Superfast broadband to be rolled out across Saffron Walden

SUPERFAST broadband will be coming to Saffron Walden next year following a pledge by BT to roll-out its �2.5billion high-speed network to 5,500 homes and businesses.

The move is likely to give the local economy a shot in the arm – with research suggesting a “typical town” could see a possible �143million boost and the creation of up to 225 new jobs and 140 new businesses over the next 15 years.

It will also revolutionise the way people use the internet at home, with families seeing improvements when downloading a movie, watching a TV replay service, surfing the net and playing games online simultaneously.

Simon Jackson, Uttlesford District Council’s economic development officer, said the technology was a “must have” if Saffron Walden was to attract new businesses and retain existing ones.

“It is extremely good news. Superfast broadband is the road, railway and airport connection of the future – if an area hasn’t got it then it is going to be at a disadvantage.

“There are lots of things you can do when you’ve got access to superfast broadband – starting with WiFi in the town centre. It’s particularly beneficial to companies who send lots of data, and creates opportunities to do more interesting things such as high quality voice and video conferencing.

“The technology also allows people to work from home, or even start a new business there, which cuts down on the cost of commuting.”

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The hope is that the project will act as an incentive for hi-tech businesses to move into the town – with the focus on design, engineering and manufacturing companies.

But despite the benefits of the technology for Saffron Walden, there are still concerns about when the rest of the district will receive an upgrade.

Saffron Walden MP Sir Alan Haselhurst said it was “absolutely terrific” news that the upgrade would be rolled out but cautioned that it was imperative other rural communities in the district were not left behind.

“I am still campaigning for the technology to be made available to other parts of the Saffron Walden area because it is very important that the more remote businesses and households do not miss out,” he told the Reporter.

BT said the project was still in its early stages so could not confirm which homes and businesses would be included in the roll-out.

However, a spokesman said it was unlikely the firm would provide the technology to the wider district as it is focusing commercially on upgrading urban areas.

That task will fall on Essex County Council, which is looking to roll out superfast broadband across rural areas such as Uttlesford by 2015 after securing an investment of almost �26million.

It followed a commitment by the authority to match a �6.46million grant from central Government.

Having received approval from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport for its plans in May, the council claims it is “on target” to deliver superfast broadband to 90 per cent of the county within the next three years.