Superfast internet gets across causeway

Openreach engineer Joanna Macneil surveying on the causeway to Holy Island as part of the iNorthumberland programme.
Openreach engineer Joanna Macneil surveying on the causeway to Holy Island as part of the iNorthumberland programme.

Superfast fibre broadband has arrived at one of the UK’s most historic and famous locations, thanks to iNorthumberland.

Holy Island – home to a wealth of history dating back to 635 AD – has now truly arrived in the 21st century.

As well as battling the North Sea, which covers the causeway at high tide, as islanders have done for centuries, a team of 11 engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business, had to tackle more modern-day challenges.

These included the need to keep traffic flowing on the A1 and the clearing of more than 90 underground duct blockages, to lay around 14 kilometres of optical fibres from Berwick to the island.

A new street cabinet has also been installed on the island to enable connection to the new fibre technology.

Previously, telephone lines on Holy Island were not served by a street cabinet, but ran straight from the island’s phone exchange to homes and businesses.

Coun Dave Ledger, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, said:  “Living on an island like Lindisfarne can present its challenges – not least of which is the need for suitable communications links.

“Tourism businesses have to be able to compete on a level playing field and residents too wish to receive the same level of service as their neighbours on the mainland.”

More than 145 homes and businesses can now place orders as a result of the roll-out and the first customers are already using the service.

Sean Atkinson, who runs the Lindisfarne Hotel with partner Jacqueline, said: “It has made a massive difference. We’ve gone from a speed of half-a-megabit per second to about 37.

“We provide free wifi throughout the hotel because these days people expect to be able to stay connected, however far away they are from everything. Before, the wi-fi hardly worked at all.

“If too many guests were using it at the same time, it meant there wasn’t enough bandwidth for me to get online and deal with the hotel’s admin and correspondence.”

The increased speeds will also be of value to families, especially when the tide is in.