Government announces three million UK premises can now surf superfast as a result of the Broadband Delivery UK roll-out. Minister hails Kielder achievement

The superfast fibre broadband network has been lit up in Kielder, a remote Northumberland village with reputedly the darkest night skies in England, thanks to iNorthumberland.

Households and businesses in Kielder, which also sits at the head of the UK’s largest man-made lake, can now get superfast broadband speeds as a result of a new underground network of very thin strands of glass, which carry signals via laser quite literally at the speed of light.

The news comes as the Government today announced that the nationwide rollout of superfast broadband has now reached more than three million homes and businesses*.

Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: “Our nationwide rollout of superfast broadband has now reached an additional three million UK homes and businesses and is transforming lives up and down the country. I’m delighted that the people and businesses of Kielder are now able to enjoy all the benefits that superfast speeds have to offer.”

The iNorthumberland broadband programme, a key part of the council’s growth investment, is being delivered by Northumberland County Council and BT

A team of 16 engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business, have overcome multiple engineering challenges to reach Kielder, such as the clearing of more than 20 underground duct blockages, locating numerous buried and overgrown joint boxes, and the removal of old redundant cable to create duct space, to lay over 21 kilometres of optical fibres between Otterburn and the village.

Councillor Grant Davey, leader of the Northumberland County Council, said:  “This is more excellent news for our flagship broadband programme. Reaching communities as remote as Kielder and allowing support for businesses there, means that it is really proving its worth.

“Access to superfast broadband is becoming fundamental to our everyday lives and it is only right that our residents and businesses expect to be able to access faster broadband speeds no matter where they live.  I am delighted that our iNorthumberland programme is delivering increased speeds in locations across the county.”

More than 120 homes and businesses in the village can now place orders as a result of iNorthumberland roll-out of the technology – and many have already done so.

One Kielder resident keen to see fibre arrive in the village is Mike Brown, landlord of the Anglers Arms. Mike said: “We offer customers free wi-fi, which is a brilliant selling point for us. People flock to the pub to get online because there’s no mobile signal for a twenty mile radius.  As well as getting online, people can also send texts and make calls on mobile over our wi-fi network. But with my current broadband, if there are a lot of people on it at once, it slows right down, the signal drops out and people can’t get on. It also means we have to wait until after the pub is closed to get online to order supplies because there’s not enough bandwidth at other times. Being able to order supplies online is essential otherwise I can end up travelling thousands of miles a week because everything is so remote here. With fibre I will be able to keep my customers happy, but also manage the business side of things more efficiently.”

The benefits are considerable for businesses, with many of those in Kielder serving the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the area each year. Businesses can now access booking systems, update websites and utilise social networking sites faster and more effectively saving both time and money.

The increased broadband speeds will also be of great value to families living in the village. Everyone in the family can do their own thing online, all at the same time, whether it’s downloading music in minutes or watching catch-up TV; streaming HD or 3D movies in a few minutes; or posting photos and videos to social networking sites in seconds. It will also improve access to new job opportunities, and make it easier to shop around for cheaper services.

Simon Roberson, BT’s North East regional partnership director, said: “Tourism is the mainstay of the local economy in and around Kielder and is also a vital economic generator for the county providing around 13 per cent of employment. The arrival of high speed broadband can boost this sector in a variety of different ways, for example, providing a more streamlined customer experience with wi-fi everywhere, cashless transactions and automated check-in services.”

BT was awarded the iNorthumberland contract in April 2013 following a procurement exercise through the 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, the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) fund, BT and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)**.

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 is open to all broadband service providers on an equal wholesale basis and so Northumberland households and businesses can benefit from highly competitive products and pricing.

For up to date information on available business support and the roll-out visit www.inorthumberlandbusiness.co.uk or www.inorthumberland.org.uk.

The Government’s nationwide rollout of superfast broadband – internet speeds greater than 24Mbps – has now reached more than three million homes and businesses. The rollout is on track to reach 95 per cent of the UK by 2017 and is now reaching around 5,000 additional premises every day.

** The iNorthumberland project is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund Programme 2007 to 2013. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme, which is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs. For more information visit www.communities.gov.uk/erdf

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