People living and working in Morpeth are reaping the benefits since upgrading to high-speed fibre broadband.
Nearly 9,000 households and businesses in the area can now access the new technology thanks to the iNorthumberland programme and BT’s own commercial roll-out.
Nearby communities such as Pegswood, Mitford and Fairmoor have also been upgraded and others, including Longhirst,Tranwell and Hebron, are included in the second phase of the iNorthumberland roll-out, which will begin early next year.
Thousands have already signed up to the new technology includingDavid Hancock, who runs family firm Hancock Stoves and Flues from premises on the Coopies Lane Industrial Estate.
He said: “We got fibre broadband installed a few months ago and the difference has been absolutely fantastic.We use Voice over IP (VoIP) to make all our calls over the internet to keep costs down. Before we had fibre the connection was very intermittent, but now the connection is as solid as a rock.
“We also use a lot of photography as customers often find it easier to send us photos to describe the work they want doing and we’ll need to send big files back to them containing design plans or photography.Before fibre everything was painfully slow, but that is no longer an issue, which gives us peace of mind and our customers a better service.”
The business was also able to get help with connection costs after applying to the Government’s Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme, which provided financial help towards the initial connection and installation. David has also signed up to the iNorthumberland business support programme which, as well as giving tailored support and training, offers a voucher which can be used to offset the monthly costs of fibre broadband for the first year. Local businesses interested in applying for the iNorthumberland vouchers should do so before the end of November.
Cllr Dave Ledger, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council said:“This is another superb example of the benefits the iNorthumberland programme is bringing to communities across the county. I would encourage people to contact the internet service provider of their choice to find out what faster internet could do for them.”
As well as helping to boost business in the area, superfast broadband is also providing a leg up for youngsters with their schoolwork.The new Beacon Project Community Hall, funded by St Aidan’s Church, in Stobhill, is planning to use its newly acquired fibre connection to provide free wi-fi to kids needing online help with their homework.
The Rev Simon White explained: “Many schoolchildren and families in and around Morpeth and Stobhill don’t have access to broadband at home so we wanted to provide a free resource for them to use.Homework is increasingly moving online. Using the local library is sometimes not a viable option as it is too far away.
“There is an existing scheme to provide free second hand laptops, but they’re not much use if you cannot get online. They’re also no use without some means of printing off work, so as well as launching the homework club we’re now looking to raise funds to buy some printers.”
Simon Roberson, BT’s North East regional partnership director, said: “It is great to hear from local people about the difference superfast broadband is making.
“Small businesses are the bedrock of the local economy and critical to growth and job creation. In an increasingly globalised world in which technology is changing business practices, the vast majority of small firms will need access to high-quality digital communications infrastructure and services in order to succeed.
“Use of the internet also now touches every part of the school curriculum, with pupils using it every day for everything from interactive exercises to doing online research for school projects and a variety of other schoolwork.Without fast connectivity and speeds there’s a risk children will miss out on what is now an essential learning tool.”
The iNorthumberland broadband programme, a key part of the council’s growth investment, is being delivered by Northumberland County Council and BT. BT was awarded the contract in April 2013 following a procurement exercise through the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) framework. A second phase contract was signed in June which 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, BDUK, BT and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). 1 By the end of the two phases more than 149,000 premises within the programme area will have access to fibre broadband.
A further £5.1 million has recently been secured by Northumberland County Council to extend fibre broadband coverage even further. This consists of £1million BDUK funds, £1million from the County Council, £1.2 million earmarked but not used during phase one and £1.9million of funds released by BT as more than 20 per cent take up of fibre services was achieved, thanks to communities across the county embracing the new technology.