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Superfast Cornwall fibre broadband progress 'unquestionable and staggering'

Friday, July 3rd 2015 by Ellen Branagh

The Superfast Cornwall broadband project has brought £186m of economic benefit to the region, experts have found.

Independent research published today suggests that the project has led to the creation of 2,000 new jobs in Cornwall, and safeguarded a further 2,500.

The programme, which started in 2010, has already made fibre broadband available to 95% of Cornwall and the Isle of Scilly, including 30% with access to ultrafast fibre to the premises (FTTP).

According to project bosses, Cornwall has seen some of the highest take-up of fibre in the UK, with some areas seeing an excess of 40%.

Today’s research, which involved more than 2,000 separate survey responses, is published by SERIO at Plymouth University, which provides specialist social, economic and market research, and economic development consultancy Buckman Associates.

It found the Superfast Cornwall project has been the catalyst for large-scale economic growth in the region worth £186.1m and, it found, and predicts that will rise to more than £250m by June 2016.

More than 12,000 Cornish companies are connected to the high-speed network, the research estimates, creating and safeguarding a total of 4,500 jobs.

Compete on a global scale

Of those businesses connected for at least a year, 79% cited performance improvements and nearly half have been able to develop new goods and services.

The study also found that connected businesses showed an average of more than four times more growth in revenue over the same period than non-connected businesses.

Nearly half (49%) reported that superfast broadband had helped their business generate new sales and almost a quarter (24%) of that group pointed to new trade overseas, suggesting that superfast broadband is helping them compete on a global scale.

Allice Hocking, head of SERIO, Plymouth University, said: “The findings clearly show the important difference that superfast broadband can make to a business’ growth prospects, particularly in a predominantly rural area like Cornwall.

“This is especially impressive given that the programme was implemented at a time when Cornwall, just like other parts of the UK, was recovering from recession.

“In addition, while the main findings show a marked rise in employment resulting from superfast, other evidence collected during the research points to the role that superfast can play in improving productivity, something which is seen as particularly important to the UK economy at this current time.”

The research was welcomed by digital minister Ed Vaizey, who said Superfast Cornwall had transformed the region’s “digital landscape”.

'Blazing a trail'

Nigel Ashcroft, Superfast Cornwall programme director for the Cornwall Development Company, Cornwall Council’s economic development company, said: “We always had faith that faster broadband would be a catalyst for growth, innovation and prosperity – but the scale of the progress we’re making is now both unquestionable and staggering, which shows just what can be achieved through partnership and collaboration.”

Dr Ranulf Scarbrough, Superfast Cornwall director for BT, added: “Today, investing in fibre seems an obvious way to transform a rural economy, but let’s not forget when we started the UK was in the depths of a recession and Superfast Cornwall was blazing a trail for others to follow.

“People across Cornwall now have a wide choice of high-speed service providers – a benefit of our open wholesale network – and they can reap the benefits of the fibre broadband technology in both their private and professional lives.”

Among the Cornish businesses to benefit from fibre broadband is Perranporth-based Natural Generation, which installs and maintains wind turbines and solar panel developments as well as other renewable energy products.

Managing director Ivor Thomson said since the arrival of fibre, their turnover had grown from £2.5m to £10m, and had been able to reach out to new customers across the UK and internationally.

“We are now perceived as major players in a very competitive market place. Superfast broadband has made a huge impact on our business.”

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