The Connecting Cumbria high-speed fibre broadband network gave some Cumbrian businesses a vital economic lifeline in the aftermath of the devastating floods.
Tourism and food retail firms were getting back to business this week after the appalling weather, caused by Storm Desmond, threatened visitor numbers.
But when some routes were blocked and the flood water seeped in over the floors of the world renowned Grasmere Gingerbread Shop, owner Joanne Hunter turned to her Connecting Cumbria superfast broadband connection and her mail order system which takes a slice of their UK and global orders.The shop and office in one of the county’s tourism hotspots boosted its internet speed from 3 megabits per second to more than 75 Mbps when the Connecting Cumbria network arrived in November.Grasmere also uses its internet connection for VOIP [voice over internet protocol] phone calls.
Joanne said:“We are very lucky compared to some businesses; our loyal staff have all managed to get to work, some travelling quite a distance. The ovens are on and we are baking and dispatching as normal. Our international mail order facility is providing additional employment for now because of the Christmas demand. With all services to our business we can turn on the ovens and the internet, the phones have been ringing non-stop with people asking how we are – we are still smiling!”
Staff at the shop have also been helping in the village-wide clear up operation to ensure all businesses are given a helping hand.
Down the road at the Grand Hotel there was a similar picture.Hotelier Richard Webb uses his fibre broadband connection for cloud-based business systems whilst his guests benefit from good quality wi-fi. Some of the hotel’s overseas staff used the technology to tell relatives they were safe.He said:“The superfast access to the internet has remained on throughout! That has been very helpful indeed.
“The flooding in the village was extensive! The water table did flood our cellar! Boilers and pumps all damaged but we are now fully functioning again!
“There are lots of shops and businesses with water damage, but we are all getting the message out that Grasmere is back in business.”
Across Cumbria other business have been helping neighbouring firms and have praised the new way of doing business.
Michael Webster of Friars, the Keswick Chocolate and gift shop, said:“Although the shops were understandably very quiet after the floods, broadband enabled us to fulfil the thousands of orders that come in weekly.”
Friars have donated two pallets of toys to the Keswick Lions for families affected by the floods and have a collection bucket in store which is doing well.
Michael said: “This will be our first Christmas since the installation of fibre broadband. Increased speed has had an overall positive effect on our productivity. Whether it be remotely working, downloading files or web browsing, the time saved is small but when all the tasks are combined it is significant. I anticipate this being a huge advantage to us over the festive period and through the coming year.”
Gemma Greenbank at the Hawkshead Brewery in Staveley which escaped the floods, said:“We were lucky this time, but many of our customers have not been so lucky.Maintaining access to the internet to continue business as normal in other areas, such as online sales, has been key.
“Around 95 per cent of our online orders are from outside of Cumbria. In the run up to Christmas online sales increase by over 400 per cent so provide an important source of revenue. We have export clients in Hong Kong, Italy, France and Sweden which we’ve been able to maintain communication with via our broadband connection.”
Staff at the brewery have all been involved in helping out friends and neighbours after the floods. One of the brewers is a retained firefighter at the local fire station who was busy throughout the storm weekend. The brewery have made a donation for every cask they expect to sell in the run up to Christmas to the Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund 2015.
For Millican, a company based on a farm in Braithwaite west of Keswick, Christmas is a busy time of year as people rush online from all over the world to buy their sustainable, luxury bags as gifts.They were lucky to escape the worst of the weather.
Sixty five percent of Millican’s products are sold online, so with superfast fibre broadband it can make sure the best high resolution photos are uploaded to the website in seconds rather than hours. The company can also easily share the large files with its partners, retailers and distributors around the world and communicate with them through high quality Skype and Voice over IP calls.
Millican co-founder Jorrit Jorritsma said: “Christmas is one of the most important periods in the year for us, when we ship our travel bags all over the world. Superfast fibre broadband helps us get ready for the season with product availability, marketing projects and website updates, as well as to deal more effectively with 1,000s of visitors to our site – the last three months of the year brings 40 per cent of the annual traffic to www.homeofmillican.com. It allows us to bring our local Lakeland brand to a global audience.”
David Southward, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for economic development, said: “The floods and storms have threatened to blow businesses in Cumbria off course just as they were preparing for Christmas. It is reassuring to see that Connecting Cumbria’s network has provided an important lifeline for tourism and the food retail sector in the county at such a vital time in the trading year. Businesses hit by the floods have been helped through the storm and those who haven’t been affected have helped their neighbours.”
Mike Blackburn, BT North West regional director, said: “High speed broadband has provided vital help to many businesses in Cumbria at a time when other communications have been cut. Our Openreach engineers – some of whom were brought in from other parts of the north west - have been working flat out to secure, repair and maintain the Connecting Cumbria network so communities can stay connected and businesses can continue to trade after the storms and floods.”
Notes to Editors:
About Connecting Cumbria
The Connecting Cumbria Programme’s ambition will, by a combination of commercial investment and gap funding, enable access to Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband to 93 per cent of Cumbrian homes and businesses by the end of 2015 when added to the private sector’s commercial rollout.And Connecting Cumbria is providing two thirds of its rollout with speeds of more than 50 mbps.
There is, in addition, a commitment that all Cumbrian properties will have access to speeds of at least 2Mbps by some means by the end of the programme. This includes working with some of Cumbria’s remotest communities to extend the fibre network through innovative community projects in the hardest to reach areas.
Connecting Cumbria will ensure maximum coverage is achieved from available resources, demonstrating maximum value for money. Cumbria County Council has a continuing commitment to expand NGA broadband services and make NGA broadband service available to additional areas across Cumbria as funding becomes available.
The project is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the ERDF Programme, which is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/erdf-programmes-progress-and-achievements
Superfast Britain is a Government programme of investment in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race. The portfolio is comprised of three elements:
For further information: https://www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk
BT’s purpose is to use the power of communications to make a better world.It is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in more than 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of five customer-facing lines of business: BT Global Services, BT Business, BT Consumer, BT Wholesale and Openreach. For the year ended 31 March 2015, BT Group’s reported revenue was £17,979mwith reported profit before taxation of £2,645m.
British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York. For more information, visit www.btplc.com.