BRITISH Telecom has been announced as the winning bidder to roll out superfast broadband across Cambridgeshire over the next three years.

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In a contract worth up to £29.75million, BT will deliver a broadband speed of at least 24 megabytes per second to a minimum of 90 per cent of homes in the county.

At present many homes, particularly in rural areas, struggle by with very slow speeds - but under the new plans, very nearly 100 per cent of homes will get a basic broadband speed of at least 2mb per second.

Councillor Nick Clarke, the leader of the county council who announced the decision at a special meeting of his cabinet, said the final figures for both types of broadband “could very well be more than the minimum”.

He called Monday’s announcement a “remarkable day” for the county – but said those wanting to know which towns and villages would get it first would just have to be patient.

“We are hoping the contract will be signed in March this year and a roll out plan will be put together at that point,” he told councillors.

Who gets it first will very much depend on BT, he said, which the council will be working with to “understand the constraints of their particular project plan”.

It will not necessarily be based on numbers of supporters registered in different areas during the Connecting Cambridgeshire campaign but “will be about making the most cost effective use of resources”, he said.

The eventual plan is to have a website where people can log on to find out when their town or village is due to be upgraded.

“We will look back on this day and think why on earth we didn’t do it before,” Cllr Clarke said. “If you don’t have broadband, it feels like you don’t have roads or water. It’s intrinsic to our work. We recognised that comprehensive, superfast broadband is essential if we are going to continue competing on the world stage. Not having superfast broadband does a disservice to the economy.”

The benefits, he said, are obvious - it would “help to overcome community isolation”, ease congestion on the roads, as more people could work from home, and encourage more businesses to base themselves here.

Alex Plant, the council’s executive director of economy, transport and environment, added that Cambridgeshire was “further forward” than other counties in its superfast broadband campaign, giving it a tactical advantage.

Cambridgeshire County Council has committed up to £20m to the programme, along with up to £3m from Peterborough City Council and an allocation of £6.75m of Government funding from Broadband Delivery UK.

More than 24,000 people supported the Connecting Cambridgeshire campaign, giving it the largest response rate in the country.

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