Major step forward for pioneering broadband project

A pioneering Object One project in Cornwall to bring broadband technology to rural businesses took a major step forward today with the announcement that BT Retail has won the tender to provide the communications and computer hardware and software for the thousands of participating small and medium sized companies.

BT, which is one of the South West’s largest private sector employers, had already pledged to upgrade 4 of its Cornish telephone exchanges with ADSL broadband technology as part of the £12.5 million ACT NOW project. A further 8 exchanges will be upgraded depending on demand.

Now the communications firm will also play a key role in the intensive advice and support package offered for the 3,300 participating businesses to help them make the most of the broadband technology being installed. The support package – involving all the necessary equipment and communications, training and advice - is expected to be one of the most comprehensive of its kind ever provided in the UK. BT’s total investment in the project will exceed £3 million.

Pierre Danon, Chief Executive of BT Retail, said: “We are delighted that our bid has been successful. Over the coming weeks we will be working closely with the other partners in the project to develop what we fully expect to be one of the most comprehensive support packages for small and medium firms ever offered in this country. The expertise available within the ACT NOW partnership is immense and very wide ranging.”

ACT NOW is a ground breaking partnership led by Cornwall Enterprise with Objective One, BT, the South West of England Regional Development Agency (SWRDA), Cornwall County Council, Business Link Devon and Cornwall and Cornwall College.

The Objective One programme is contributing £5.25 million to the project. Other main funders include SWRDA, which is putting in £1 million and Cornwall County Council, which is contributing £260,000 through its economic development company, Cornwall Enterprise.

Nigel Ashcroft, ACT NOW project director, said: “Bids were sought from a large number of local and national companies. Now that the tender process has been completed we will be able to move swiftly forward with the project, which will play a vital role in the future prosperity of Cornwall. The partnership is recruiting specialist staff for training and developing a full marketing plan.

He revealed that publicity surrounding the multi-million pound project had already resulted in more than 150 inquiries. “Many of the calls have been from local companies wanting to know more about the project and the technology, but we have also received inquiries from individuals and organisations elsewhere in the UK interested in relocating to Cornwall,” he said.

Carleen Kelemen, deputy Objective One programme director, said: “The partnership is working very hard to allow businesses across Cornwall to take advantage of broadband technology as soon as possible, but it does take time to get the infrastructure and support package in place.

“The roll-out of broadband will be phased, with the Penzance, Newquay, St Austell and Redruth telephone exchanges being broadband-enabled by late spring. Other exchanges will follow depending on demand, so I would urge business to pre-register their interest as soon as possible by calling 01872 322821.”

ACT NOW, an acronym for Access for Cornwall Through Telecommunications to New Opportunities Worldwide, is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs in Cornwall and put the county at the forefront of the e-business revolution.

Businesses wanting to know more about ACT NOW can call 01872 322821.


Editors notes:

The ACT NOW programme is a demand-led initiative to encourage businesses in Cornwall to gain the support they need to move into the new broadband economy. It is one of the largest private and public sector partnerships in Cornwall since the county was granted Objective One status by the European Union in 2000.

The initiative, which will run for a three-year period, provides a business start-up package, including ADSL, computer and ICT support and advisory services. The full details of the package have yet to be announced.

ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) transforms the pair of copper wires between a local telephone exchange and the customer’s telephone socket into a high-speed digital line. It is called asymmetric because it is generally configured to move data more quickly from exchange to customer than from customer to exchange. This makes it particularly suitable for applications where customers expect to receive more data than they transmit. Use of the World Wide Web, corporate intranets and the reception of digital audio-visual material generally fit this pattern.

The speed available far exceeds that obtainable from dial-up modems or a single ISDN channel. With access speeds of between 512Kbps and 2Mbps downstream and 256Kbps upstream, the technology is capable of download speeds ten to 40 times the speed of ordinary modems. At 2 Mbps it can deliver the equivalent of a daily newspaper in seconds.

The customer’s conventional voice line can operate over the same copper pair at the same time without either service getting in the way of the other. ADSL is ‘always on’ abolishing the need for a dial up process to log onto a remote network.

ACT NOW will initially result in exchanges at Penzance, Newquay, St Austell and Redruth being ADSL-enabled by the end of March. If the project is deemed to be successful, further exchanges will follow at Falmouth, Camborne, Launceston, Bodmin, Saltash, Penryn, St Ives and Bude during 2002. The exchange at Truro has already been ADSL-enabled.

For further information contact:
Kate Selby
Cornwall Enterprise
01872 322931

Jason Mann
BT Press Office
0845 726 2624


Jason Clark
Communications Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Tel:01872 241379
Fax:01872 241388