SUPERFAST broadband will come to thousands more homes and businesses in Dorset under a £31.75million deal announced today.

Dorset County Council and BT have signed the agreement to bring high-speed fibre optic broadband to 97 per cent of premises within the next three-and-a-half years.

The Superfast Dorset project builds on BT’s rollout of fibre broadband, which has already made the technology available to more than half of Dorset – more than 190,000 premises – and will reach 260,000 by the end of spring 2014.

County council leader Cllr Spencer Flower said: “We want everyone in Dorset to have access to reliable and faster broadband within the next three-and-a-half years and I'm delighted by this announcement as it's a major step forward for our county.

“We know that some residents and businesses are frustrated by slow or no broadband access in Dorset, especially in rural areas – it’s one of the biggest issues facing our county.”

Bill Murphy, managing director of next generation access for BT, said: “Fibre broadband will provide a strong, reliable connection to the rest of the world – opening new horizons, helping us to be more efficient and keeping us in touch with vital services.”

James Weld, Superfast Dorset representative from the Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Having better, faster broadband will play a major role in strengthening the Dorset business community as well as giving residents greater flexibility to use new technology for learning and entertainment.”

BT is contributing £12.87m towards the cost in “non-commercial” areas, while Dorset’s councils are providing £9.44m and the government’s Broadband Delivery scheme £9.44m.

The councils have invested a further £1.3m to maximise the benefits of the network.

The technology can deliver downstream speeds – for receiving data – of up to 80 megabits per second (Mbps). Upstream speeds – for uploading information – can reach 20Mbps.

The partnership will also aim to ensure broadband speed of at least 2Mbps in the minority of places where fibre broadband is not available.