CRADLEY’S MP Margot James had a peek behind the scenes at the Stourbridge Telephone Exchange as part of a visit to find out more about the Government's continuing rollout of superfast broadband.

DCMS Secretary of State Matt Hancock today (Monday January 29) announced that the Government had delivered on its promise to extend superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the country by the end of 2017 and speeds of 24 megabits per second are now available to more than 19 out of 20 UK homes and businesses.

But in Halesowen and Rowley Regis, the News was told, 99 per cent of homes and businesses can now access superfast broadband - which enables internet users to connect more than one device at the same time and download and upload files, photographs and films more quickly.

Ms James, who was recently appointed as the Government's Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, said: "I would really urge everybody to contact their provider and see just how easy it is now to get superfast broadband into their homes.

"It’s absolutely essential for the future and for a lot of people it will make a huge difference to their daily lives right now."

During her visit to the telephone exchange - which keeps the lines of communication open for 27,000 premises across the Stourbridge area including 3,000 businesses - Ms James had a tour of the cable chamber and got to see close-up the fine fibre optic cables which allow for faster data transfer compared to the standard copper wires used in regular broadband connections.

Kim Mears, managing director of infrastructure delivery for Openreach - the UK's largest digital infrastructure provider, said: “We were delighted to welcome the Minister to her local telephone exchange, where she was able to see first-hand how important different parts of the network come together to enable Stourbridge residents and businesses to access the latest technology, as well as to meet some of the local Openreach engineers involved in the roll-out of superfast broadband.”

She said the Government-backed Black Country Broadband Project, spearheaded by funding partners Openreach and the Black Country LEP, has seen around 250 kilometres of fibre optic cable laid down and around 600 roadside fibre cabinets installed to enable people in the Black Country to access superfast speeds of 24 Mbps - more than double what Ofcom advises is needed in a typical family home.

Among the firms to have benefitted from the roll-out is Cox & Plant in Balds Lane, Lye, where managing director Andrew Cox told Ms James the increase in speed since upgrading just over a year ago had helped the company to improve its online presence, digitise working practices and develop ambitious expansion plans.

To date - 99.4 per cent of Black Country premises can now access superfast fibre broadband and the figure is set to rise to 99.6 per cent by March 2019.