SUPERFAST broadband will be introduced to the majority of Wiltshire homes by next year, as Wiltshire Council progresses its £16m investment programme.

The strategy will mean that 85 per cent of the county will have access to superfast broadband and every home in the county, even in remote areas, can expect an internet connection by 2015.

The biggest boost could be to Wiltshire’s economy, after 99 per cent of businesses responded to a council survey, saying that a fast internet connection was important in keeping their business in the county.

A £16m pot of money set aside by Wiltshire Council, topped up by a £4.6m Government grant, will make Wiltshire one of the first counties to enjoy widespread superfast broadband and could secure millions of pounds of investment from businesses.

The changes will start to be rolled out from September next year. Wiltshire Council deputy leader John Thomson said a survey of 3,600 residents and 425 businesses had shown that there was a clear need for the improvements.

Over 20 per cent of those residents surveyed said their current internet connection was never adequate, while 50 per cent wanted superfast broadband.

From the businesses, 44 per cent said their internet was not adequate, 67 per cent wanted superfast broadband and 95 per cent said the internet was critical to their business.

Cllr Thomson said: “This survey clearly demonstrates that being online is becoming increasingly essential to our everyday lives.

“That’s why we are investing in this very crucial area.

“Families can make, on average, savings of £530 per year by paying their bills and doing their shopping online.

“Businesses can use the internet to improve their communications with customers and increase their sales.

“Access to the internet can also help to reduce social isolation, bring rural communities together and helping people learn new skills.”

The council will now identify the areas where investment will be needed, to ensure at least 85 per cent of all premises can get access to superfast broadband by 2015.