Work to bring high-speed fibre broadband to Allendale is progressing at pace with more than 570 home and businesses now able to benefit, iNorthumberland announced today.
Engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business, began upgrading the BT exchange in October 2013 and connected the first premises to the new, high speed technology in October 2014. A further 266 homes and business will get access in the coming months.
Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham and Ponteland, said: “Having campaigned to improve access to broadband in rural areas, I am absolutely delighted to see superfast fibre broadband come to Allendale. Allendale is a thriving rural community and it is vital that it benefits from the same digital services as other communities. This is an important milestone for the roll out of rural broadband and I know it is being welcomed across the community and by local business.
“For families, fast broadband is increasingly vital, be it for entertainment or education. It’s therefore really good news that homes and businesses in Allendale are now able to take advantage of superfast fibre broadband.”
Cllr Dave Ledger, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “The council is playing a pivotal role in bringing superfast broadband to communities like Allendale, and has been pleased to make such a significant investment in this important service.
“The roll-out programme is not without its challenges, but with nearly 35,000 homes and businesses already able to access the new network, the project is already reaping rewards for many Northumberland communities including Allendale, Haydon Bridge, Haltwhistle and Stocksfield.”
The first stage of work to upgrade Allendale involved changing and upgrading substantial amounts of equipment within the exchange building itself. It was the most significant engineering work undertaken at the exchange since it was upgraded from analogue to digital in 1985
This was followed by the installation of new fibre optic management systems and a huge undertaking to lay around 20km of underground cables containing more than 3,000 km of optical fibres. Much of the work involved engineers working along the A69 and the A686, which needed carefully planned traffic management to ensure minimal disruption to road users.
Derek Richardson, Openreach project director for next generation access in the North East, is responsible for overseeing the successful completion of the work. He said: “This was a complicated, but vital engineering project, which will bring huge benefits to this very rural community.
“Before work even began extensive planning took place to ensure that this work benefitted as many people as possible in Allendale.”
Three new fibre broadband cabinets on Wentworth Terrace, Shilburn Road and Thornley Gate, have been built and are now live. They will be followed by a further two cabinets in Allendale. Detailed planning is also ongoing to overcome the challenges of extending the fibre network out to Allenheads. This will be a major civil engineering task as more than 10km of underground duct need to be built in order for the new fibre cables to be laid
Local county councillor Colin Horncastle added: “This is great news for the residents and businesses in Allendale, who now have access to superfast broadband. I’m very pleased to see the project reaching rural communities like ours.”
One business already benefitting from the upgrade is Forge Studios. Amanda Galbraith, managing director, said: “We were delighted when we heard superfast broadband was coming to Allendale. The businesses, students and tenants working here rely heavily on access to the internet. Some sell their products and services internationally so need to contact clients and send documents to the other side of the world. We now have speeds more than ten times faster than before which is fantastic.
“We also have people using this space to host international web conferences and others downloading and uploading huge files and can now offer them a service which delivers the superfast connections they need to work effectively.
“Tourists looking for places to visit and people house hunting in the area also like to use our free wi-fi in the cafe while enjoying a coffee. The feedback from all our customers is extremely positive.”
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 following a procurement exercise through the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) framework. The company is contributing £2.9 million towards fibre deployment in “non-commercial” areas with Northumberland County Council investing £7 million plus its £7 million share of BDUK funds. The remaining £2 million is coming from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). 1 The ERDF funding will be used to enable fibre connections for more than 2,600 small and medium sized businesses in Northumberland.
iNorthumberland recently secured funding from the Government’s Superfast Extension Plan, which will be used to further extend coverage in some areas not included in the current roll-out plans.
The majority of premises in Northumberland will be getting access to some of the best broadband speeds in the UK via iNorthumberland and the commercial roll-out of fibre by BT’s local network business, Openreach. Openreach’s network will be open to all broadband service providers on an equal wholesale basis and so Northumberland households and businesses will benefit from highly competitive products and pricing.
In September 2014 iNorthumberland, in partnership with Arch, the Northumberland Development Company, launched a fully funded businesses support package, which aims to regenerate and transform local businesses by teaching the knowledge and skills required to successfully grow an online presence using the latest applications and technology
Since then more than 180 businesses have signed up to the programme, which includes one-to-one business adviser support, access to an online learning system, free master classes on topics such as social media and digital marketing as well as financial incentives for eligible businesses worth up to £400.
For up to date information on available business support and the roll-out visit www.inorthumberlandbusiness.co.uk or www.inorthumberland.org.uk.
Click here to see more about how fibre broadband is helping The Forge Studios