Telecoms giant BT is to start rolling out high speed broadband to remote rural communities in the West Midlands as part of a collaboration between the public and private sector.
The West Midlands Networking Company ( WMNC) has decided to award the contract to BT for the delivery of broadband in the remaining areas across the West Midlands, Southwest and East Midlands that do not have access to this technology.
Making affordable broadband services available in these areas had not been considered economically viable by private sector suppliers on their own, but a recent European Commission decision means that public sector intervention can now assist and make it possible for suppliers to make the business case.
The Rural Broadband Access Project (RBAP), funded by regional development agency Advantage West Midlands in the West Midlands and delivered by WMNC, will help to close the digital divide that currently exists between the remaining rural communities without broadband and their urban counterparts.
BT will roll-out broadband in the areas concerned by enabling 45 exchanges, 24 of which are in the West Midlands.
The first exchanges are set to be enabled in February, with the project due to complete in July.
Roll-out dates will be published on www. thepowerofbroadband.org.uk once agreement on terms and conditions has been reached.
The website will be maintained with uptodate information as the project progresses.
Richard Hyde, chairman of WMNC, said: "We were very pleased to get the approval from Brussels so quickly, faster than any similar scheme has been approved for elsewhere in the UK and Europe.
"It has made it possible for WMNC to work with BT to pull forward the delivery of this project, bringing broadband to these areas as soon as practically possible."
Frank Mills, BT regional director, West Midlands, also said: "BT has already made the UK the world leading nation for broadband availability, covering more then 99 per cent of homes.
"This announcement is excellent news and we are pleased to be part of this initiative. This moves us further towards the ultimate goal of ensuring everyone can enjoy and exploit fully the benefits that broadband can offer.
"The next challenge is to ensure the region leads the way in embracing modern communications technology.
"BT looks forward to working with Advantage West Midlands to unlock the vast potential broadband can bring: through improved efficiency."