THE first villages to benefit from a multi-million pound rural broadband project have been announced today (Monday).
Residents in parts of Shalfleet, Gurnard, Whippingham, Brighstone and Shorwell will be the first to receive high-speed broadband this summer, as part of an Isle of Wight Council scheme, in partnership with BT, to improve internet access in rural communities.
As previously reported, the council has invested £2.4 million in the project, to match the funding provided by the government's Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.
The council has pledged some 20,000 homes and businesses in largely rural parts of the Island will have access to high-speed broadband by next autumn, when the project is due to be completed. It said 90 per cent of those premises will receive broadband speeds of 24mbps.
The council's executive member for economy and tourism Cllr Shirley Smart said: "This is an important investment for the council in supporting the Island’s connectivity to the mainland, and indeed the world, and as a springboard from which the Island’s economy can grow.
"Homes and businesses in some of our towns are already seeing the benefits of superfast broadband and we are delighted work is starting to connect the largely rural parts of the Island. Having fast internet speeds across the whole Island is not only vital to the success of our small businesses, it is also key to attracting inward investment, one of the council’s key priorities.
"In addition, this investment will help us as we look at innovative ways of delivering more council services online. This is very important as the council looks to make financial savings over the coming years."
Bill Murphy, managing director of next generation access for BT, said: "This is great news for the Isle of Wight. BT has committed £2.7 million to build and operate the network across the Isle of Wight for the lifetime of the contract. Today’s announcement builds on BT’s commercial investment, which has already made fibre broadband available to around 49,000 premises, mainly in the Island’s towns."
The new fibre-based network will be open to all broadband providers on an equal basis, giving customers a choice of broadband suppliers.
As the project gathers pace and more areas are connected, the council will post the latest information on its website at www.iwight.com