The roll-out of high-speed, fibre-based broadband across Teesdale is rolling along at top speed with more than 6,300 homes and businesses now able to benefit as a result of the multi million pound Digital Durham partnership.
Engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business, began upgrading the first BT exchange in Teesdale in 2014 with premises in Cockfield being the first to be connected to the new, high speed technology in May 2014.Since then, people living and working in communities such as Cotherstone, Bowes, Barningham, Staindrop and Gainford have also been upgraded and a further 800 are set to join them during the second phase of the Digital Durham programme over the next two and a half years.
The Digital Durham team will be visiting Teesdale to explain why faster broadband is such good news and to answer any questions local people may have about the roll-out. On August 4, the team will be at Middleton-in-Teesdale Methodist Church between 11am and 12.30pm and at Cotherstone Village Hall between 2pm and 3.30pm. They will also be holding a session at Gainford Village Hall on August 18 between 11am and 12:30pm.
Digital Durham is delivered by Durham County Council and BT.
Cllr Jane Brown, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for corporate services, said: “It is fantastic that so many homes and businesses in Teesdale are now able to access fibre-based broadband.
“This technology is especially important in rural areas as it allows people, who may live long distances from their place of work, shops, friends and families, to work, shop and keep in touch with people online.
“Anyone who has any questions about how faster broadband can benefit them is very welcome to attend these sessions.”
Jon and Bev Dunn, owners of Café 1618 in Middleton-in-Teesdale, have recently upgraded to a superfast service and are already feeling the benefits of having faster broadband, both in their work and personal lives.
Jon said: “The faster speeds are already giving us the opportunity to enhance our website and use social media to promote our business and attract new customers. We already provide our customers with free wi-fi but can now offer a faster and more reliable service. That is something that certainly would not have been possible before we upgraded to fibre.
“On a personal level the faster broadband speeds have made even the simplest things more efficient and we’ve bought a Smart TV which we absolutely love. Now when we’re busy working in the café we don’t need to miss out on our favourite shows anymore.”
The first phase of the multi million pound Digital Durham partnership has been completed successfully with more than 107,000 households and businesses now able to access faster fibre broadband as a direct result of the programme.
Work is already well underway on the second phase of the roll-out with the first homes and businesses expected to be connected by the end of next month. This additional £9 million investment will bring fibre broadband speeds within reach of a further 29,000 homes and businesses across the Digital Durham programme area by December 2018.
Simon Roberson, BT’s regional partnership director for the North East, said: “Rural geographies, such as Teesdale, present many challenges not faced in more urban areas. Long stretches of narrow, winding roads, can create the need for temporary traffic lights and other traffic restrictions with engineers often having to build long stretches of new underground cabling ducts. There can also be difficulties connecting power to the new fibre cabinets situated in particularly remote locations.
“But whatever the challenges, the job to get fibre broadband to as much of Teesdale as possible is vital and will bring huge benefits to people living and working there.
“I would encourage those who can already access fibre based broadband to contact their service provider to arrange an upgrade. It’s an ‘opt in’ service, but because the Openreach network is ‘open’, there is a wide choice of fibre broadband providers.”
In total, £34 million has been invested in Digital Durham by BT, Durham County Council, the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme and public sector partners in Gateshead, Sunderland, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and Tees Valley.
Thousands of households and businesses across the Digital Durham programme area have already ordered fibre based broadband and are now enjoying faster speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps.
For more information about Digital Durham visit www.digitaldurham.org
 Tees Valley includes Darlington Borough Council, Hartlepool Borough Council, Middlesbrough Council, Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council and Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council.
These are the top wholesale speeds available from BT’s local network business Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary