshire Council’s Chief Executive Nick Carter, who chairs the Superfast Berkshire board, said: “We’re really pleased with the roll-out of superfast broadband so far and excited to begin the final push to connect the remaining premises to the network. A fast broadband network is important to the county’s prosperity so this programme will ensure the area retains its competitive edge and make it easier to work, live, learn and socialise in Berkshire.”
Dr Phillip Lee, MP for Bracknell, said: “The future belongs to fast data. Generations to come will look back on how we choose to move people around the world - as opposed to moving data - in the same way that we look back at how people once had to physically go to their television to switch channels. That is why the work of Superfast Berkshire is so important, and why I have supported their aims over the years. My congratulations on them reaching this milestone and am delighted that they now intend to press on to achieve 100%.”
Matt Hancock MP, Minister of State for Digital said: "The rollout of superfast broadband in Berkshire is a fantastic success story, but there's more to do if everyone is to benefit. It's great to hear that the next Phase will take coverage to more than 99.5 per cent of local homes and businesses, making Berkshire one of the best connected counties in the UK."