Cornwall leads the way in broadband revolution

Thousands of rural businesses in Cornwall will benefit from a multi-million pound investment in broadband Internet technology, creating more than 1,000 jobs and putting the county at the forefront of the e-business revolution.

The announcement, on the eve of the centenary of Marconi’s first trans-Atlantic wireless signal sent from Cornwall to Canada, means Cornwall is once again on the cusp of a new era in communications.

Called ACT NOW, the £12.5 million project aims to upgrade 12 of Cornwall’s telephone exchanges with ADSL broadband technology, and provide an intensive support package to 3,300 small and medium-sized businesses to help them make the most of the new technology.

ACT NOW is supported by £5.25 million of Objective One funding and has come about through a groundbreaking partnership between BT, the South West Regional Development Agency, Cornwall County Council, Cornwall Enterprise, Business Link Devon & Cornwall and Cornwall College.

It will place Cornish businesses at the forefront of the e-business revolution, allowing them to increase productivity, cut costs and compete on the world stage.

John Lobb, leader of Cornwall County Council, said: "This is a bold step change for Cornwall. Once again the county is at the cutting edge of communications technology and the potential for this to transform our economic development is great.

"Now businesses in Cornwall will be able to access global markets via state-of-the-art Internet links, putting Cornish products in a worldwide shop window."

Objective One programme director Bill Bawden said: "One hundred years ago, Marconi’s historic radio transmission from Poldhu on The Lizard put Cornwall at the centre of a communications revolution. ACT NOW aims to do the same today by putting Cornwall at the heart of the Government’s vision of ‘broadband Britain’ in the rural economy."

ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) transforms the pair of copper wires between a local telephone exchange and a customer’s telephone socket into a high-speed digital line capable of delivering large quantities of data at a fraction of the time it takes traditional ‘narrowband’ technology. It is ‘always on’ so there is no need to dial up a connection. Users can also make voice calls while connected to the Internet, using the same telephone line.

As well as the 3,300 directly participating businesses, more than 10,000 other businesses and 93,000 households in Cornwall will be connected to broadband-enabled exchanges once the roll-out is complete.

Stephen Bohane, Cornwall manager for the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) said: "This is an integrated project where the supply of technology is linked to a demand stimulation programme that makes this new technology commercially sustainable.

“By working together we are breaking the vicious circle where low demand leads to a lack of investment in broadband services in rural areas like Cornwall, and this could be a model for other areas of rural Britain."

Sir Peter Bonfield, chief executive of BT, said: "This innovative project shows how a public-private sector partnership approach can bring broadband to regions where it would otherwise currently be uneconomic to deploy it. We hope that this partnership approach with a whole range of key public sector players in the region will also boost the demand for broadband in Cornwall and hence justify the considerable investment involved.

"As the Broadband Stakeholders Group concluded last week, the way forward in making broadband Britain a reality will depend on partnerships such as this, with a range of private and public players working together."

Nigel Ashcroft of Cornwall Enterprise, who chairs the Objective One ICT Task Force, said: "Cornwall Enterprise is taking the lead on ICT issues in Cornwall and together with our partners we have put together a service that can be tailor-made to suit individual SMEs to ensure they reap the huge benefits of broadband technology."

Fred Elliot of Business Link Devon & Cornwall, said: "There is no question that the effect of ACT NOW will be to generate a large number of high quality new jobs in the county. At last, our businesses will be able to compete on the world stage on equal terms."

BT’s initial investment in the broadband infrastructure will be £1.7 million, supported by £910,000 of Objective One funding. Four telephone exchanges will be upgraded at first. The rest are expected to follow as demand increases.

The £10 million business support package will offer a high level of tailored advice to businesses, including a subsidy for the first 18 months of their ADSL contract.

The bulk of this is being funded by £4.35 million from Objective One. Other main funders include SWRDA, which is putting in £873,000 and Cornwall County Council which is putting in £200,000 through its economic development company Cornwall Enterprise.

Businesses wanting to know more about the ACT NOW project can call 01872 322931.


Editors notes:

Free photography from the official launch of ACT NOW will be available from lunchtime onwards either from the Apex Photo Agency on 01392 824024, or by visiting www.btplc.com and clicking on ‘Media Centre’. Follow the link to the picture library, where you can download the picture free of charge.


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