A LANDMARK decision brought a project to bring superfast broadband to Staffordshire a step closer when the Government approved the plans.
A recent commitment to invest £7.5 million in the scheme by the county council was endorsed by officials in Westminster with a reciprocal committment to match those funds as long as the project secured the necessary funding.
Jane Gratton, membership and policy manager at North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is excellent news. We are delighted that the county council has taken the lead on this, but we now need private sector providers to invest in it too.” She said broadband had become essen- tial for businesses and the project would help to ensure that there was comprehen- sive coverage across the whole county.
“This is the first step in raising broad- band speeds in the county which is vital to maintain business competitiveness and productivity,” said Mrs Gratton. “As part of the process, the Chamber will be doing research over the next couple of months to identify the areas where business is currently getting a poor service.” The seal of approval from the Government for the scheme means the project can now move forward to the next stage, taking on a supplier to install the infrastructure.
The county council is also looking for “broadband champions” across the county to spread the word about the project and its benefits. Stafford Borough councillorMark Winnington, who is also the cabinet member for assets and envi- ronment on the county council, said 90 per cent of properties across the county would have access to superfast broadband by the middle of 2015.
“Government approval of our broad- band project plan is a significant mile- stone as it means we can really get going,” he said. “We felt it was vital to commit our- selves to making this investment.” He said it was important that people and businesses in the county were afforded the same opportunities as those across Europe.
“Our investment will see positive long- term returns for Staffordshire people and improve our economic prosperity.” By the end of this year a company will have been selected for the scheme, with work set to start in Spring 2012 and the requirement that by the middle of 2015 all properties across the county will have access to broadband.