LIBRARIES across Dorset have begun a new chapter after benefitting from some of the country’s fastest internet speeds.

Fourteen libraries all have full fibre installed right into the premises, giving staff and users speeds up to 1,000 megabits per second, or one gigabit thanks to £200,000 of government funding.

In addition, 18 Dorset libraries' volunteer digital champions are running free advice sessions to help people with any technological issue.

Across the libraries, staff are undergoing digital training so they can help any member of the public who needs help accessing more online services.

Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for Corporate Development and Transformation, Cllr Jill Haynes, said: “This is fantastic news for those libraries and especially for the residents who use them.

“Libraries offer a wide range of services, so much more than just borrowing items. As well as a range of activities and events – they offer an online resource of materials such as e books and magazines and they provide free computers and WiFi for the public to use.

“As we move more to a digital world, our library staff and volunteer digital champions are also playing a vital role in helping people get the confidence and skills to do more things online.”

The improved WiFi is also free for residents to use on their own devices, enabling residents to work or study flexibly across Dorset.

It is hoped fibre infrastructure in these areas will make them more commercially viable for further fibre roll-out to the surrounding households and businesses. And for areas that are eligible for funding under the UK Gigabit Voucher scheme, the existing fibre should make it more affordable to install fibre to nearby premises.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said: "It is fantastic to see our investment bringing Dorset’s libraries into the gigabit age. The funding will help speed up the roll-out of lightning-fast broadband connections to homes and businesses in the area.

"This is just one part of our £5 billion Project Gigabit national mission to level up communities across the country with internet speeds which are fit for the future."

The 14 libraries that now have gigabit-capable broadband are: Blandford, Crossways, West Moors, Ferndown, Upton, Corfe Castle, Swanage, Weymouth, Colehill, Bridport, Littlemoor, Chickerell, Wyke Regis and Wimborne.