Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) has passed the halfway mark in its rollout of superfast fibre broadband.
More than 170,000 households and businesses in the two counties now have access to fibre broadband as a result of the CDS programme, of which nearly 150,000 are estimated to be able to get superfast speeds of 24Mbps and above. Over 770 fibre broadband cabinets are already installed and working, whilst many thousands of kilometres of fibre optic lines have been laid.
The rollout is continuing at a rapid pace with fibre broadband becoming available to more than 10,000 further premises every month.
The high-speed technology has been rolled out for the first time to many new exchange areas in Devon and Somerset over the past three months, including some of the most challenging locations in the country.
The partnership is on schedule to make fibre broadband available to around 320,000 Devon and Somerset premises by the end of next year. When the private sector’s commercial rollout of the technology is also included, it means that within less than 18 months around 90 per cent of households and businesses in the two counties will be able to get superfast speeds of 24Mbps and above.
One company quick to sign up to the new technology is the Academy of Floral Art, a unique training establishment in floristry and flower arranging, based in Dunchideock.
Julie Collins, principal of The Academy of Floral Art, now prefers to work at the academy than from home because the broadband has improved so much. “The new broadband speed has reduced stress and has made the academy look a lot more professional,” she said. “It also speeds up multi-usage tasks hugely, so office work can be carried out at the same time as class work.”
For the students working on their floral art, the new broadband has meant that sharing their work and producing a portfolio has become a lot easier. Ms Collins added: “Photos are now uploaded to the academy’s shared Dropbox files whilst in class, meaning that the students have a gallery of their work before they have even left for the day. Previously, uploading large volumes of data was extremely difficult, and the students would struggle to share their work online. Now with our new superfast speeds, we can do just about anything and continue our expansion. It is very exciting.”
Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, cabinet member for economy and growth for Devon County Council, said: "Everyone in Devon and Somerset recognises the importance of superfast broadband and, with confirmation it is now available to more than 170,000 homes and businesses as a result of this programme, we will really start to see the difference. As well as people at home being much better connected, businesses which are now benefiting because of our programme are seeing increased revenues and higher productivity, which all contributes hugely to the local economy.
"There's clearly still a lot to do as we work to make the technology available to everyone in Devon and Somerset. However, we are working as quickly as we can and milestones like this show how much progress is being made."
Councillor David Hall, deputy leader of Somerset County Council, added: “It is a fantastic achievement for the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme to have reached more than 170,000 homes and businesses across the programme so far – with that figure set to grow even further by the end of 2016.
“All the staff and engineers involved in the roll-out have been working tirelessly to reach this milestone and will continue to do so as the project progresses. It is great to hear so many stories like that of Julie Collins who is already seeing such a difference from upgrading to newer technology.”
Paul Coles, South West regional manager for BT, said: “The Connecting Devon and Somerset partnership is rolling out fibre broadband at a very rapid pace, making this exciting technology available to thousands more households and businesses every month.
“About 690,000 Devon and Somerset premises already have access to fibre broadband when BT’s commercial programme is also included. We are often overcoming major engineering and geographical challenges to make fibre as widely available as possible as quickly as possible. Connecting Devon and Somerset is a success story, which is making a major contribution to the future prosperity of the region by transforming the lives of people across the two counties. Whatever you do online you can do it better with fibre broadband.”
Latest exchange areas to ‘go live’ with superfast broadband are:
Devon - South Brent, Colyton, Lifton, Buckfastleigh, Cheriton Bishop, East Allington and Exborne.
Somerset - Somerton, North Petherton, Ilchester, Ashcott, Cheddar, Castle Cary, Evercreech, Axbridge, Bruton, Corton Denham, Brean Down, Long Sutton, Temple Cloud and Timsbury.