North Yorkshire County Council has awarded the contract for phase three of its Superfast North Yorkshire (SFNY) project to BT plc, meaning more than 14,000 more premises can look forward to better broadband.
In partnership with BDUK, the Government’s broadband delivery programme and the EU, the council is to be the principal funder of the £20.5m phase three, with an initial outlay of £12m to secure 94 per cent superfast broadband coverage of premises in North Yorkshire.
The award was made after a competitive procurement process. The majority of the premises will benefit from having fibre optic cables connected directly them, with speeds of up to 330 megabits per second (Mbps).
When Superfast North Yorkshire was first formed in 2010, nearly 50,000 business and residential premises received less than 2Mbps - and the average broadband speed of the 300,000 premises in North Yorkshire was under 4Mbps.
The reason for such an inadequate service was the size and sparseness of England’s largest county. This meant that a commercial return for telecoms operators in many parts was more difficult to achieve than in other areas of the country.
This was the worst provision of broadband for any county in England and, for the same reasons, commercial broadband providers were unlikely to offer their services to more than 42 per cent of business and residential premises.
Thanks to the intervention of Superfast North Yorkshire over the last six years, by the end of 2015, 86 per cent of premises in the county could receive superfast broadband. Of these, 145,798 were enabled because of Superfast North Yorkshire phases one and two. At the completion of phase two at the end of December, that figure rose to 89 per cent.
This has been achieved with exceptional value for money for the taxpayer. The average cost per premise for phases one and two will be £204. In addition, the present contract has a mechanism that once take-up exceeds 20 per cent, a portion of the original funding is paid back to the council.
In comparison with other rural counties, this represents the best value for money in the development of superfast broadband in the UK.
Further details of which villages and communities will benefit from phase three are currently being drawn up and will be ready to publish in the spring.
Councillor Don Mackenzie, the County Council’s Executive Member for Broadband, said: “The outcome of the phase three contract procurement is remarkable and puts the quality of broadband provision to some of our most remote communities on to a new, much higher level.
“It is very good news indeed for those residents who have been waiting patiently for SFNY to get to them and their patience is likely to be rewarded with some of the best broadband quality in the country.”
The County Council Leader, Councillor Carl Les, said: “Phase three of SFNY’s broadband expansion programme represents a fantastic boost to the economy of the county and will give many more small rural firms the ability to compete and to grow their businesses.
“The provision of high quality broadband has been a major priority for the county council to address the fact that commercial providers would never have delivered it without our intervention. It has been a major multi-million pound investment by the county council to reach as near to 100% of our residents as possible.’’