MORE than 17,000 homes and businesses in and around Cowley are set to get super-fast Internet connections by the end of the year.

Last September, BT announced that its new Infinity fibre-optic system would be rolled out to parts of the city.

The Cowley exchange was not included on the list but BT announced this week that the system would now be made available to the 17,705 customers it serves.

Raphael Merni, of Computer Assistance, in Oxford Road, who has campaigned for the upgrade, said: “This is absolutely brilliant. It has been a long time coming.

“Many people have really sporadic connections. It might suddenly slow down and people can’t trust their Internet.

“I’ve known houses where they have had to buy two Internet connections, just in case one stops working.”

The new connection will give download speeds of up to 40 megabytes per second, more than 10 times faster than a standard broadband connection. This will mean a music track can be downloaded in about two seconds and a feature-length high-definition film in 10 minutes.

Mr Merni said: “Having the Internet is now more important than having a telephone.”

Oxford’s central phone exchange and the Summertown and Headington exchanges are all due to be fitted with the new equipment this month.

But areas around the city, including Kidlington, Woodstock, Eynsham, Wheatley and Cumnor are still waiting for super-fast broadband, along with Carterton, Chipping Norton and Wallingford.

Chris Jenkins, a retired chartered technologist from Ewelme, near Wallingford, said: “A lot of people are complaining about their Internet speeds, but they aren’t doing anything about it, just waiting for BT to do something for them.

“And that’s not going to happen for a lot of us.”

In April, Oxfordshire County Council and the county’s Local Enterprise Partnership, which brings together business leaders, launched the OxOnline campaign to get Government funding for faster broadband.

BT aims to make super-fast broadband available to two-thirds of UK homes and businesses by 2015. Spokesman John Weaver said: “This investment is another important step in the development of highly sophisticated communications in our region.”