A technological renaissance is to hit the rural communities of North Yorkshire as the local council finishes off plans for a new £50m contract with a major telecoms company, bringing high-speed broadband to countryside villages and towns.
North Yorkshire County Council, who have been campaigning for many years for the installation of a new fibre-optic underground cable to connect the county, have now decided on which telecoms company is to deliver the new broadband line, with an official announcement to come later this month. This unveiling will follow a long series of negotiations between BT and Fujitsu, both of whom were eager to take on the project.
The deal will be a landmark event that will hopefully see the vast majority of the North Yorkshire community online by 2015. This will be a significant step towards a wider plan to provide 100% broadband coverage for the entire North Yorkshire population by 2017.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, Julian Smith, MP for Skipton and Ripon, who has been the leading figure of the campaign for broadband in the region, said that this new deal will herald a new era of economic growth for the region: “We are now on the brink of transforming the economic prospects for the northern part of our region…I believe this is the equivalent of the installation of the canals or the railways for our part of the world.”
North Yorkshire was one of four regions put forward by the Treasury in 2010 as pilot areas for rural superfast broadband networks, the others being Cumbria, Hertfordshire and the Highlands and Islands. However, last Christmas, it was reported by the BBC that little progress with such plans had actually been made, suggesting that the initial government targets for connecting the country were likely to fall drastically short.
Yet, according to Gary Fielding, assistant chief executive at North Yorkshire County council, the North Yorkshire plans to put the region on a technological par with the rest of the country are still very much on target: “Our vision was to deliver 100 per cent coverage of high-quality broadband by 2017.. [and] given the discussions we’ve had with our bidders, we are confident we are well on track with that.”
North Yorkshire County Council expects to be the first of these pilot areas to achieve their goals to revolutionise technology for remote homes and business. Further to the £17.8m government grant handed to the region, North Yorkshire’s money pot will be increased by £6.8m of funding by the European Union and £25m by whichever telecoms company wins the contract It is hoped that this will provide a boost to the local economy, encouraging new and start-up businesses to the area as well as stalling the number of families and businesses who may move away to areas already provided by high-speed internet.
This initiative to connect rural areas also comes as part of the government pledge to ensure that Britain has the best broadband network in Europe by 2015. Alongside the plans to bring high-speed internet to rural communities, the government is also injecting a £100m pot of money into ultrafast broadband in several British cities including London, Manchester and Leeds to transform them into “super-connected” cities.