A massive investment in speeding up internet connections could make as much difference to local firms as money spent on roads, business leaders say.
Councils in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are to spend up to £50 million jointly with BT in providing high-speed broadband for homes and businesses over the next three years.
The investment comes in the wake of hundreds of millions being spent on improving road, rail and tram services across Notts.
And the chair of the local enterprise partnership for both counties says the broadband announcement should be seen in exactly the same light.
“Without question, broadband is held in the same infrastructure bracket as roads and railways when it comes to a vital need for business,” said Peter Richardson, who chairs D2N2.
“We have heard many examples, from guest houses in rural areas to farmers, highlighting the need for access to broadband. The importance of this cannot be under-estimated.”
Notts County Council revealed more than £20 million was going to be invested in providing high-speed broadband for 95 per cent of the county’s homes and businesses by March 2016.
The council is putting £2.5 million into the project, the European Union £2.7 million, the UK government £4.5 million and Nottinghamshire’s borough and district councils £800,000 between them.
The rest of the money is coming from BT, which is spending £9.3m on the project.
The investment will see the installation of thousands of kilometres of fibre-optic cable which is ultimately capable of transmitting data at speeds of up to 80 megabits a second – far faster than current speeds.
In some cases, the fibre will be connected directly to buildings, allowing speeds of up to 330mbps.
A BT study has suggested that within 15 years, fibre-optic broadband could bolster the economy of a typical town by £143 million and create 225 new jobs, 140 new start-up businesses and around 1,000 more home-workers.
BT is carrying out surveys to plan the roll-out of the new cable, with work expected to start next spring.
Business organisations have been pressing for high-speed broadband for some time.
George Cowcher, the chief executive of the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Super-fast broadband will benefit everyone in the region and will be a major selling point for businesses and organisations looking to relocate to Derbyshire or Notts.”