Corbridge has become the first community in West Northumberland to benefit from the multi-million pound iNorthumberland project. The upgrade marks the start of a roll-out programme to bring superfast fibre broadband to more communities across the area.
More than 1,200 homes and businesses in Corbridge can now get the high speed technology as a direct result of the project. They were closely followed by more than 2,400 premises in parts of Haltwhistle and Stocksfield, which also now have access, and other West Northumberland communities, such as Wark, Haydon Bridge, Allendale, Allenheads and Humshaugh. which will ‘go live’ in the coming months. This builds on BT’s £2.5 billion UK-wide commercial roll-out which has already brought fibre broadband to more than 15,000 homes and business in Hexham, Ponteland and Prudhoe.
Northumberland County Council’s iNorthumberland project recently secured further 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. Satellite broadband is also available throughout the area.
Cllr Grant Davey, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “I am delighted to be unveiling some of the first communities in West Northumberland to benefit from superfast fibre broadband through our iNorthumberland project. I know how important it is to both residents and businesses, and I look forward to hearing some of the stories from those who are now able to benefit from it.”
Dave Ledger, deputy leader of the council and chair of Arch, the Northumberland Development Company, added: “We want to work towards every home and business in Northumberland being connected to broadband and this work with BT to supply the majority of properties through fibre will be supplemented by innovative wireless and satellite solutions for the more difficult to reach and remote areas.”
Engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business, began upgrading the BT exchange in Corbridge some months ago, changing and upgrading substantial amounts of equipment within the exchange building itself. They also installed new fibre optic management systems and laid over 301 km of underground fibre cables in what was the most significant engineering work undertaken at the exchange since it was upgraded from analogue to digital in 1985.
Further work is scheduled to take place in and around Corbridge market place where some telephone lines are not served by a street cabinet but run straight from the phone exchange to homes and businesses. . New cabinets will be installed, enabling those properties to benefit from the upgrade. Work is expected to complete by the end of June 2015
Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham, said: “Broadband speed is a subject close to the heart of many of my constituents so it’s great news that thousands can now choose to connect to this exciting technology.
“I would encourage everyone who is able to order fibre broadband to contact their service provider and find out more about what faster broadband speeds can do for them.”
A huge civil engineering task will be taking place throughout West Northumberland. Around 18 km of underground ducts will be laid, which will carry cables containing over 680 km of fibres. By the end of the current roll-out plans more than 18,500 homes and businesses will have access to the higher broadband speeds.
Simon Roberson, BT’s regional partnership director for the North East, said: “Bringing high-speed fibre broadband to rural areas is a challenge. Work is now underway to overcome that challenge and bring the latest broadband technology and huge benefits to many rural communities across West Northumberland.”
The iNorthumberland broadband programme, a key part of the council’s growth investment, is being delivered by Arch, The Northumberland Development Company, 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). The ERDF funding will be used to enable fibre connections for more than 2,600 small and medium sized businesses in Northumberland,
The majority of premises in Northumberland will be getting access to some of the best broadband speeds in the UK via iNorthumberland and BT’s commercial roll-out. BT’s network will be open to all broadband service providers on an equal wholesale basis and so Northumberland consumers and businesses will benefit from highly competitive products and pricing. Fibre broadband means 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.
The benefits are also considerable for businesses, which can do much more in far less time. Firms can speed up file and data transfers, collaborate with colleagues and customers on conference or video calls or swap their hardware and expensive software licenses for files, processing power and software from cloud computing. Staff can work as effectively from home as they would in the office.
iNorthumberland has developed a free programme of business support to help businesses benefit from online technology by saving time, money and improving efficiency. The fully funded support package is bespoke and designed to regenerate and transform businesses. It includes one to one business adviser support, access to an online learning system, free master classes on a variety of topics and financial incentives 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