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. Digital Durham is delivered by Durham County Council and BT.
Across the programme area, people living and working in locations such as Middleton-in-Teesdale, Low Fell, Stanley, North Shields, South Shields, Wideopen, Lanchester, Benton, Stillington, Wellfield and Boldon will soon be enjoying the benefits of faster broadband.
Cllr Jane Brown, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for corporate services, said: “The completion of phase one, providing faster broadband to more than 107,000 homes and businesses is a major milestone in our partnership with BT.
“It’s a real source of pride that so many people can now use this technology for work, study and pleasure.
“But we’re not resting on our laurels. This further investment through phase two will ensure faster broadband is available to even more people and we’ll consider whether we can further improve coverage beyond this.”
In recent weeks, communities including Coxhoe, Peterlee, New Brancepeth, Willington, Meadowfield, Sherburn Hill and Wearhead have all been upgraded. The last of 498street phase one cabinets built since the first cabinet went live in Durham’s historic marketplace in December 2013 was switched on last month in Plantation Avenue in Littletown.
This second phase of the roll-out will see engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business, reaching some of the more challenging and rural locations in County Durham, Gateshead and the Tees Valley and, for the first time, the programme will move into South and North Tyneside.
Simon Roberson, BT’s regional partnership director for the North East, said: “Delivering a programme of this size has not been easy, and in particular reaching some extremely remote parts of County Durham is a great achievement and is testament to the dedication of around 100 Openreach planners and engineers who have been keeping busy, clocking up thousands of man hours to plan and carry out this mammoth feat of civil engineering.
“Since the first green fibre street cabinet went live, hundreds of kilometres of underground fibre optic cable has been laid and 498 new street cabinets installed in what is one of the region’s largest civil engineering projects in recent years.
“ However, there is still more to do and, as well as continuing the roll-out, we are also looking at ways to make existing fibre services go faster and reach further. We want to keep that momentum going so communities the length and breadth of the programme area get the maximum possible benefit.
“I would encourage those with access to 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