Steve Brine has welcomed news that thousands more homes and business will soon have access to superfast broadband, as the multi-million pound second wave of the Hampshire Superfast Broadband programme gets underway.
The Winchester & Chandler's Ford MP has long-campaigned for better service, both in the city and in the rural parts of his constituency, and Hampshire County Council and partners, such as BT, are now pressing ahead to boost the number of properties across the county with access to superfast broadband speeds of 24 megabits per second (Mbps) or faster.
Wave 1 of the programme has delivered access to superfast speeds to 63,000 premises across the county, whilst Wave 2 will deliver to a further 34,500 premises by September 2018, including to Stubbington (Hill Head), Rownhams, Alresford, Winchester and Hayling Island who are among the first areas reached in Wave 2.
County Council Leader, Councillor Roy Perry, said: "The UK continues to be the leading nation in Europe for take-up and usage of digital services, and take-up through Hampshire's programme has exceeded expectations. Thanks to £28.4 million of funding from the County Council, the Government, partner authorities and BT, the programme has already increased superfast broadband coverage from 80% to 90% of premises in the county.
"Wave 2 of the programme will further increase coverage to 96% of premises in the county – supporting businesses, the local economy, the provision of educational resources, as well as helping reduce social isolation."
Many rural businesses have benefited from the programme, including Egg Day Nursery in the village of Sutton Scotney. The nursery upgraded to Superfast Broadband in April this year, increasing speeds from 7mbps to 39mbps, which has helped its 20 staff care for 69 children.
Briony White, Director of Egg Day Nursery, said: "Superfast Broadband has made a big difference. Our administrative tasks and online nursery management system are wholly dependent upon our broadband connection. Our children's learning and development is also recorded and shared with parents using an online system. Staff, children and parents have all benefited from the speed increase, as management tasks can be completed more quickly and staff are spending less time battling with uploading issues, and more time with the children."
Councillor Perry added: "We are working hard to ensure that as many of Hampshire's residents as possible have access to superfast connections - regularly overcoming hurdles such as gaining landowner consent and stakeholder support. We are also pleased that the deal, recently announced by the Government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), between BT's network division Openreach, and the Home Builders Federation to offer free or co-funded broadband to all new developments, will go a long way towards meeting the Government's aspirations to bring faster internet speeds to more of the nation."
Stacey King, BT's regional partnership director for the south east, said: "We're working with developers and planners to ensure fibre broadband is installed into new developments, up-front, rather than having to retro fit it at a later date. We also offer community fibre partnerships for communities not currently in any roll-out plans, where BT and the local community share the costs. To future-proof the network and further improve speeds, we're also trialling new technology with a view to deploying it, if successful."
Councillor Perry continued: "Significant challenges remain in Hampshire to reach the final 4%. It is these harder-to-reach areas where proportionately more expensive infrastructure is needed for a smaller number of properties.
"We are alert to the challenges faced by communities and residents not in the current plans, and we are working hard to find a solution for these areas, such as facilitating discussions with satellite broadband or self-funding providers. We await details from the Government on how this will be tackled nationally."
Steve Brine said: "It's fair to say that I have had a lot of correspondence, and meetings, over the past few years on broadband, and I meet regularly with the HCC Superfast broadband team. This next wave is welcome news, and I keep pressing to get the best service as quickly as possible for my constituents."
A £1.2 million Innovation Fund Pilot from DCMS has also helped the scheme, reaching 1,700 homes in Winchester and East Hampshire districts through a mixture of technologies, such as radio and fixed wireless, in areas including Bramdean, Ropley, Privett, Gundelton and Preshaw.
With the technology and infrastructure in place, residents and businesses can sign up for the improved broadband service via a choice of internet service providers.
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