EXCITING details of how Worcester will benefit from a £20 million superfast broadband scheme can today be revealed.
Worcestershire County Council has revealed a raft of new details about the project, including:
- Worcester is expected to become a focus for the project next year as part of the three-year plan
- The first areas to benefit include Barbourne Road, Rainbow Hill, Sibdury, Foregate Street, Sansome Walk, The Butts and Angel Place
- By the end of next year 93 per cent of city businesses will be able to access superfast speeds, compared to just 47 per cent now
- The county council's contract with BT includes a "claw back" clause, which means profits which go over and above a certain level must go back into improving speeds further
- The project is now on schedule to finish by June 2016 across Worcestershire, around six months earlier than first thought
As your Worcester News revealed last year, the £20 million project is being funded with £3.3 million of Government cash, £8.5 million from the county council and the rest from BT.
BT has now set up an office at County Hall and is currently finalising the locations for new superfast cables across Worcestershire.
Pauline Harris, programme manager, turned up at a city council scrutiny meeting to reveal how it would benefit Worcester - and be grilled on the project's value for money.
She said: "The first question you might have is, 'why did we put taxpayers money into faster broadband'?
"There is clear, accepted evidence both from the Government and across Europe that in rural areas, putting superfast broadband in does not stack up commercially.
"Unless public money is put in, it doesn't happen.
"The business case for this was adopted by the Government, and we've been very ambitious in aiming to connect 90 per cent of businesses as well as residential premises."
She said the council has consulted its own independent, legal advisors who said the scheme was value for money.
During the debate councillors were told how 700km of new fibre would be laid, enough to run from Worcestershire to Brussels.
Ms Harris said under the "claw back" method, profits over a certain level will be split 73/27 to the county council, to be re-invested into improving it further.
The panel accepted the findings, with most councillors saying they were impressed.
Councillor Stephen Hodgson said: "We do get residents saying they are concerned with broadband speeds."
Malvern, Evesham, Droitwich and Redditch are among those areas expected to benefit first.