North Dorset gets the UK’s first major Project Gigabit contract

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Boris Johnson’s levelling-up agenda comes to rural Dorset, bringing ‘lightning fast’ broadband and other benefits. Fanny Charles reports

A £6 million contract signed with North Dorset-based Wessex Internet will bring the government’s new Project Gigabit to 7,000 rural properties across the district over the next three years.
Forget super-fast or even ultra-fast broadband – the £5 billion Project Gigabit aims to bring the fastest and most reliable internet connections to hard-to-reach rural areas, to enable families and businesses to take full advantage of technological advances in the coming decades.
For North Dorset, the contract with Wessex Internet will result in vastly improved connectivity for businesses and individuals outside the market towns and larger villages. The first home will be connected by the end of 2022, with an expected completion date for all by 2025.

Wessex Internet was started by James Gibson-Fleming, now chairman and founding director. Initially it was a response to the problems of business people and individuals in the Iwerne valley who were struggling to get reliable broadband. Since then, the company has expanded to serve communities in Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset, and has provided fast broadband to most built-up areas of North Dorset.
But it is very expensive to reach people in the remoter, scattered settlements and farms, and this is where the support funding from Project Gigabit comes in.
It’s not just ‘lightning fast’ broadband, as Boris Johnson called it, when he came to North Dorset to sign the project’s first major contract, on one of his last prime ministerial visits. It will also have far-reaching benefits for local business and the community, providing employment opportunities and improved skills for local people.
Hector Gibson-Fleming, chief executive of Wessex Internet, is justifiably excited about the contract and what it means for the area: ‘We care about our community and we are really proud as a business to be part of this.’ he says.
‘It will not only bring unlimited speed broadband to the hardest-to-reach areas, it will also create employment opportunities for businesses and is good news all round for the prosperity of the area.’

It’s not just good internet
Wessex Internet currently employs 150 people, and the new contract will see that figure rise by around 100 over the next 18 months, says Hector, who urges local people to look at recruitment prospects offering skilled jobs across the company.
These employment benefits will spread across the district, as the improved connectivity allows entrepreneurs, farmers and businesses to expand into old farm buildings and other potential workplaces. The new businesses will mean more and better employment and training for local people.
‘There will be opportunities for people to have high-skilled jobs in North Dorset,’ says Hector. ‘We are really proud of the difference we are making to our community.’
The government press release, announcing the visit by Boris Johnson and Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, says: ‘Gigabit
broadband can provide speeds of more than 1,000 megabits per second, more than 30 times faster than copper-based superfast broadband, which is currently available to 97 per cent of UK premises. While superfast is fast enough for most people’s needs today, gigabit-capable connections will provide the speeds and reliability Britain needs for decades into the future.’
For more information on ‘proudly local and independent’ Wessex Internet, visit
wessexinternet.com

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