Rural Oxfordshire set for £6 million ultrafast broadband boost

Rural Oxfordshire set for £6 million ultrafast broadband boost

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Businesses in rural parts of Oxfordshire are set to benefit from faster connectivity after the local authority agreed two new contracts to deliver gigabit-capable broadband throughout the county.

Some 970 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are set to benefit from the technology, which has been made possible thanks to a successful funding application by the council to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DeFRA). 

A total of £6.3 million has been made available from the EU's European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development to complete the work, which will be carried out by Openreach in the south of the county and Airband in the north.

Digital connectivity programme director for Oxfordshire County Council Craig Bower said: "This is a great boost for Oxfordshire’s rural SMEs. All the businesses in scope currently have slow broadband when they increasingly need fast access to online resources to improve productivity and be competitive." 

As well as business users, around 900 residents will also have their homes connected to fibre-to-the-premises networks - though they will have to sign up for such services at their own cost if they wish to take full advantage. It will mean 98 per cent of homes and businesses in Oxfordshire will have access to superfast broadband.

Mr Bower noted that the new connections will add to the county's Better Broadband programme, which has already delivered high-speed services to more than 77,000 premises. 

He added that these capabilities are making a real difference to both residents and business users, as evidenced by the fact that more than two-thirds of connected residents subscribe to superfast services. 

Chris Franklin, rural development area manager for DeFRA, said: "We are keen to help rural businesses to be able to prosper and grow - ultrafast broadband is critical to enable this, improving productivity, and creating a level playing field with businesses in more urban areas both in the UK and abroad."

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