A GOVERNMENT minister has praised a faster broadband project which is reaching out to homes and businesses across Dorset.

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey has praised the success of the £31.75 million Superfast Dorset programme as it reached a major milestone.

The programme, which was first announced a year ago, has already made high-speed technology available to more than 8,000 local homes and businesses.

The second phase of the programme will reach a further 10,000 Dorset premises by the end of the year in parts of Abbotsbury, Dorchester, Maiden Newton, Preston, Puddletown Upwey and Warmwell.

Mr Vaizey said: “This is fantastic news – Dorset has achieved a lot in the year since the roll-out began and I’m delighted that already so many homes and businesses are enjoying access to superfast broadband speeds as a result of the programme.

“We understand how important superfast broadband is, and the widespread access to this ‘fourth utility’ that our roll-out will deliver will provide a tremendous boost to the Dorset economy.”

Dorset County Council signed a multi-million-pound contract with BT last July to provide fibre broadband access to more than 80,000 premises. This, together with BT and other providers’ commercial roll-out, will make superfast fibre broadband available to 95 percent of the county by the end of 2016.

DCC’s Environment portfolio holder Peter Finney said: “This is the most significant investment in infrastructure that Dorset councils, working together, have ever embarked on.”

Dorset resident and self-proclaimed ‘silver surfer’ Peter Maddocks said superfast broadband had improved his life.

He said: “I got my first computer when I was 73 years old. I thought I was a bit past such new gadgetry but believe me you are never too old and now I am 85 my computer with its access to the internet has become virtually essential.

“Thanks to the introduction of superfast fibre broadband you get your information more quickly and more easily. Now it is normal to pay my bills online often with a discount for online billing.”