BT Customers In Cornwall Get Fibre Broadband

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

The first customers in Cornwall have been connected to BT’s high ‘ca-pasty’ broadband service in that area

BT has revealed that more than 1,000 Cornish homes and businesses and 50 customers have been connected (on schedule) to its super-fast broadband service.

“The sophisticated technology is now available to more than 1,000 homes and businesses in the Chiverton Cross and Chacewater areas,” said BT in a statement. It also said that by this Thursday (31 March) another 14,000 customers will be connected to super-fast broadband after it goes live in St Agnes, St Day, Portreath, Devoran, Leedstown, Stenalees and Par.

The £132 million scheme to roll out superfast broadband to 90 percent of homes in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly was announced in September last year. This is currently the largest rural fibre optic roll-out in the UK and should make the south west of England one of the best connected locations in the world.

Cornwall of course already houses most of the UK’s cabling hubs, which physically connect this country to North America via undersea cables.

Fibre Installation

“Cornish households and businesses are getting a head start with access to some of the best broadband speeds in the world. The super-fast service will boost the competitiveness of local firms and offer a whole new range of flexible working, entertainment and learning opportunities for local residents,” said BT.

The carrier revealed that its engineers have already installed more than 150 kilometres of optical fibre cable – equivalent it said, to more than the length of Cornwall.

The installation of fibre is an incredibly labour intensive process, as witnessed first hand after eWEEK Europe UK visited BT’s Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) trial in Bradwell Abbey (a suburb in Milton Keynes) in October last year.

But BT is not relying on landlines alone to provide broadband services to Cornwall. In December it said it would also use the HYLAS1 satellite to get broadband to the remotest parts of that county.

The funding for the scheme is being shared between BT and the European Regional Development Fund. BT will shoulder the lion’s share of the cost (£78.5 million), with the EU picking up the rest of the tab (£53.5 million). However the £132 million total could be lower, depending on demand from local businesses.

Local Impact

The rollout has already proved to be a blessing for at least one local Cornwall business, which said that the fibre deployment had “transformed” its services.

“Super-fast broadband is fantastic,” said Michael Owen, the landlord of the Britannia Hotel, a pub in a 19th century listed building in the village of Chacewater.

“I had high expectations, but it has been even better than I imagined. Downloading of films, for example, takes no time at all and when I send a video it just flies. It really is amazing,” he said.

“We are the first super-fast pub in Cornwall and because we offer free Wi-Fi to our customers, people can experience super-fast broadband first hand while enjoying a pint of real ale,” he added. “Our customers have been blown away by it. More businesspeople are coming in now with laptops. We have a printer on the bar, which customers are welcome to use free of charge. So people can drop in, do their work and print it off while enjoying a drink or a spot of lunch.”

“The Superfast Cornwall programme is certainly living up to its name,” said Carolyn Rule, Cornwall Council cabinet member for economy and regeneration. “We are very pleased with its progress and the fact that this key milestone in the programme has been reached right on schedule.”

“Already this scheme is starting to make an important contribution to the success of the Cornwall economy and to the lives of Cornish residents,” said Ranulf Scarbrough, BT programme director for the Superfast Cornwall programme. “We have a team of about 50 engineers, contractors, planners and technicians working together to ensure that the project is able to deliver the immense benefits of super-fast broadband to customers in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as soon as possible.”