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Community secures faster rural broadband

One of the most rural parts of the UK now has the fastest broadband following a long-running community campaign.

Following a campaign begun over four years ago, almost 400 homes and businesses in West Dorset's Marshwood Vale now enjoy access to some of the UK’s fastest internet speeds. 

In 2014, the community worked with local councils and put together a business case that secured more than £1m of government funding to improve broadband speeds for many properties in the vale.

Daryl Turner, Dorset County Council cabinet member for the natural and built environment, said the vale wasn’t included in the local authoriy's  initial roll-out plans, which focused on more densely-populated areas.

But, the strength of feeling among residents and community leaders meant the council wanted to deliver faster, more reliable broadband for many of those living and working in in Marshwood Vale.

She added: "The tremendous landscape in the vale made it an incredibly challenging build.”

The Superfast Dorset programme and delivery partner Openreach felt that only fibre to the premises (FTTP) technology – where a fibre optic cable is run directly into individual buildings – would work in this super-sparsely populated area.

When work began download speeds averaged around 1Mbps (megabit per second). The full fibre network available to many now allows speeds of 1Gbps (gigabit per second) and greater – one thousand times faster.

The future-proof speeds are available to many premises in areas such as Bettiscombe, Marshwood, Fishpond, Shave Cross, Blackdown, Burstock and Synderford.

Charles Somers, Chairman of the Marshwood Broadband Group, said: “We succeeded in obtaining substantial funding to support a broadband network upgrade.

“The choice of FTTP has meant an enormous change to people and businesses here and will contribute to maintaining the future for our very rural area for a wide range of people living, working, studying and running businesses here.

Mr Somers said the upgrade had removed previous constraints for new business development and had contributed positively to the development of Neighbourhood Plans for the area which look forward 20 years

He added: "The FTTP broadband service really is a future proof solution for us."

Emma Howarth, Programme Director for Openreach, said: “The Marshwood Vale is a beautiful part of the country and I’m delighted that our engineers have been able to bring ultrafast broadband connectivity to the area."

Bringing ultrafast broadband to the area would allow residents and businesses to do more online and was a reflection of the company's commitment to upgrading the network across every part of the country.

Around 4% of UK homes currently have access to full fibre broadband, but Openreach says plans to expand across the country are gathering speed.

The UK Government has set its ambition of making full fibre available to every home by 2033.

Openreach’s says its ‘Fibre First’ programme will make this technology available to 3,000,000 homes and businesses across the UK by the end of 2020.

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