The first phase of iNorthumberland has been completed successfully with more than 52,500 households and businesses now able to access fibre broadband speeds as a direct result of the programme.
Survey and planning work is already well underway on the second phase of the roll-out with the first homes and businesses expected to be connected late summer. This additional £4.1 million investment will bring fibre broadband speeds within reach of a further 3,700 homes and businesses across Northumberland by June 2017.
Across Northumberland people living and working in locations such as Matfen, Gunnerton,Longhirst, Hebron, Burgham Park, Tranwell Woods, Carrshield, Meldon Park, High Buston, Bebside, Bomarsund, Great Tosson, Belford, Scremerston, and Prestwick Park Business Centre will soon be enjoying the benefits of faster broadband.
Cllr Dave Ledger, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “The council is playing a pivotal role in bringing superfast broadband to homes and businesses across Northumberland, and has been pleased to make such a significant investment in this important service.
“The roll-out programme has not been without its challenges and, with the first phase now complete, we will now be tackling some of the most difficult to reach, rural locations in the county. I am looking forward to seeing more communities benefiting during this next phase and even that is most certainly not the end of the story.”
In recent weeks rural communities including Newton-on-the-Moor, Duddo, Fenwick, Lowick, Elsdon, Ancroft and Acklington Village have all been upgraded.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, joined the iNorthumberland team and senior members of Northumberland County Council and BT, in Newton on the Moor to mark the end of the first phase of work.
“She said: “Decent broadband is the fourth utility for all our homes and without decent broadband, our children cannot do their homework, small businesses cannot grow and farmers cannot submit their online DEFRA forms.
“It’s great news that fibre broadband is reaching some of our most remote and rural communities and I look forward to seeing even more progress during the second phase of the programme. There is still a lot more to do, and I hope the new Digital Economy Bill, which will bring in a ‘universal service obligation’ for broadband, will provide that final push for proper connectivity across Northumberland.”
This second phase of the roll-out will see engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business, reaching some of the most challenging and rural locations in the county.
Rural geographies present many difficulties 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.
Simon Roberson, BT’s regional partnership director for the North East, said: “Bringing fibre broadband to rural parts of Northumberland has not been easy and reaching some extremely remote parts of Northumberland 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 in January 2014 hundreds of kilometres of underground fibre optic cable has been laid and 219 new cabinets installed in what is one of the county’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 county get the maximum possible benefit.
“I would encourage those with access to fibre 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.”
Superfast broadband helps to improve access to jobs, allows local companies to compete in the global marketplace, creates new opportunities for local people in the way they work, learn and enjoy their leisure time, and helps young people make use of educational resources online.
More than 146,000 households and businesses in Northumberland are now able to connect to fibre broadband as a result of the iNorthumberland programme and BT’s commercial roll-out of the high-speed technology. The iNorthumberland broadband programme, a key part of the council’s growth investment, is being delivered by Northumberland County Council and BT. The programme was recently recognised for its success in promoting digital inclusion and skills with a win at the Next Generation Digital Skills Awards.BT was awarded the iNorthumberland contract in April 2013, whilst the second phase contract was signed in June last year. It will see more than £4.1 million invested in the programme area in addition to the £18.9 million initially invested by Northumberland County Council, the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) fund, BT and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). 1The majority of premises in Northumberland will be getting access to some of the best broadband speeds in the UK via iNorthumberland and the commercial roll-out of fibre by BT’s local network business, Openreach. Openreach’s network is open to all broadband service providers on an equal wholesale basis and so Northumberland households and businesses can benefit from highly competitive products and pricing from a range of providers. For up to date information on the roll-out visit www.inorthumberland.org.uk