Connecting Cheshire announces next phase of rural rollout

The fourth phase of the Connecting Cheshire project, which looks to provide faster broadband services in areas considered unviable by commercial suppliers, has been announced, with £7.25m committed to extending the rollout programme.

The Digital 2020 phase of works will be carried out over the next three years. Connecting Cheshire sees Cheshire West & Chester combines with Cheshire East, Halton and Warrington councils.

The Digital 2020 phase will see £3.61m committed from the England Development Fund, part of the European Regional Development Fund; and £2.54m from Broadband Delivery UK, part of the DCMS. Of the remainder, £960,000 will be committed from the Connecting Cheshire programme’s existing resources and £140,000 from business contributions.

To date, the Connecting Cheshire project has reached more than 97,000 premises with faster speeds and has switched on more than 600 new roadside fibre broadband cabinets.

The project has also been successful in driving take-up of the faster speeds by homes and businesses and will soon reach 50%, one of the highest in the country, CWAC said.

The Digital 2020 project is managed by Cheshire East Council arms’ length Skills and Growth Company.

Cllr Brian Clarke, CWAC cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure said: “Access to fast broadband is taken for granted in cities across the country but we want to ensure as many residents as possible also have access to faster internet connections to access skills and learning, entertainment and other social connections.”

The process of selecting an infrastructure partner for Digital 2020 is already under way and the scope of coverage will be confirmed once the procurement process is completed. Contracts are expected to be signed before the end of October, with work starting in early 2018.

The Connecting Cheshire project was launched in April 2013.

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