• West Berkshire Council appoints Virgin Media Business to deliver new fibre optic connectivity infrastructure across the region
• Schools, doctor’s surgeries and libraries across Berkshire set to benefit
• Investment will support council’s vision of a Connected Berkshire
West Berkshire Council has awarded a major contract to Virgin Media Business to supply Full Fibre infrastructure to schools, doctor’s surgeries and public libraries across Berkshire by March 2022.
Connectivity at more than 80 locations is set to be upgraded, with more than 26,000 school pupils able to benefit from future-proof full fibre connections.
The project, which is being run by the Berkshire Digital Infrastructure Group (DIG), is made up of the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the six Local Authorities. It will improve digital infrastructure across the region, helping to keep local people and businesses connected.
Covid-19 has led to schools dramatically accelerating their digital learning programmes, which has caused challenges in harder to reach rural areas. Full fibre infrastructure will support digital learning and can power the next-generation of connected services. For schools and other public sites, it offers the potential for them to benefit from gigabit speeds, and can support connections of more than 1,000Mbps.
The fibre infrastructure will bring essential connectivity to schools across Berkshire, enhancing lessons, online training, cloud services and educational tools. It will enable schools to become digital community hubs and aid adult education and re-skilling. Communities living near the upgraded schools, such as GP surgeries and libraries, will also have their infrastructure boosted thanks to the contract.
The £1.7m project funded by Thames Valley Berkshire LEP through the Government’s Getting Building Fund, is being led by West Berkshire Council, to deliver the full fibre rollout.
The first 15 sites will start to be connected from next January with further sites added later in the year.
Alison Webster, Chief Executive of Thames Valley Berkshire LEP added: “The pandemic has demonstrated that schools and communities need to be equipped with the latest technology; it’s not a nice to have but is vital to our prosperity. The rollout of full fibre will not only keep our communities connected during times like this but also future-proof Berkshire’s economy ensuring out capacity to attract and retain cutting edge businesses from across the Digital sector to Life Sciences and the emerging Film and TV production sector clusters. We’re delighted be playing a leading role alongside our partners in connecting Berkshire which has never felt as important as it does right now.”
Councillor Gerry Clark, Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Digital Connectivity, said: "Fast digital connectivity is important to our residents and businesses and supports education and healthcare provision. Increasing the availability of these services is a key objective, and I am therefore delighted that through the Digital Infrastructure Group, funding has been secured to enable a number of schools and surgeries within the Royal Borough to benefit from new fast fibre connections".
Mike Smith, Director of Large Enterprise and Public Sector at Virgin Media O2 Business said: “This investment will bring next-generation connectivity to across Berkshire and help the region to thrive. With so many schools being connected, young people are set to benefit from the infrastructure they need to get ahead in the digital era.”