An historic Georgian square in the centre of North Shields has become the first location on North Tyneside to benefit from the multi million pound Digital Durham broadband programme.
Around 100 homes and businesses in and around Northumberland Square can now go superfast. Over the next six months engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business, will continue to roll-out the technology to a further 2,500 premises across North Shields.
Across North Tyneside around 10,000 homes and businesses are set to benefit. This is in addition to more than 75,000 already upgraded as part of BT’s own commercial roll-out of fibre in the borough.
Alan Campbell, MP for Tynemouth, said: “This is great news, especially for the many businesses in this central part of North Shields that will benefit greatly from better connectivity. This welcome investment in faster broadband speeds is good for business, good for the local community and good for the local economy.
North Tyneside’s Elected Mayor, Norma Redfearn, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that we have been able to take the first step on our journey to providing the borough with superfast broadband. We have listened to residents and businesses who have been saying for a long time they need faster internet speeds so this really is fantastic news.
“We want everyone in the borough to be able to access the best services available and the roll-out of high-speed broadband will open up a number of opportunities for residents, as well as allowing local businesses to grow and regenerate the local economy.
“Practically everywhere in North Tyneside will eventually be able to take advantage of this technology, which will mean we’ll have one of the best rates of coverage in the whole country. We will continue to work with our partners at BT and Digital Durham to continue this excellent work.”
Digital Durham is a £34 million programme to transform broadband speeds for businesses and residents across ten North East local authority areas. North Tyneside Council joined the programme to ensure that local homes and businesses not included in any commercial roll-out plans by the private sector would not miss out on fibre-based broadband technology.
One business looking forward to the boost in broadband speeds is creative digital agency Cargo Creative, which moved to Northumberland Square just over year ago.
Founder Paul Hart said: “A lot of businesses like ours have been desperate for a superfast connection. We had thought about re-locating to somewhere like Newcastle where we could get a high-speed connection. Fibre will help to re-generate the centre of North Shields by helping to retain firms like ours and also attracting new business to the area.
“We are a small team of seven so we’re very hands on with clients. Having fibre will help us to be more collaborative online and be able to communicate with them using video conferencing – something we couldn’t rely on before.
Paul added that having superfast would give them the bandwidth to expand and also give existing staff greater flexibility. “We can now think about taking someone else on without worrying that we won’t have the broadband capacity to support them. It also means we can look at hosting our own content and data on off-site servers to that people can log on remotely and work from home or when they’re out and about, which is great for a smaller firm like ours.”
Simon Roberson, BT’s regional partnership director for the North East, said: “From children doing their homework to caring for our elderly population and from social media to e-commerce and home entertainment – fast broadband is the critical enabler.
“Fibre is no longer a nice to have for business. It is a need to have. To compete effectively in this world of technology you need to be able to move, act and do business quickly and effectively.Faster broadband breaks down the barriers to doing business in the digital world like online trading, which helps to empower our small businesses.
“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.”
The investment in fibre-based broadband will boost the local economy and help to create or protect local jobs. It will be of particular benefit to local businesses which can use the faster speeds to improve their competitiveness both within the UK and abroad.
Faster broadband will help local businesses find new customers and become more competitive and efficient, whilst for households the high-speed technology will offer new educational, training and leisure opportunities.
Another local business enthusiastic about the arrival of fibre broadband is web development company, Wubbleyou. Director Mark Renney said: “It's essential we have fast and reliable broadband to compete effectively. This is a huge win for us and for other businesses in North Shields who will undoubtedly welcome fibre with open arms.”
In total, £34 million has been invested in Digital Durham by BT, Durham County Council, North Tyneside Council, the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme and public sector partners in Gateshead, Sunderland, South Tyneside, and Tees Valley.
 Tees Valley includes Darlington Borough Council, Hartlepool Borough Council, Middlesbrough Council, Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council and Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council.