We speak to Ranulph Scarbrough, director of the Superfast Cornwall broadband programme at BT, about winning last year’s Broadband InfoVision Award in the ‘Changing Lives’ category.
This year’s Broadband InfoVision Awards will take place in Amsterdam on October 23rd. For more information and to register, please visit: www.broadbandinfovisionawards.com
Can you bring us up to speed on where the Superfast Cornwall project is now?
Superfast Cornwall has continued to make great progress. Coverage is now around 80% of Cornwall and we expect to complete the rollout next year.
We recently announced, based on how well things have been going, that we expect to take fibre broadband to 95 per cent of Cornwall (up from the previous plan of 80 per cent).
And we also announced we would take fibre to one of Europe’s most isolated communities – the Isles of Scilly – comprising just 2,000 people on five islands 40km off-shore into the Atlantic. This innovative scheme will re-use two international service cables while navigating one of Europe’s most environmentally protected zones.
Take-up is also building strongly with over 24,000 subscribers through 32 service providers, including over 3,000 small businesses. Businesses continue to do great things with these connections.
We are also pushing ahead with our Research & Innovation programme with local universities “Superfast Cornwall Labs” doing lots of work on superfast broadband.
In what ways has winning the Broadband InfoVision award helped raise the profile of what you are trying to achieve?
In several ways: within Cornwall it has helped people recognise the importance and uniqueness of the programme that is underway and encouraged them to get involved. So we’ve seen great take-up as a result.
More widely in the UK it has helped us to highlight to other regions the impact that superfast broadband can have and the need to use it to enable economic and social transformation.
As a result we have had a large number of visits to Cornwall to find out more and many UK regions are now building their own replica programmes, with a number already underway.
And internationally there has been a lot of interest in the public-private partnership model we have pioneered as a means of bring networks sustainably to rural areas.
What has been the most surprising feedback you have had from winning the award?
There has been a real mix. When we have brought fibre to remote communities in Cornwall they have often been very surprised and then a little sceptical. When we tell them that the programme has won a world award it starts to make them realise how lucky they are.
Probably the most fun is when you meet people from central London or other cites that can’t get more than ADSL and they just can’t believe this is happening in such a remote and rural corner of Europe.
How do you plan to further raise public and industry support for the project this year?
We have been promoting the project at a number of industry conferences during the year to get the word out there and we are starting to see other replica activity around the world.
But its important to remember that this is not just about building the network, but about getting people connected and seeing them do new things, work in new ways and be more competitive and productive.
These latter elements are often missing from programmes. We expect to publish research later in the year evidencing how businesses in Cornwall and being more competitive and productive and the maco-economic and social impact of this.