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Millions to be invested in broadband roll-out in rural Cheshire

Fourth phase of Connecting Cheshire project is called Digital 2020

Broadband is to be rolled out across rural Cheshire. Photo credit: Rui Vieira/PA Wire(Image: PA)

Cheshire West and Chester Council will receive a share of £7.25m of funding to extend the roll-out of faster broadband in the borough.

The investment over the next three years is the fourth phase of the Connecting Cheshire project and will target rural areas in Cheshire and Warrington, where broadband speeds remain low and where it has not been commercially viable to invest previously.

Called Digital 2020, the project will focus on reaching premises in rural broadband black spots, a digital business support package to enable small businesses to exploit digital technologies such as e-commerce, cloud computing and a broadband connection voucher scheme for businesses.

Funding will come mainly from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and government sources, as well as from Connecting Cheshire and businesses.

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 per cent, one of the highest in the country.

The Digital 2020 project is a partnership of Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester and Warrington Borough Councils, and is managed by Cheshire East Council’s arms length Skills and Growth Company.

Councillor Brian Clarke, Cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure, said: “This is excellent news to especially support our rural businesses that need fast and reliable internet connections to compete.

“Access to a 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. It is hoped that the programme will start its roll-out in early 2018.

The Connecting Cheshire project was launched in April 2013, for more information visit: www.connectingcheshire.org.uk

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