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Superfast broadband rollout makes Surrey 'Britain's best connected county'

Thursday, March 19th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Surrey has become the best connected county in Britain following the completion of the main part of its superfast broadband rollout, organisers have said.

Superfast Surrey, a partnership between Surrey County Council and BT, has now completed the initial phase of its programme to bring fibre broadband to areas of the county not included in commercial roll-outs, it announced yesterday.

More than 82,000 homes and businesses across the county are now covered by high-speed fibre.

The project has involved laying 250 miles of fibre optic cable – the distance between London and Middlesbrough. It has also seen more than 30 rural telephone exchanges upgraded to high speed fibre broadband and more than 600 green roadside cabinets installed.

The scheme has also helped Surrey record the second highest take-up of fibre broadband in the country, according to the project.

Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: "The government's nationwide rollout of superfast broadband is already transforming lives across the UK and this is particularly the case in Surrey, Great Britain's best connected county.

"We're now focusing on taking coverage even further, ensuring even more of Surrey's homes and businesses will be enjoying access to superfast speeds."

'Still work to do'

Surrey County Council deputy leader Peter Martin added: “This rollout has been delivered at an amazing rate of nearly 200 homes and businesses per working day, transforming lives across the county, and making Surrey the best connected county in Britain.

But Mr Martin said there is still work to do to get to the harder-to-reach areas of the county, saying it was not the "end of the story".

He said: "To understand the full scope of the remaining challenge, we intend to run a further investigation known as an Open Market Review (OMR). The results will enable us to identify how to prioritise the use of any remaining funds to address issues of broadband coverage and speed across the county."

Bill Murphy, managing director next generation access at BT, said the milestone achievement had seen the communications landscape "completely transformed, on time and on budget" and said the infrastructure meant one company could run its international operations from a 400-year-old house in one of Surrey’s oldest villages as easily as if in a high tech business park.

The completion of the main phase in Surrey comes just weeks after the government announced the nationwide rollout has now reached more than two million homes and businesses.

Its target is to bring superfast broadband (speeds of 24Mbps and above) to 90% of the UK by 2016, extending coverage to 95% by the end of the following year.

In yesterday's budget speech, Chancellor George Osborne told MPs that the government wants to bring "ultrafast" broadband speeds of at least 100Mbps to nearly all homes in the country.

Mr Osborne said more than 80% of the population now has access to superfast broadband, telling the Commons: “We’re committing to a new national ambition to bring ultrafast broadband of at least 100 megabits per second to nearly all homes in the country, so Britain is out in front.”

The government is also looking to raise the Universal Service Obligation (USO) – the legal entitlement to a basic service – from dial-up speeds to 5Mbps broadband. This would mean consumers gain a legal right to request installation of 5Mbps services at an affordable price.

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