A new £32m super-fast internet network will revolutionise how businesses operate in the Lancashire, according to a business leader.
Edwin Booth, chairman of the county’s Local Enterprise Partnership, said the investment would kick-start growth across all parts of the economy.
Lancashire county council has also confirmed it has selected BT to install the system across the county from the end of the year following an “exhaustive procurement process”
It runs a joint venture company, One Connection, with the telecommunications giant to deliver many of its call centre operations.
Mr Booth, chairman of the Preston-headquartered Booths supermarket chain, said: “Superfast broadband has a critical role to play in increasing productivity and innovation across all areas of the economy in Lancashire.
“We want a thriving economy here in Lancashire and this will help us to achieve it.
“In terms of providing the necessary infrastructure for business in the 21st century, creating this network could be as important as the construction of the canals and railways was to the Industrial Revolution.”
It added that the county’s Enterprise Zone, which is due to launch in April covering defence firm BAE Systems’ factories at Warton and Samlesbury, near Preston, would be the first to be plugged into the network.
The scheme, which will also cover Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen, will be funded by £16.5m of European cash. £10.8m from the central Broadband Delivery UK pot and £4.7m from the county council.
Council leader Geoff Driver said there would also be a £3m support fund set up to help small businesses get into the network and £500,000 to get to remote parts of the county not reached by the main scheme.
He said: “We are determined to ensure that Lancashire continues to benefit from being at the forefront of this technology.
“Establishing this superfast broadband network will not only open up opportunities for businesses in Lancashire, it will revolutionise the way that people in the county, especially in rural or deprived areas, connect to the wider world.”
The scheme to plug in remote parts will start with a pilot scheme for people east of Lancaster who currently access speeds of less than 2MBs.
The county council said two-thirds of people in Lancashire already have access to super-fast broadband or have plans in place to provide it and added the scheme would cover the county.
It added the scheme will be delivered by 221 Lancashire workers including create 25 new jobs as well as establishing 20 new apprenticeships.