North Yorkshire County Council has awarded the contract for phase three of its Superfast North Yorkshire (SFNY) project to BT plc, which carried out the first two phases of the scheme, meaning more than 14,000 more premises can look forward to better broadband.
The scheme, which was launched in 2010, has already allowed around 150,000 premises around England’s largest county access to the higher broadband speeds thought to be vital to growing the local economy.
Prior to this, the size and isolated nature of England’s largest county meant telecoms operators were less likely to get a return on their investment than in other parts of the country.
It meant North Yorkshire saw the worst broadband provision of any county in England, with nearly 50,000 business and residential premises getting speeds of less than two megabits per second (Mbps).
As of 2010, the average broadband speed of the 300,000 premises in North Yorkshire was below 4Mbps, compared with a national average of more than 20Mbps.
Phase three of SFNY is costing £20.5m in total, with the county council promising an initial outlay of £12m so that 94 per cent of all premises in North Yorkshire have superfast broadband coverage.
The contract was originally scheduled to start during the summer but was delayed for six months by a number of factors including a lack of a European Union State Aid agreement.
The project is being delivered in partnership with BDUK, the Government’s broadband delivery programme, and the European Union, but the council will be the principal source of funds.
Officials say the majority of affected premises will benefit from having fibre optic cables connected directly to them, with speeds of up to 330Mbps.
The county council says phases one and two of the project, which resulted in 89 per cent of premises having superfast broadband, were completed at a cost of £204 per premises.
Coun Don Mackenzie, the authority’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.”
County council leader 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.”
He added: “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 per cent of our residents as possible.”
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, the council says.