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Dorset hopes broadband investment will boost business

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The minimum download speed proposed by the government’s Universal Service Obligation – 10Mbps – wasn’t met by 11 areas in tests performed by Which?. One of them is Dorset, with Purbeck only offering 9.0Mbps. It came tied fourth last place with Ryedale.

That’s not a good thing as Which? found it would take twice as long to download a movie in Ryedale compared to someone in Enfield, which was positioned among the top 20.

But Dorset seems keen to better its ranking. In fact, the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has announced it will be using a mix of public and private funding to rollout fibre cables to areas not covered by the likes of Virgin Media and Openreach.

This will be delivered through its “Superfast” project, which has already enabled 570 roadside cabinets and connected over 80,000 properties.

“Engineering work is to be completed by summer 2019,” an LEP statement explained. It will connect a further 3,800 houses, most of which will be getting access to 1Gbps.

Rob Dunford, interim LEP director, added: “A high speed digital infrastructure is crucial to supporting local economic growth. A better connected Dorset helps to create the right conditions for businesses to thrive and for more highly skilled jobs and housing to be created.

“Our Enterprise Zone at Innovation Park, the Aviation Business Park and the Western Growth Strategy area are currently being supported by Dorset LEP and will benefit from the fastest broadband speeds, making Dorset an even more attractive place to do business.”

The announcement follows on from news that a £2.5m project will create 20 new employment units in Purbeck. It was only the first step in the LEP’s plan to put emphasis on filling what it calls “employment sites”. The Innovation Park Enterprise Zone could create 2,000 new jobs, while the Aviation Business Park could create 10,000 new highly skilled jobs over the next decade.

Additionally, the LEP hopes to make flexible working more easy for local SMEs, with the region keen to rollout fibre broadband in various residential premises.

The work is set to cost £7.4m. LEP will pay £2m, while the government will cater to £2m. The rest will be invested by BT.

Cllr Daryl Turner, Dorset county council cabinet member for the natural and built environment, said: “We continue to work with the minority of Dorset communities which are now outside fibre broadband plans, helping them access funding towards alternative solutions.”

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