A broadband provider, which teamed up with the county council in an effort to support those in rural areas, has reduced the cost of its services.
In April 2013, we reported that contracts were signed with three providers after the iNorthumberland project set up a £1.3million loans scheme to to encourage small and medium enterprises offering wireless satellite broadband or other alternative technologies to come into the county.
Now, one of those providers is scrapping connection charges for residents, farmers and businesses unable to get a fast broadband service, and who sign up for its up-to-22Mbps satellite-broadband service through selected local authorities and rural associations.
Avonline Broadband has announced it will give free installation and activation for customers who are either living in a local authority where it has a co-operation agreement in place, such as Northumberland, or who are members of partner national organisations. The cost would usually be £150.
Mark Wynn, managing director of Avonline Broadband, said: “It is becoming increasingly clear from the recent announcements by official bodies, and in the Chancellor’s Budget statement, that around 1.5million mostly-rural homes and businesses have no realistic hope of getting superfast broadband from the large infrastructure providers in the foreseeable future.
“Satellite broadband is their only realistic solution over the next two to five years.
“Our priority is to make our satellite broadband capacity easily available to those in areas and interest groups where we have a relationship.
“There was speculation that the Chancellor would announce a voucher scheme to subsidise the installation of satellite broadband, but his Budget announcement didn’t contain any details.
“So, in the meantime, we are in effect giving a free £150 ‘voucher’ to help those who are eligible for our service.”
In February, the Gazette spoke to Simon Roberson, BT’s North East regional partnership director, who highlighted how the telecoms giant is more than meeting its target in terms of the fibre-broadband rollout.
However, he reminded rural residents that the current project was never supposed to reach everywhere with phase one designed to cover 90 per cent of premises and the forthcoming phase two taking that figure to 95 per cent.
Satellite broadband is an ‘available-anywhere’ technology that can immediately deliver internet download speeds of up to 22Mbps to any home or business, regardless of location or remoteness.
Mr Wynn said: “With the ability to get installed within a few days and no bundled phoneline rental obligations, satellite broadband can open up immediate access to the many benefits of the modern internet, such as downloading movies, making Skype calls and catching up on TV programmes.”
Towards the end of 2013, we teamed up with Avonline to provide a satellite-broadband system and a year’s free service to someone who needed it living in the rural areas of north Northumberland.
The Turner family, from East Ditchburn, near North Charlton, came out on top in our competition, later declaring it ‘had made a real difference’.
Mum Linda said: “It’s nice to be able to keep in touch with everybody and not feel cut off.”