FASTER internet connections into people’s homes are needed so Oxfordshire can compete with the likes of Silicon Valley, according to a council report.

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet agreed a new digital infrastructure strategy at its meeting on Tuesday, March 17.

Its main aim is to boost local internet speeds, which have recently been a cause for concern in national media as more people are practising social distancing and working from home due to the coronavirus.

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But the strategy also goes far beyond just improving internet speeds, and has a long term vision to create ‘smart infrastructure’ across the county.

The document said it is 'reasonable' to compare Oxfordshire with ‘the likes of Silicon Valley, Beijing, Los Angeles, Tel Aviv, and other world centres introducing revolutionary technical change’ because of the amount of technology and science companies in the area.

It also added that there is an ever-increasing demand nationally for better broadband speeds, with internet traffic expected to double every two years.

To compete with these parts of the world, Oxfordshire needs to update its digital offering for businesses.

The strategy is based on an earlier county-wide broadband strategy, which saw the Better Broadband for Oxfordshire programme rolled out in 2014.

This led to fibre-optic connections being ran across the county, replacing old copper wiring and allowing for superfast internet connections for 97 per cent of homes and businesses in the county.

But to increase internet speeds and capacity further, ‘full-fibre’ is needed.

While fibre optic cables are currently run across Oxfordshire, the final upgrade to allow for full-fibre would be to replace the wires running directly into people's homes.

Oxfordshire, it said, is in an ideal situation to make full-fibre a standard part of new homes the huge amount of new building work in the pipeline across the county.

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While the council is not able to install full-fibre itself, it will enact the strategy by acting as a leader to telecoms companies.

The report to cabinet said different councils across the wider Oxford-Cambridge Arc area would likely have similar schemes to promote the growth of homes and businesses.

The strategy's overall vision for the future of Oxfordshire could see this new superfast connection used for 'smart infrastructure'.

This could include street lighting which can be controlled centrally, and sensors in vulnerable people’s homes to warn others when they are in danger.

Meanwhile, the report said mobile data use is also increasing each year, and 5G is needed to meet demand.

The new, faster mobile coverage would also require full-fibre to run properly.