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17.04.03
Pioneering broadband project plans to reach out to Cornwall's remote areas

Cornwall's pioneering broadband initiative actnow will next week celebrate its first anniversary with the announcement of plans for a further major extension of the project.

The £12.5 million scheme is preparing to submit a bid for Objective One funding, which, if successful, will see broadband being delivered for the first time to some of Cornwall's most remote areas.

Alternative broadband technologies, such as wireless and satellite, are likely to be used to provide service to customers outside the reach of the 13 Cornish exchanges already equipped with ADSL broadband.

It is estimated that 1,000 small and medium-sized businesses and 4,000 households would benefit from the £1 million extension to actnow. More than 100 jobs are expected to be directly and indirectly created through support and advice services and helping participating businesses grow.

Nigel Ashcroft, actnow project director, said: "The actnow project has made tremendous progress since it was launched on April 24 last year. There are now more than 5,000 Cornish firms and households using broadband, of which nearly 1,600 are businesses. By the date of the anniversary next week we should have 1,650 broadband business customers and so, in just one year, we are halfway towards our three year target of connecting 3,300 small and medium companies. This demonstrates the willingness of Cornish firms to embrace new technology as a means of improving their business.

"For some time now we have wanted to extend the reach of actnow to the more remote areas currently out of range of exchanges upgraded with ADSL broadband. Businesses in these areas have told us they would benefit greatly from the availability of broadband and we're keen to make sure they don't lose out by making broadband accessible to everyone.

"To reach them, it is likely that a variety of broadband technologies will need to be deployed. Different areas might well require different technological solutions. Whichever technology best meets the needs of a particular area will be used.

"And, of course, it is not just about deploying the technology. We want to provide businesses with the same level of support and advice we have been able to offer to companies currently participating in actnow. That high level of assistance has been a key factor in the growing success of the project."

A bid for Objective One funding for the project will be submitted to Government Office South West within the next few weeks and it is expected, once approval has been granted, that the project will go live in September. It is hoped that 35 per cent of the funding will come from Objective One, whilst the remainder will be shared between the participating partners.

Part of the submission will include a proposal for a Broadband Rural Business Fund. It would be developed to provide support for the most imaginative ideas from Cornish businesses in the use of broadband.

BT, one of the major partners in actnow, today paid tribute to the "tremendous vision" displayed by the actnow private and public sector partnership and said the growing success of the project had implications far beyond Cornwall.

Pierre Danon, chief executive officer for BT Retail, said: "We applaud the actnow partners in putting broadband at the heart of their economic strategies. They have shown tremendous vision and demonstrated the real power of organisations working together in local communities.

"The success of this project is having an impact far outside Cornwall. With actnow, Cornwall has shown the way not only for the UK, but also for many other parts of Europe. The project is making a vital and lasting contribution to the future prosperity of Cornwall.

"Elsewhere in the UK, many other broadband projects are being developed very much on the lines of actnow, but let's never forget that Cornwall did it first."

The actnow project is also supported heavily by the local business community. Richard Newman, Regional Chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "The FSB is recognised as being a key player in the development of the actnow project and we are delighted with the success to date.

"Our objective of enabling the whole of Cornwall with broadband remains one of the top priorities for the FSB and we will be robustly supporting the next phase of actnow delivering broadband to remote rural areas.

"Through this infrastructure we will ensure businesses in Cornwall are able to take advantage of the opportunities provided by new technologies and be able to compete at a global level in the 21st century."

For further information contact Emma Lydon, actnow on 01209 722850, or Jason Mann, BT on 0845 7262624.

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Editor's notes:

The actnow programme is a demand-led initiative to encourage businesses in Cornwall to gain the support they need to move into the new broadband economy. Including about £5.25 million from Objective One, it is one of the largest private and public sector partnerships in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly since the region was granted Objective One status by the European Union in 2000. Partners include BT, the Objective One Partnership, Cornwall Enterprise, the South West of England Regional Development Agency, Cornwall County Council, Business Link Devon & Cornwall and Cornwall College.

ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) broadband transforms the pair of copper wires between a local telephone exchange and the customer's telephone socket into a high speed digital line.

The 13 Cornish exchanges already equipped with broadband are: Truro, St Austell, Redruth, Camborne, Newquay, Penzance, Falmouth, Bodmin, Launceston, St Ives, Saltash, Bude and Penryn.

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Jason Clark
Communications Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Tel: 01872 241379
Fax: 01872 241388
jason@dclark.co.uk

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