Broadband investment helps ten-year digital drive across the Marches

A ten-year project to improve broadband access across Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, has played a huge part in driving the region’s economic success, the region’s small business champion said today.

Dave Courteen says the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership – the business-led organisation which has driven economic growth across the region since it was formed ten years ago – has committed a total of £7.7million to ensuring that businesses in all corners of the area have access to the fastest broadband possible.

The investment – secured as an extension to Growth Deal funding – has helped ensure that some 77,000 homes and businesses in hard-to-reach areas now have access to broadband speeds of at least 30Mbps.

Dave, the LEP’s small business champion and chair of the Marches Business Support Steering Group,  said the investment meant that more than 93 per cent of the region now achieved speeds which were impossible just a few years ago.

“The importance of broadband to our business community cannot be overstated which is why delivering these improvements has been a core part of our decade of delivery,” he said.

“It is now just as much of a utility as electricity and water, without which it is impossible for businesses to compete on a level playing field with competitors in more urban areas. It is essential that our businesses have access to the fastest speeds possible and we have been working hard to ensure that is the case.”

LEP funding has helped drive the broadband success in all three parts of the Marches, including:

In Herefordshire, the Fastershire project was awarded nearly £1.7million of Growth Deal funding by the LEP to help overcome market failure in provision in rural areas.

The Fastershire project has helped 35,000 premises across the county access superfast broadband and independent figures from Think Broadband show more than 93 per cent of premises across the county now have access to speeds of 30Mbps or more.

In Shropshire, Connecting Shropshire received just over £5million of Growth Deal funding to upgrade 64,328 premises to superfast broadband.

The scheme has helped bring high-speed connectivity to areas which had previously been left struggling with slow speeds.

The Superfast Telford project received just over £1million from the Growth Deal funds to help drive the borough’s ambition to become one of the first areas in the country to have 100 per cent fibre broadband coverage.

It targeted more than 9,323 premises - including 1,398 businesses - that had previously been unable to gain superfast access to ensure that no area of the borough was excluded from the digital revolution.

Latest figures from Think Broadband show that 98.2 per cent of premises across Shropshire now receive speeds over 30Mbps, whilst the figure is even higher at 98.5 per cent in Telford & Wrekin.

“This hugely-improved broadband provision means that businesses in all parts of our region can now access fast speeds, taking advantage of the new technologies which are revolutionising the way we do business and work,” said Dave.

“Without this investment it would have been impossible for large numbers of people to work from home during the pandemic and lockdown, shutting down still more businesses and increasing the impact the pandemic has had on the region even more.

“Our Marches Growth Hub has also worked across the region with partners to make sure that businesses are aware of the grant and funding help available to upgrade their connections as part of our work to future-proof the region’s economy.

“And because of the unique way the LEP is set up – as a partnership between business, the local public sector and academia – we will continue to work to improve connectivity and ensure that as many people have the digital skills needed in today’s world as possible.”

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