New project set to deliver ultra-fast broadband to rural Northumberland
Northumberland homes and businesses plagued by a poor internet connection will be among the first areas targeted by a £5 billion project.
It is among nine parts of the country that will be at front of the queue for the Government's Project Gigabit scheme.
Infrastructure work should start next year to bring gigabit-speed broadband to homes in the county.
A former voucher scheme is also being relaunched to provide more immediate help to those struggling with poor broadband coverage, with up to £210m being made available from April 8, allowing eligible residents to ask for up to £1,500 and businesses £3,500 towards the cost of installing gigabit-capable broadband.
The news has been welcomed by Northumberland County Council.
Cllr Nick Oliver, cabinet member for corporate resources, said: “This is exciting news and we’re delighted to be among the first in the country to benefit. I have met with Digital Minister Matt Warman twice to make the case for Northumberland.
"This will help provide rural Northumberland with better connectivity than many city centres, which is crucial in maintaining our economic competitiveness and achieving social inclusion, now more than ever.”
Northumberland was included in the initial roll-out alongside Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, South Tyneside and Tees Valley.
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden, speaking on the BBC's Today programme, said: "We've already made tremendous progress with Project Gigabit - our national mission to get everyone in the country the fastest broadband on the planet.
"We've gone from around 9% coverage in 2019 to 40% now - I'm confident we'll get to 60% by the end of the year.
"The challenge is the last 20%, which can't be delivered commercially - and that's what our plans being outlined today are all about."
One gigabit is the equivalent of 1,000 megabits, capable of downloading a high definition film in under a minute.
Improved digital connectivity is also one of the key strands of the newly signed Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, while Cityfibre has announced its intention to deliver to urban Northumberland areas.
Cllr Oliver said: “Our commitment to improved digital connectivity for all is continuing apace and with these announcements this week we’re very much at the front of the queue for these improvements.”