The entire county of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are to be given access to next-generation broadband by 2014, thanks to a £132m rollout to be carried out by BT.
The investment is split between a £53.5m subsidy from the European Union (EU) and a £78.5m investment from BT, and will see 130,000Km of new fibre being laid to bring speeds of up to 100Mbit/s to homes and businesses in the region.
The chief executive of BT Wholesale, Sally Davis, said that the rollout would stand as a "flagship example of what can be achieved with gap funding" and a " clarion call to every region in the UK".
"We expect to cover 80 to 90 per cent of the county with fibre-to-the-premise or fibre-to-the-cabinet by 2014, with the rest of the county being connected either through wireless technologies or, more likely, satellite coverage," she said.
"We think demand will be high, especially from businesses, and we hope to have our first customers up and running on the new services by March next year. "
Davis added that BT won the tender from Cornwall Council in part because of the "diversity of service providers" it brings with its network, either through sub-loop unbundling through its Openreach division, or straight wholesale selling.
Olivia Garfield, strategy director at BT, added that the investment represented a separate outlay from BT's £2.5bn project to get two-thirds of the UK connected by 2015 with fibre broadband, but would count towards the two-thirds goal.
The firm is now planning to undertake a detailed review to consider how it can best deliver the connections to various areas of the county.
Tony Stewart, non-executive director of the Cornwall Development Company, the economic arm of Cornwall Council, said that the rollout represents a " lifetime's investment in Cornwall" and would have significant economic benefits.
"This is a quantum leap in connectivity for Cornwall. We want to ensure that early deployments target areas where it will help create economic growth and competitiveness for thousands of SMEs in Cornwall," he said.
The model Cornwall has used to fund the rollout with the EU is not available to other rural regions, BT explained, as only Cornwall and areas of Wales are eligible for the funding owing to their low GDP against the EU average.
"[Rural areas] will need to look to other sources of funding, not just the EU," Davis said.
This underlines the difficulty the government could face in trying to rely on market forces to push broadband, as rural areas will find it hard to convince telecoms firms to invest unless part-funding from others sources can be found.
The government has already pushed back its minimum service commitments of just 2Mbit/s to 2015.
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