Oxfordshire Broadband Partnership celebrates rolling out superfast fibre technology to 70k homes and businesses

More than 70,000 homes and businesses across the county (including Farmer Gow’s Activity Farm in Longcot) are now able to access superfast fibre broadband as part of the multi-million pound Better Broadband for Oxfordshire programme, lead partners Oxfordshire County Council and BT announced today.

And more than 40 per cent of households and businesses able to upgrade to the new technology as a result of the Better Broadband for Oxfordshire roll-out have already chosen to do so – which is among the highest take-up rates in the country*.

Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, said: "It's fantastic that the Better Broadband for Oxfordshire scheme has reached this milestone and another 70,000 homes and businesses in the county can now get superfast broadband speeds. Nine out of ten UK premises now have the superfast option, and Oxfordshire's high take-up rate means that we will be able to extend the local rollout even further."

Three of Oxfordshire’s oldest villages – Cottisford, Cuddeston and Holton – are among the latest communities where fibre broadband has gone live for the first time recently, as well as in Claydon. More parts of Longcot are now able to get fibre too thanks to Better Broadband for Oxfordshire, which is part of the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.

Longcot-based farmer, Anne Gow, who runs Farmer Gow’s Activity Farm, is one of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) already reaping the benefits of upgrading to fibre broadband.

She said: “The impact on my farm has been quite amazing. We improved our website and added an online shop to it. As a result, our online sales for firewood in October alone were almost more than for the whole of 2014.

“But it’s not just boosting online sales, it’s also playing an important part in attracting people to the farm. Many of my bookings now come through the website, including from as far away as New Zealand and Hong Kong. People can also see our range of products on the website and then pick them up when they come to visit.”

Councillor Nick Carter, Oxfordshire County Council's cabinet member for Local Government, Business & Customer Services said: “Making superfast fibre broadband available to more than 70,000 households and businesses is a terrific achievement for the Better Broadband for Oxfordshire programme.

“We recognise the challenge becomes even greater as we move into the very rural parts of the county. This often means the distances covered by the engineering teams laying the new fibre optic cable are much greater than in earlier parts of the programme. But we’re confident of reaching our target of rolling out to 95 per cent of county premises, which will be achieved using a mixture of technologies**.

“Meanwhile the efficiency savings achieved in delivering the first phase of the rollout, is providing the opportunity for further reinvestment aimed at delivering coverage to more than our targeted 95 per cent. Further details of this will be confirmed in the spring.”

Stacey King, BT’s regional partnership director for Oxfordshire and the South East, said: “As we continue to extend the reach of Better Broadband for Oxfordshire, it’s great to see a corresponding increase in the number of people opting for an upgrade. More than 40 per cent of those households and businesses who are able to access fibre broadband as a result of the roll-out have chosen to do so, and the number continues to rise.

“Every day we’re hearing how fibre broadband is changing people’s lives for the better. Whether it’s families needing to connect more than one device to the internet at the same time or people wanting to work from home or run a small business like Farmer Gow’s Activity Farm – everything is easier and better with fibre.”

Because Openreach – BT’s local network business – is installing the fibre optic broadband, the network is ‘open’, which means households and businesses opting for an upgrade have a wide choice of fibre broadband providers.

Councillor Carter added: “As all this hard work continues, we’re also in the final stages of drawing up options of how we plan to reach the remaining four per cent or so of premises not yet covered by public or private sector upgrades. This could include co-funding partnerships between the county council and residents, where it would be too costly to fund upgrade work through the programme alone. We will continue to provide updates on these and other plans and the progress of the roll-out via the project website."