By Max Clarke

BT names six winning communities of ‘Race to Infinity’ instead of five.

BT’s “Race to Infinity” competition, for communities to vote for their area to be one of the next upgraded to super-fast broadband, has proved so popular that BT has increased the number of winners from five to six.

Race to Infinity set out to find five communities where demand for super-fast broadband was highest, but because six areas all achieved extremely high levels of votes, BT has said all six will be among the first to enjoy new BT Infinity fibre optic broadband.

The winners (in alphabetical order) are:
• Baschurch, Shropshire
• Blewbury, Oxfordshire
• Caxton, Cambridgeshire
• Innerleithen, Scottish Borders
• Madingley, Cambridgeshire
• Whitchurch, Hampshire

More than 360,000 votes were cast right across the UK in the three-month long Race to Infinity survey that finished on December 31, 2010. To vote and let BT know how much they wanted fibre broadband where they live, all people had to do was to visit the web site, www.bt.com/racetoinfinity. The next step is for Openreach to complete a survey of the winning areas to assess and plan fibre deployment.

Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT Retail, said: “The Race to Infinity really captured people’s imagination. We’ve been so impressed by the passion and commitment of the people who signed-up to campaign for their areas up and down the country. They’ve done a brilliant job and we’d like to thank them for their time and dedication and of course all the thousands of people all over the UK who have voted.

“Congratulations to the winners and commiserations to those who haven’t been successful, but all their efforts haven’t been in vain because their votes will help influence our plans in the future.”
Across the country, from the most northerly parts of Scotland to the south of England, local campaigner champions have been spreading the word, drumming up support and urging households and businesses to vote for their area to be one of the first to enjoy super-fast broadband speeds.

John Buckley, campaigner for Whitchurch in Hampshire, said: “Our success in the Race to Infinity is great news for Whitchurch. It will make the town a better place for home working and as a business location. The competition has helped develop the community spirit in the town with so many people working closely together and with support from the town council, borough councillors, and even the Leader of the House, our area's MP, Sir George Young.

"My abiding memories of the campaign are meeting so many people while campaigning and the enthusiastic response of all the local people, either online or on the doorstep, as well as the many donations from local businesses and residents for promotion and prizes to give away during the campaign. Above all, a lot of friendships have been made"

Chris Whatmore, one of the campaign co-ordinators for the Blewbury exchange in Oxfordshire, said: “Everyone in our five local villages deserves a pat on the back. The highlights for me have been working with some great people, getting a vote from our oldest resident, who’s 101, and leaping into the number one position the moment we hit 1,000 votes.

“Quite a few of us were involved in a previous broadband campaign, so we were familiar with the issues and had a number of ready-made contacts who we knew would be supportive. It seemed a natural thing for this core team to start the ball rolling. With proper, future-proof broadband, Blewbury can attract people or businesses that need and depend on high-speed data connectivity.”

BT Infinity fibre optic broadband is capable of offering download speeds of up to 40Mb and upload speeds of up to 10Mb, the faster speeds reducing the amount of time to upload and download files and improving the online experience of users whether they are interested in social networking, gaming or streaming video.

Several areas just missed out on making it into the top six. They are Marton in Warwickshire, Capel in Surrey, Burley in Wharfedale in Bradford and Lindfield in West Sussex.

Although, not among the winners, BT says that by participating in the survey, communities have made their voices heard. BT has promised to engage with any community not winning the competition, where at least 75 per cent of homes and businesses have voted for their exchange. This is to see if those exchanges can either be included in future commercial phases of fibre broadband — if the exchange is commercially viable - or enabled because of either public sector or community support as has already happened in some parts of the UK.

BT says it supports the Government’s vision of creating the best super-fast broadband network in Europe by 2015. The company has pledged to invest £2.5 billion to deliver super-fast fibre broadband to two thirds of the UK by 2015, it is planning a technical trial of one Gigabit broadband speeds in Kesgrave, Suffolk, and is including up to 40 rural market towns in the next phase of its super-fast fibre broadband rollout.

BT is also committed to working with Government to find ways of delivering fibre to the remaining third of UK homes and businesses. The company says public sector support will be required to help bring fibre to these areas, as has been the case in other countries.
The six successful exchange areas will be added to BT's deployment and enabled by early 2012 at the latest.