BT is to deploy fibre broadband services in rural Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, it has been revealed.
The two county councils have jointly awarded the £56.6 million contract to BT, in the first broadband initiative of its type to be launched in England.
Some 90 per cent of homes and businesses across the counties are set to gain access to super-fast broadband services over the next four years.
The ultimate aim is to provide access to 24Mb broadband services across Herefordshire and Gloucestershire by 2018.
It is estimated this investment could boost the local economy by almost £42 million a year.
Some £18.17 million of the funds will come from Broadband Delivery UK, with Herefordshire Council contributing £10.1 million, Gloucestershire County Council £7.5 million and BT £20.9 million.
Herefordshire Council Leader John Jarvis said the scheme will see Herefordshire becoming one of the most fibre-enabled counties in the country, after struggling with slower broadband speeds in the past.
"This project will really put the county on the map, attracting more businesses to the county, helping existing ones grow and enabling rural properties become less isolated," he stated.
Mark Hawthorne, Leader at Gloucestershire County Council, said the project will help support growth across the region, benefiting young people, businesses and the community.
"This deal enables us to put in place an infrastructure to support growing businesses and help people live where they want to live," he stated.
Bill Murphy, Managing Director for Next Generation Broadband at BT, said it is great to see two counties working in partnership to bring the best possible broadband to their rural communities.
"We’re delighted to have been awarded the contract and look forward to working together on this exciting project which will provide a powerful, sustainable platform for growth," he stated.
Openreach, BT’s local network division, will install the rural fibre network.
This will be available to all communications providers on an equivalent basis, allowing a variety of broadband providers to offer fibre-based deals.