Cornwall’s new fiber-optic broadband network has now passed 206,000 homes and businesses – 82% of the total in the county – making it one of the best connected areas in Britain and the best connected rural region in Europe, according to BT. The UK operator is rolling out fiber-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) and fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) in a project jointly funded by BT, the EU, and Cornwall Council.
Meanwhile new research, commissioned by BT and published by SERIO at Plymouth University and Buckman Associates, shows that the network is already providing a major economic boost to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region.
Early indications from the study – which the operator claims is the first of its kind to explore the economic impact of fiber-optic broadband on British SMEs – found that after 12 months, 83% of businesses were saving time and money thanks to the faster speeds and innovative services that fiber-based broadband enables.
In fact, 6 out of every 10 (58%) SMEs surveyed said their business is growing because of the new technology, while more than a quarter (26%) said they have either created or safeguarded jobs as a direct result of the efficiency and innovation that superfast broadband encourages.
As well as the reported increase in jobs and revenues, over a third of businesses completing the survey (37.5%) reported that superfast broadband had helped their business to generate new sales, with a quarter (24%) of that group pointing to new trade overseas.
Vice president of the European Commission Neelie Kroes said, “This research has real international significance because it starts to vindicate what we’ve said all along – that fiber broadband will energize our economy, generate jobs, and save public money. With the help of major investment by the European Regional Development Fund, businesses can now take advantage of fiber broadband in Cornwall to become more competitive and more productive. For both businesses and the communities they serve, there can be no better investment in our future than superfast broadband.”
Liv Garfield, CEO, Openreach, said, “We’re very proud of the work BT is doing in Cornwall, and in many ways the region has become a perfect template for us in other rural areas of the UK. Cornwall Council has shown strong leadership and real commitment to this project. We’ve been able to go even further than originally planned and, thanks to the success and skill of our engineering team, we reached our original target of 80% coverage some 15 months ahead of schedule.”
BT says that the Superfast Cornwall project is on-track to get fiber broadband to 95% – extending its original target – of the region, as well as the Isles of Scilly by the end of 2014. Currently, more than 35,000 homes and businesses are taking advantage of faster fiber speeds, including an estimated 4130 SMEs. BT has plans to boost broadband speeds for the remaining 5% of premises (about 13,000) using alternative technologies.