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BT promises biggest ever rural broadband project

£132m for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly

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BT, with a large slice of help from the European Union, is promising the largest ever superfast broadband programme for Cornwall.

The money is coming from European convergence funds (£53.5m) and from BT (£78.5m). It is the largest single EU investment in the UK

Sally Davis, chief executive for BT Wholesale, said: "This will provide a blueprint for how we can bring next-generation broadband to rural areas ... The £132m project is one of the most ambitious in the world ... If Cornwall were considered a country it will be in the top five most connected nations by the end of 2014."

She said BT hopes to have its first customers online by the end of the financial year, March.

The scheme aims to provide superfast connections to between 80 and 90 per cent of premises. Over half of these will have fibre-to-the-premises with the rest made up of a variety of other technologies.

These will include satellite, improved copper and wireless technology. BT stressed that it was in the early stages of detailed surveying to work out which technologies would provide the best fit for specific homes and offices. Davis said: "The devil is in the detail."

BT is not considering Wi-Max technology, although it did say that any freeing up of spectrum in the 800MHz range, due for release shortly, would be interesting.

Tony Stuart, non-executive director of the Cornwall Development Company, said: "This will bring huge improvements not just in speed but also in reliability ... for a per capita investment of only about £100."

Stuart said the network would help provide well-paid jobs for Cornish graduates and early deployments would be targeted at areas in special need of regeneration and 10,000 businesses would have their competitiveness improved by access to faster internet access.

Wales is the only other UK region to qualify for convergence funds. BT has run a similar project in Northern Ireland.

The network will be rolled out according to agreement between BT and the other partners. It will also be available on an open basis to other communication providers. ®

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