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Can broadband save your job? In Cornwall the answer could be yes

Broadband isn't just about downloading films faster — it could also help to invigorate your local job market.
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

With much steep and rocky terrain and bordered on three sides by water, Cornwall has posed quite a challenge when it comes to broadband. But now BT itself says that this has changed and that Cornwall is open for superfast business.

According to a study commissioned by the council's Cornwall Development Company, this high-speed technology has already created, or safeguarded, at least 1,400 jobs in the county and an estimated 6,000 Cornish firms are now using fibre-optic broadband. On top of that, another 200 Cornish firms are signing up each month.

A lot of this is due to the efforts of the Superfast Cornwall consortium — a government-backed initiative run with the help of the European Regional Development Fund, BT and various Cornish local government bodies and businesses.

Superfast Cornwall's latest evaluation report, which it says is based on a survey of "more than 220 Cornish businesses which have been using fibre broadband for 12 months or longer", estimates that 611 jobs have already been created and 807 safeguarded.

Just over half of businesses surveyed (52 per cent) reported that fibre broadband had "enabled them to grow", while 79 per cent said that fibre broadband had saved them time or money and "55 per cent said that the technology had allowed them to work in new and different ways".

In addition, just under half (49 per cent) indicated that it had allowed employees to work more efficiently from home or remotely.

In a nutshell, slightly more than half of the businesses in Cornwall claim to have received some benefit from the county's broadband initiatives. Is that good?

One of the beneficiaries of the Cornish initiative is PBWC Architects of St Ives, which won the Best Use of Superfast Broadband category at this year’s Cornwall Business Awards.

The company employs 16 people and is using fibre-optic broadband for video conferencing, cloud computing, VoIP telephony, and sending and receiving large amounts of data.

Director Rachael Gaunt said: "Superfast fibre broadband has been fantastic for our business. It has allowed us to become industry leaders and develop new markets, leading to increased profitability and new jobs."

Ranulf Scarbrough, Superfast Cornwall programme director for BT, pointed out that the Cornwall project is one of 44 broadband projects that BT has running throughout the UK but it is also the most advanced. "It has been running since October 2010," he said.

"We now have 90 percent coverage with high-speed fibre in the UK," said Scarbrough. The other 10 percent can be "as challenging as the 90 percent."

But can't BT use wi-fi for the remote locations? "Wi-fi poses another set of questions," Scarbrough said. "It is simple in theory, but not in practice."

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