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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cotswold Parishes and Market Towns back high-speed broadbandcampaign

Communities throughout Cotswold district are backing a campaign to bring high-speed broadband to rural Gloucestershire.

The Borders Broadband project is a multi-million pound initiative to secure private investment in a new fast broadband infrastructure for the county’s rural areas.

As part of the campaign, a Gloucestershire-wide survey of households and businesses is underway to show there is demand for fast broadband services in rural communities. (See www.gfirst.co.uk/broadband)

And volunteer ‘broadband champions’ are being recruited to link towns and parishes to the campaign, to highlight the benefits of high-speed broadband, and to encourage households and businesses to take part in the survey.

So far 78 volunteers in46 parishes and towns in Cotswold district have stepped up to become broadband champions. And over 2,300 households in Gloucestershire have completed the residential survey.

Borders Broadband is managed by GFirst (Gloucestershire’s Local Enterprise Partnership), Gloucestershire County Council, Herefordshire Council and Government agency, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).

“We’re getting a really good response to this campaign so far,” said Cllr Mark Hawthorne, leader of Gloucestershire County Council. “This is beginning to show that there is real demand for faster broadband in our rural communities throughout Gloucestershire. 

“I would urge everybody who hasn’t done so already to complete a survey questionnaire, and help us persuade the private sector to invest in the necessary infrastructure.”

The Cotswolds Conservation Board, which looks after the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), is also backing the campaign.

The Board’s own survey of internet speeds throughout the Cotswolds AONB area shows that nearly half of households in the area have broadband speeds below or at 2Mbps - the Government’s acceptable minimum level of service.

Borders Broadband was awarded £14.4 million for Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, making this one of the first parts of the UK to share £530 million Government cash for rural high-speed broadband.

Major private sector investment is vital to the project’s success. Public funding is being used to attract a commercial telecoms supplier and persuade them there is significant demand for fast broadband in the county’s rural areas.

Telecoms companies are involved in a complex tendering process to provide the new broadband infrastructure. A contract is expected to be awarded in late Spring 2012.

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