Dorset

Dorset £32m high-speed broadband deal announced

A £32m deal to bring high-speed broadband to thousands more homes and businesses in Dorset has been announced.

Dorset County Council and BT have signed an agreement to bring the fibre-based technology to 97% of homes and businesses in the county by 2017.

The government originally said coverage would be rolled out by 2015. Some businesses are frustrated by the delay.

The first locations to be upgraded will be announced later this year.

The Superfast Dorset project is part of BT's national roll-out of high-speed broadband.

'Tremendous outcome'

The communications company said the technology is already available to more than 190,000 premises in the county and it hopes it will reach more than 260,000 by the end of spring next year.

Leader of Dorset County Council Spencer Flower said: "It's a little bit late, later than we would have liked, but the outcome of this is going to be tremendous."

He added slow or no broadband access "is one of the biggest issues facing our county".

According to the regulator Ofcom, in November 2012 the average broadband speed in Dorset was 8.7Mbps while 13.9% of premises received less than 2Mbps.

That compares to a national average of 12Mbps.

The scheme, which is being funded by Dorset's councils, BT and the government, aims to ensure speeds of at least 2Mbps in "the minority of places where fibre broadband is not viable".

Adrian Fisher, a maze designer from Blandford, said emailing a short video clip of his work to clients currently takes up to half an hour.

"When I want to send four or five clips I have to set aside an afternoon to send them," he added.

He also questioned why, with such a large investment of taxpayers money, high-speed broadband was not being rolled-out to more premises.

Bill Murphy, from BT, said: "We're starting out at 97% and we're certainly not going to apologise for that.

"Nobody wants to stop at 97% but that's our contractual commitment. We're very confident with new technologies, and once we start work, that we'll be able to go beyond 97%."

Surveying work for the project is expected to start in the autumn with the first cables being laid next year.

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