95 per cent of county premises to have access to fibre broadband by early 2016

Northumberland County Council and BT today announced an £18.9 million pound deal to roll-out high-speed fibre broadband to 95 per cent of homes and businesses in the county.

The iNorthumberland broadband programme, a key part of the council’s growth investment, will be delivered through BT. The project will build on BT’s commercial investment in the county already committed as part of its £2.5 billion overall commercial investment in UK fibre broadband.

A massive 660 km of fibre will be laid – seven times the length of the A1 stretch running through Northumberland – so that 91 per cent of Northumberland homes and businesses will have access to world class broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps by January 2016. A further four per cent of the county will also benefit from a significant improvement in speeds of up to 25Mbps via the fibre network.

The remaining five per cent of premises will also see faster speeds as the project aims to deliver 2Mbps or more to all homes and businesses. Towards the end of the project BT will also look to work with communities in the final five per cent to see if fibre can be extended further through innovative collaborative projects.

From May this year delivery of the broadband project across Northumberland will become the responsibility of Arch, Northumberland County Council’s private sector arms-length development company. Arch aims to make a difference to the county’s economic prosperity by delivering and supporting regeneration, business growth, housing market renewal and inward investment throughout the area. Arch will work closely with the council and BT to ensure the project is delivered for communities across Northumberland.

The project will transform broadband speeds across England’s most sparsely populated county. The county’s average downstream speed is currently 8.3 Mbps whilst 15.9 per cent of premises receive less than 2Mbps .

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. The remaining £2 million is coming from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The ERDF funding will be used to enable fibre connections for more than 2600 small and medium sized businesses in Northumberland.

The investment in fibre 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.

BT’s network will be open to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis and so Northumberland consumers and businesses will benefit from a highly competitive market. This was an important stipulation in the tender process. Due to the scale and complexity of Northumberland’s geography the first premises are currently expected to be connected in January 2014.

Kate Roe, Northumberland County Council’s deputy chief executive, said: “This is an important step in the campaign to bring faster broadband speeds to every home, business and school in Northumberland. Working with BT we will be announcing the installation schedule in the coming months and communities across the county can look forward to improved access to online services and better connectivity for businesses from 2014 onwards.”

Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director for Next Generation Access, added: “This is exciting news for everyone who lives and works in Northumberland. Superfast broadband will open the doors to countless business opportunities in the county, boosting the rural economy and supporting thriving local communities.

“Northumberland is a large rural county with many remote premises. As a result, deploying broadband is a substantial challenge but a vital one which will help local businesses to be competitive and ensure they remain in the county. It can also play an important role in attracting even more firms to the county thereby helping to create jobs for local people.”

Fibre to the cabinet will be the main technology deployed. This delivers wholesale downstream speeds of up to 80Mbps and upstream speeds of up to 20Mbps. Fibre to the premises technology – delivering ultra-fast wholesale speeds of up to 330Mbps – will also be deployed in certain areas and will be available on demand throughout the whole of the fibre footprint.

For local businesses, the fibre network will underpin the introduction of many new services and applications. Big business applications driven by cloud services and data centres will be within the reach of enterprises of all sizes. Computer back up, storage and processing will be faster, and the use of high quality videoconferencing within firms and between them and their customers will become a viable possibility.

Consumers will be able to run multiple bandwidth-hungry applications at the same time and send and receive large amounts of data much more quickly and efficiently. New fibre services are also set to transform the way consumers use the internet, from the simple sharing of pictures and video to enjoying the growing boom in entertainment services available on-line.

For up to date information on the project and roll-out please visit www.inorthumberland.org.uk.

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