‘Fantastic figures’, but no complacency on broadband rollout

Broadband provision is still patchy in some of the more rural areas of Northumberland.
Broadband provision is still patchy in some of the more rural areas of Northumberland.

More than 132,000 premises across Northumberland now have access to fibre broadband, but more work needs to be done, particularly in the rural areas of the county.

The Government’s nationwide rollout of superfast broadband has now reached more than two million homes and businesses, figures published today reveal. As part of this, the iNorthumberland project has delivered fibre-broadband access to more than 37,500 premises across the county.

The UK-wide rollout is delivering superfast access – internet speeds greater than 24 Mbps – to those properties not covered by existing commercial networks and is on track to take superfast access to 95 per cent of the UK by 2017.

iNorthumberland recognises the importance of a fast internet connection to individuals and businesses alike, and, together with Government, has invested £18.9million in delivering superfast broadband to Northumberland.

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Today there are thousands more homes and businesses in Northumberland with access to superfast broadband than there were two years ago as a result of this ambitious project. We want everyone in the UK to be able to enjoy the benefits of superfast broadband, that’s why we’ve begun work on reaching the last five per cent of communities not covered by existing plans.”

The focus is now firmly placed on the hardest-to-reach areas that make up the ‘final five per cent’ of the UK not covered by existing plans, and the Government has already begun work on extending superfast coverage to these communities.

Coun Dave Ledger, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “These are fantastic figures, and we are very proud of the achievements of the iNorthumberland project so far. However we are not complacent. We know that there are still some communities and areas in Northumberland where more work is needed – and we will be doing everything that we can through the programme to support them.”

Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director for Next Generation Access, said: “Today marks a giant step forward in the rollout of fibre broadband in Northumberland and across the UK. Across the county more than 132,000 homes and businesses now have access to high-speed fibre broadband thanks to iNorthumberland and BT’s own commercial fibre broadband programme. We are now reaching into the heart of scores of communities across the county that have so far been beyond the reach of this vital technology.

“There can be few areas of modern life which are not influenced in some way by broadband – whether it’s supporting how we work, how we learn, how we communicate with friends and family, or how we entertain ourselves. Now’s the time to embrace high-speed broadband and switch to the superfast lane.”

Conservative parliamentary candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who launched the Broadband4Northumberland campaign four years ago, said; “I am pleased that we are now seeing superfast broadband being rolled out in an increasing number of homes and businesses in Northumberland and we are seeing the benefit of the Government’s investment up here.

“Broadband is the fourth utility for all our homes and without decent superfast broadband, our children cannot do their homework, small businesses cannot grow, farmers cannot submit their online Defra forms and it has the potential to revolutionise community healthcare.

“I am however, concerned that our Labour county council is not pushing BT hard enough to tackle the hard-to-reach communities.”

For more on the superfast broadband roll-out and the issues surrounding access to broadband in rural areas, see Thursday’s Northumberland Gazette.