Cheshire East ‘won’t stop working’ until everyone gets access to a fast broadband connection

Following their £4.5 million full-fibre deal, Housing Industry Leaders sits down with Cheshire East Council’s Nick Mannion to discuss how the deal will benefit the area.

Cheshire East Council has signed a £4.5 million deal with broadband provider Airband for gigabit-capable, full-fibre connectivity to homes and businesses in the area.

Portfolio holder for the environment and regeneration in Cheshire East, Councillor Nick Mannion, discusses the benefits to the deal: “They [Airband] are going to deliver to us gigabyte capability will full-fibre broadband connectivity to an additional 4,000 properties in Cheshire East, mainly across rural and hard to reach areas.”

Nick Mannion, Cheshire East Council

By reaching rural areas, the deal will not only result in great benefits for homes, but it will help boost business’ ability to trade in the area. Nick tells Housing Industry Leaders: “I am really keen for people not to be excluded because of either where they live or how wealthy they are.

“You have exclusion because of geography, and you have exclusion because of income. This network, this infrastructure will be a positive contribution regardless of your social or economic situation.”

Funding for the deal, partly from the England European Regional Development Fund, is part of the Connecting Cheshire Partnership.

“It is to help stimulate economic development by investing in projects to support innovation, create jobs and local community regeneration,” explains Nick.

Cost-effective, high-quality connectivity in the area has numerous benefits, including better access to services and amenities such as entertainment streaming as well as increased productivity for businesses. Emphasising the importance of the deal for the area, Nick says: “If you have a poor internet connection now you are definitely excluded from a lot of opportunities. Everything is done online now if you are to participate in the economy you need to have a reliable, fast broadband connection.”

Cheshire East: Part of the green revolution

The deal also supports the area’s climate-conscious policies and commitment to be carbon neutral by 2025. Cheshire East Council hopes the introduction of this new, faster connectivity will “help residents and local businesses to also reduce their carbon footprint,” explains Nick.

“I want Cheshire East to be at the forefront of the ‘green revolution’,” Nick tells Housing Industry Leaders. “Now we have the green revolution where we are going to re-use, recycle much more in the future and I see the internet as a very cost-effective, efficient and user-friendly way of helping us do that as a society.”

With the drastic change in lifestyle for many brought along by the pandemic, people are now more reliant on technology to navigate their day-to-day lives. Nick acknowledges that, in Cheshire East, pleasures like streaming entertainment, gaming and video conferencing are a “real challenge,” and wants this deal to assure residents “their connectivity is more reliable and a lot faster.”

“Wi-Fi, internet, broadband is now hardwired into how we communicate with each other, our friends, our businesses and our customers, therefore any improvements can help,” explains Nick. With much of the Cheshire East population working from their homes, the importance of a reliable broadband connection has been thrust into the spotlight and Nick hopes this deal will “hopefully improve the prosperity of Cheshire East.”

This project is due to start work in early 2021 and is expected to last until March 2023. Nick told Housing Industry Leaders Cheshire East “won’t stop working” until everyone gets access to a fast broadband connection.

“Poor internet connection speeds were just accepted in the past, we now know that is a significant social and economic disadvantage,” he said. “Our challenge is to find a way of getting those remaining properties, households and businesses, onto this system. We are looking forward to doing that.”