'BROADBAND that just works.'

No spinning wheels, no buffering, no delays. Just broadband that works — like a tap when you turn it on, like flicking the switch on your kettle. Perfectly, and all the time.

That was the promise made by WightFibre boss John Irvine when he met with Isle of Wight business leaders and politicians to provide an update on the company's £35 million Gigabit Island project.

As reported, the telecomms firm has pledged to deliver full-fibre, ultrafast broadband to 65,000 Isle of Wight homes and businesses by 2021, giving the Island some of the fastest broadband speeds in the world.

At the presentation, held at Cineworld in Newport last Thursday (September 6), chief executive Mr Irvine said the scheme — funded by WightFibre's new owner, Infracapital Partners, and match funded by the government — would catapult the Island to the frontline of the digital economy and future-proof the network for the 21st century.

"The world is your oyster. Only countries like Singapore, South Korea and Sweden have broadband like this," said Mr Irvine.

"This isn't just about delivering broadband to people who want to watch Netflix, it's enabling a fundamental shift in how we do things.

"Look at health monitoring for older people. Equipment can be connected to the NHS and social services and information fed back."

He said the network would be rolled out across the Island — starting with Cowes and East Cowes in January, 2019, then Newport in June, 2019, and Ryde in March, 2020.

Homes and businesses in Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor are scheduled for connection between June, 2019, and December, 2020.

The new service would be competitively priced, and WightFibre was happy to offer discounts to organisations like housing associations, said Mr Irvine.

"These dates are conservative. We are going to make these dates, no question, and there's a chance it could be earlier," he said.

"The challenge is the rural areas. There are around 4,000 to 6,000 homes where there is no commercial case for full-fibre broadband. That's why we need to be creative.

"Getting it to the West Wight will be a challenge but we'll do it, by hook or by crook."

Fewer than 50 homes and between 50 and 100 businesses currently have full fibre broadband, and even then it only runs from the exchange to the cabinet. BT copper cable is still used from the cabinet to customers' homes, which is more than a century old.

WightFibre's full-fibre cable will run all the way from the exchange into people's homes, delivering ultrafast broadband speeds of up to 1Gb (1,000Mb) compared with the fastest current speed of 152Mb.

Following pilot projects in Gurnard, which has seen 120 customers connected, and at Staplers, Newport, due to go live at the end of this month, Mr Irvine said lessons had been learnt.

After solving 'horrendous problems,' such as how to lay the cable without bending it, he said: "We now have happy customers. They are downloading double the amount of data.

"It just works. It's easy. There's no spinning wheel waiting for a programme to download or start streaming."

However, he warned the ambitious scheme would not be plain sailing.

Creating the new network, which includes digging 500,000 metres of trench and laying five million metres of duct, filled with 750 million metres of fibre, will pose a huge civil engineering challenge.

On the plus side, it will create jobs. On the downside, there will be disruption and residents will see roads and paths pulled apart to make way for the new infrastructure.

The Isle of Wight Council's regeneration director, Chris Ashman, said ultrafast broadband would encourage businesses to the Isle of Wight, bringing investment and jobs.

"Getting to the Island and doing business on the Island is more expensive than elsewhere in the UK. If we can do business digitally it's a unique selling point," he said.

"People buying a house, or moving house, want to know what the broadband is like. It's something they ask about, like where the nearest school is.

"It's increasingly important."