Superfast broadband has been provided through a range of funding by various suppliers. The majority of superfast services come via the Openreach fibre network.
The first two cabinets in Northumberland were upgraded to fibre in December 2010 as part of Openreach’s commercially funded programme. In total 259 cabinets were upgraded between December 2010 and December 2017 through Openreach’s commercial programme covering parts of the Alnwick, Ashington, Amble, Bedlington, Berwick, Blyth, Cramlington, Hexham, Morpeth, Ponteland, Prudhoe and Seaton Delaval exchanges. This saw approximately 95,000 properties (around 60%) in Northumberland able to access superfast broadband services. On average each cabinet served 380 properties.
Unlike many neighbouring areas there was no Virgin Media coverage within Northumberland during this time. However discussions have been positive and we expect Virgin Media’s commercial deployment of superfast broadband to begin to go live during 2018.
Northumberland has also seen some small scale deployment of superfast broadband by fixed wireless operators on a commercial basis. These include AirNexus, Alncom, Quickline and Wildcard Networks.
The first phase of our fibre roll involved £19.6m of investment from Northumberland County Council, Central Government (Department for Culture Media & Sport) and the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) as well as some match funding from BT. This saw over 52,500 properties in the county provided with access to superfast broadband between December 2013 and December 2016. A further £0.58m investment from Central Government (Defra) and the European Union (Rural Development Programme for England) led to the provision of superfast fibre broadband to over 1,600 properties in the Rothbury area between December 2013 and September 2014.
In total 224 fibre cabinets and 53 full fibre to the premise (FTTP) schemes were provided which, together with the commercial deployment, led to around 148,000 properties (around 90%) in the county being able to access superfast broadband services by the end of 2016 in line with national Government targets. On average each fibre structure in phase 1 served 190 properties.
The second phase of our fibre rollout initially involved £4m of investment from Northumberland County Council and Central Government (Department for Culture Media & Sport). This will bring superfast fibre broadband to a further 3,000 properties between April 2016 and December 2017.
In total 72 fibre cabinets and 1 full FTTP scheme were provided in phase 2, taking Northumberland closer to the national target of 95% of properties covered by the end of 2017. On average each fibre structure in phase 2 served 48 properties.
Phase 2 extension
In order to hit 95% coverage within Northumberland it was agreed to extend phase 2 to December 2018. An additional £2m of investement from Northumberland County Council and Central Government (Department for Culture Media & Sport), as well as a further £4.4m made up of underspend from the original contract and ‘gainshare’ funding (paid back to us by BT as a result of higher than expected levels of take up of the service) will see an additional 3,200 properties able to benefit from superfast fibre broadband.
During 2018 we expect to provide a further 70 cabinets and 235 FTTP schemes with each fibre structure serving on average 19 properties.
The information above illustrates how as we progress through the different phases of the roll out more fibre structures are required to deliver superfast broadband to fewer properties, often in more difficult areas to reach. The average cost per property increases with each phase and the average number of properties covered by each fibre decreases with each phase. As a result we need different approaches to get superfast broadband services to the final 5% of properties in Northumberland.
Gigabit Voucher Scheme
The government is committed to a vision of a full fibre Britain. As part of this commitment in March 2018 a £67 million Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme was announced. Gigabit vouchers can be used by small and medium sized businesses and the local communities surrounding them to contribute to the installation cost of a gigabit capable connection. Further details can be found here.
Better Broadband Scheme
The Government has committed to giving access to 2Mbps download speed to every premises in the UK. As part of this commitment, Northumberland County Council, in conjunction with Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), is making available the option of a subsidised broadband installation for eligible premises. This provides support towards the cost of equipment and installation of a broadband connection. Further details can be found here.
We are always seeking new funding opportunities to improve the coverage of broadband in Northumberland. We are currently in discussion with a number of funders and will publish updates in due course.
Unfortunately an increasing frustration among people in Northumberland is that many of the new houses on current developments are being built without access to superfast broadband services. This is a commercial arrangement between the developer and a provider such as Openreach or Virgin Media. Public funding cannot be used to upgrade these areas at present and therefore if a development is being built without access to superfast broadband services there is unfortunately little we can do. Further details can be found here.
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