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Cornwall 'reaping the benefits' of prioritising fibre broadband rollout

Thursday, November 12th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Cornwall is “reaping the economic benefits” of making the rollout of superfast broadband a priority, a BT boss has said.

Bill Murphy said the county made a commitment not only to roll out fibre services but also to drive take-up of the high-speed technology.

Superfast Cornwall – the project delivering the government’s rollout plans in the area – has made superfast speeds available to 95% of premises in the county.

Mr Murphy, BT’s managing director of next generation access, said council bosses in Cornwall were particularly helpful when it came to overcoming the challenges presented by the rollout.

“Cornwall made it a priority so if we needed a road closed they closed it. If we needed planning permission we could get it. If we needed a permit they’d be there to support us," he told Cable.co.uk.

“Hundreds of things have to happen each week in order to build the network out because it’s a massive engineering and logistics challenge.”

He said many people had doubted whether the original targets were achievable.

“Everybody thought it would be impossible to get to 84% of Cornwall and if you could get to 84% it would be an unbelievable achievement.

“We’ve ended up at the beginning of this year getting to 95% of homes and businesses and I can tell you that there are people who don’t think we did anything in Cornwall, especially in the last 5% because if you don’t have it, nothing’s been done.

“If you have it, you’re not necessarily calling up and saying thank you, but that’s ok. That’s the way the world is.”

Take-up of fibre broadband in Cornwall has been among the highest in the country, with some areas seeing in excess of 40%.

And research carried out by Plymouth University earlier this year found that the rollout had brought £186m of economic benefit to the region – creating and safeguarding a total of 4,500 jobs.

'Enlightened'

“It’s been brilliant because they’ve been committed to driving the tech,” said Mr Murphy.

“You can build anything, you can roll anything out, but the magic happens when you connect, whether that’s for social benefit or economic benefit.

“They made it a priority, they had to get 10,000 small businesses connected so they did – they’ve got over 12,000 and they’re reaping the economic benefit.”

Mr Murphy said Wales and Scotland showed similar levels of commitment and will both reach the target of 95% coverage by December 2017.

He said many English counties made the rollout a priority, but not all.

“I have found there are a lot of enlightened political leaders and chief executives who realise that getting these networks right is key to competitiveness, key for social reasons, and for the economic benefits.

“The social and economic benefits will far exceed the cost of building this stuff out.

“Where we have the support, it’s great, and where we don’t it’s harder. It’s not impossible it’s just harder.”

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