Residents and businesses from across the region gathered at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal’s Visitor Centre on Saturday, September 29, to learn about opportunities for even faster broadband and see the project’s newly launched logo: Superfast North Yorkshire – Connecting Our Community.
As well as Mr Smith the conference was addressed by a number of speakers from the telecommunications industry including BT Openreach and Google, North Yorkshire County Council, and business representatives.
Mr Smith, who hosted the first broadband conference at Ripon Racecourse in February last year, said: “This has been a cross-party campaign with all MPs across the county taking part. We came to deal with this issue of broadband speeds because it is the biggest issue economically for Ripon and North Yorkshire.
“This is one of the biggest procurement processes in North Yorkshire’s history. Today should be a day of celebration.”
Mr Smith added that the project will create 35 jobs and 10 apprenticeship places in the district.
In addition to creating local jobs, the project will also employ 500 planners, 1,000 install engineers and 500 civil engineers.
Barry Dodd, chairman of the North Yorkshire, York and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership, told the conference the roll-out of high broadband speeds across the county marked a turning point for North Yorkshire.
“You hear about high-tech businesses and think ‘that’s not me’. This is a game-changer for you,” he said.
“Just because North Yorkshire is rural it doesn’t mean that we can’t be at the forefront.”
His sentiments were shared by John Moore – North Yorkshire County Council’s director of finance and IT – when he took his turn to speak to the audience.
“This is the biggest project of its kind in the UK. The new logo is colourful and serves its purpose,” he said.
“As soon as you see it on vehicles and signs, you’ll know it’s happening.”
North Yorkshire was cited by Mr Moore as the most rural county in the UK – but he emphasised that this will not hinder the project.
More than 90 per cent of North Yorkshire households and businesses are now guaranteed speeds of 2Mbps (megabits per second), with North Yorkshire County Council pledging to secure 2Mbps speeds for 100 per cent of people in the region within five years as BT constructs the £50m fibre-optic network.
Liv Garfield, chief executive of BT Openreach, grew up in Harrogate and said her friends and family will be “over the moon” with the new speeds.
Addressing the audience via videolink, she said: “Fibre-optic broadband will be at the heart of communities in the future. We’re up for the challenge, come rain or shine.”
Following the speeches, a debate was chaired by Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones. Concerns were expressed that the green broadband boxes which will be placed by roads – a necessary part of the broadband infrastructure – will be an eyesore on the district’s picturesque streets. Addressing the panel of BT representatives present, Ripon Coun Mick Stanley said: “I think it’s a great shame that you are not considering redesigning the cabinets. They’re very unsightly.”
In response, Mike Galvin – managing director of network investment for BT – said: “If there is no cabinet, there is no broadband. BT will not be changing the look or shape of the boxes.
“The brand will hopefully add to the sense of excitement and sense of ownership.”
For more information visit www.superfastnorthyorkshire.co.uk