Staff at a 200 year old mill in a remote corner of Northumberland are no longer on tenterhooks waiting for their broadband connection since upgrading to superfast.
Otterburn Mill, once a traditional woollen mill but now a major visitor attraction which boasts a shop, country coffee shop, restaurant, and visitor information centre, lies less than 20 miles from the Scottish border. It was upgraded to superfast broadband as part of the multi-million pound iNorthumberland roll-out and now benefits from broadband speeds five times faster than before. As a result the business has been able to streamline its systems, boost its online presence and hire two new members of staff.
Owner Euan Pringle, said: “I feel so lucky to own this small piece of Northumberland history but being based in such a rugged, rural setting can make it more difficult to ensure the traditional can keep up with modern times.
“Upgrading to superfast broadband has enabled us to make better use of the internet. We now run an online shop as well as having a physical retail presence and the faster speeds have also allowed us to store data in the cloud and make use of online software. We now use stock control software that is integrated with the website meaning our stock is updated as we sell items. Our retail systems, including credit card terminals also work much more smoothly with the faster broadband service.
“But is the increased focus on mail order sales, which superfast broadband has made possible from rural Northumberland, which has led to the creation of two new jobs.”
Otterburn MIll is just one of thousands of homes and business now able to access fibre broadband in West Northumberland. Most recently parts of Hexham, Lucker, Ellingham, West Learmouth, Acklington, Thropton and Carrshield have been upgraded.
Euan added: “I’d recommend superfast broadband to anyone. I can’t understand why any business that has the option of superfast broadband would not take it up. The price difference is minimal but even if it does cost slightly more, the difference in performance will outweigh the extra cost.”
Councillor Nick Oliver, cabinet member for corporate services at Northumberland County Council, said: “Visitor attractions like these are vital to our rural economy so it is great to see the iNorthumberland programme supporting them in this way. You can see from this example just how many different activities a company can need broadband for – the potential for it to assist businesses is really endless.
“It is also good to see so many new communities across the county able to access fibre broadband – and that independent assessment has shown that more than 90 per cent of premises in Northumberland can now access speeds of 24Mbps or above.”
The iNorthumberland partnership between Northumberland County Council and BT has already made fibre broadband available to around 59,000 premises across the county.
Up until recently, across Northumberland Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) was the main fibre technology rolled out by Openreach, the business responsible for Britain’s largest phone and broadband network. It typically offers download speeds of up to 80Mbps but there are more than 2,300 homes and businesses in Northumberland which can access Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology, capable of ultrafast speeds up to one gigabit per second (Gbps). This figure is set to be boosted as more than sixty per cent of the premises included in the current phase of the roll-out will be upgraded using the ultrafast technology.
According to the independent thinkbroadband.com website, more than 93 per cent of Northumberland premises can now get a superfast broadband speed of 24Mbps or above.
Mike Reynolds, Openreach programme manager in Northumberland, said: “It’s heartening to hear about the tangible benefits superfast broadband is bringing to our local businesses and residents. The roll-out was never just about getting the technology ‘in the ground’ it was always about how it would change the lives of our local communities for the better.
“Hearing from businesses like Otterburn Mill makes us more determined than ever to find innovative and creative ways to ensure the roll-out reaches as many Northumberland premises as possible.”