* Pilot project aims to stimulate take-up and use of broadband services in Shropshire town via innovative brokering arrangements with telecom service providers
* 700 businesses set to benefit from affordable unmetered 'always-on' high speed Internet access
* Advantage West Midlands appoints telecoms consultancy Analysys as partner to manage and co-ordinate the pilot
BRIDGNORTH, UK, 21 November 2002 - Advantage West Midlands today announced an innovative pilot scheme to stimulate the take-up and use of broadband in the market town of Bridgnorth in Shropshire.
The project, part of the Regional Development Agency's Rural & Urban Broadband Pilot for SMEs, has been developed in conjunction with telecoms consultancy Analysys. It is designed to gain an understanding of the value and take-up of broadband services by fast-tracking broadband provision in
the town. This will be achieved by guaranteeing a number of customers for a broadband service and then tendering that demand to telecom operators. A grant to cover start-up costs will also be available to the winning bidder.
Speaking at the launch event at Bridgnorth Endowed School's technology centre (Northgate, Bridgnorth), James Saunby, head of ICT at Advantage West Midlands, said: "We need to do everything possible to ensure that local businesses can prosper in the region and understanding how broadband can contribute to the region's economic success is becoming an increasingly
"For many companies, broadband is already as important as other utilities such as water and electricity," added Saunby. "This pilot will bring broadband to Bridgnorth in months not years and is the start of an initiative to make broadband much more widely available throughout the West
In the UK, according to the telecoms regulator, OFTEL, there are now more than 1 million broadband users and 20,000 new connections every week. However, this rollout is focussed predominantly in built up areas and larger towns and it could be years before areas such as Bridgnorth reach the
trigger levels required for the local exchange to be upgraded to offer broadband.
Advantage West Midlands has appointed telecoms and new media consultants Analysys to manage and co-ordinate the pilot. David Cleevely, chairman of Analysys, speaking at the launch, said: "This innovative brokering arrangement reduces the risk for broadband service providers, whether
incumbents, unbundlers or broadband wireless operators, by providing a financial inducement and a signed-up customer base from the outset.
"We want to make broadband happen and our feasibility study shows that it is financially viable with as few as 50 business customers," added Mr Cleevely.
Jointly funded by Advantage West Midlands and the DTI, the pilot will kick off in January with a marketing campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of ICT and broadband and to sign-up customers for the service. In parallel a tender will be issued in early December to interested telecoms operators
with the intention of having broadband provision in place during the first half of 2003. The local Bridgnorth exchange serves around 5,000 households and 700 businesses.
The launch event, chaired by Sir Michael Day OBE and hosted by Shropshire publisher, Martin Edwards, also featured a video presentation from local businesses. The video highlights the desperate need for broadband in the area, which will allow local companies to operate efficiently and compete in
an ever-increasing global market. Local MP, Matthew Green, also spoke at the launch, welcoming the initiative and stressing the importance of broadband on the local economy, its effects on inward investment and ultimately peoples' jobs.
Broadband is expected to have a major impact on the competitiveness of Britain's small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) as it provides unmetered 'always-on' Internet access with upload and download speeds at least 10 times faster than via a dial-up modem. Research from Fletcher Advisory
forecasts that some £4.7 billion annually could be added to UK SME's bottom line by 2005 because of broadband uptake. The Government, recognising the economic advantages, and reports from the USA that equate the benefits of broadband deployment to 5% of GDP, has pledged to make the UK the world's most competitive broadband market.
"This is excellent news for my constituents in Bridgnorth," said Matthew Green, MP for Ludlow. "We have campaigned tirelessly to speed up the rollout of broadband in the region and it now seems that the long wait could soon be over."
About Advantage West Midlands http://www.advantagewm.co.uk
Advantage West Midlands is the Regional Development Agency for the UK's industrial, commercial and agricultural heartland and was established by the UK Government in 1999.The West Midlands region of Britain is a thriving international business, commercial and industrial location. It is a region renowned for the strength of its industrial base, its excellent transport links and the beauty of its countryside.
Advantage West Midlands role is to:
* Create a diverse and dynamic business base
* Create a Learning and Skilful region
* Create the conditions for growth; and
* Regenerate Communities in the region
The scope of this task means that Advantage West Midlands works closely with a broad spectrum of public, private and voluntary partners.In many areas its role is strategic, working with and through others to align programmes and priorities. Advantage West Midlands also provides direct services and assistance itself - primarily to support regeneration, inward investment, business growth and skills development.
About Analysys http://www.analysys.com
Analysys, the global adviser in telecoms, IT and new media, works at the forefront of the communications revolution, delivering advice and insight to established and new entrant players. From offices in Cambridge, London, Glasgow, Madrid, Milan, Paris, San Francisco and Washington DC, Analysys staff provide strategy and systems consultancy, conferences, information
services and start-up support to the companies that are creating the networked economy.
Analysys is now the leading provider of independent advice to Central Government and to Regional Authorities for solutions that deliver broadband networks. Its roles have covered near and long-term network strategy and life-cycle planning, demand modelling and mapping, regulatory advice,
outsourcing and exit strategies, technical specifications, Service Level Agreements, risk assessment, procurement processes, PFI and PPP funding processes, EC funding and procurement and help desk facility and training.
Its practical experience is underpinned by extensive background work for carriers and regulators throughout Europe on issues of licensing, LRIC modelling, economic and strategic scenario planning, business case development and due diligence. Clients include Cambridgeshire County Council, Welsh Development Agency, Advantage West Midlands, FORFAS, East Sussex Coastal Renaissance Partnership, the Scottish Executive and the East of England Development Agency. It has also undertaken several large-scale projects for the Office of the e-Envoy.
Broadband provides a high-speed connection (500kbps or above) to the Internet that is 'always on' and usually for a fixed monthly fee. Broadband can be delivered using a variety of technologies including DSL (digital subscriber line) over a normal telephone network, via a cable modem utilising a cable TV network, or via a broadband wireless technologies. Broadband provides Internet access that is at least 10 times faster than what is available over a narrowband connection - a dial-up modem, for example, connects to the Internet at speeds between 28.8kbps and 56.6kbps.
Martin Brooke (for Analysys)(for launch pics)
Martin Brooke Associates
Tel: +44 (0) 1223 264050
David Cleevely/Richard Wilson
Tel: +44(0) 1223 460600
Advantage West Midlands
Jane McMillan/Neil Skitt
Tel: +44(0) 121 380 5436 or 07766470698
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
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