BT has denied that the rollout of superfast broadband in Northumberland is behind schedule, claiming that the first phase was expanded.
Last week, we reported that the first phase of the county’s iNorthumberland scheme has been completed with more than 52,500 homes and businesses now able to access fibre-broadband speeds.
Survey and planning work is already well under way on the second phase of the rollout with the first homes and businesses expected to be connected in the late summer. This additional £4.1million investment will bring fibre-broadband speeds within reach of a further 3,700 homes and businesses across the county by June 2017.
However, some have claimed that the rollout is behind schedule, with the second phase having been signed off in May last year and phase one originally slated to be completed by December 2015.
Responding to these concerns, a BT spokeswoman said that the second phase was scheduled to begin in January this year in terms of planning, but the ‘spades in the ground’ work was always scheduled to start following the completion of phase one.
In terms of the delays to phase one, she said: “Phase one was expanded to subsume an additional £450,000 of funding which iNorthumberland had secured from what was originally Defra’s Rural Community Broadband Fund.
“So phase one was extended by a quarter to enable this money to be planned in and spent on further coverage.
“Locations which benefitted included parts of Alnwick town centre, Bamburgh (Budle), Beal (Haggerston), Chathill, Felton and Whittingham, among others.”
The second phase of the rollout will see engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business, reaching some of the most challenging and rural locations in the county.
Rural areas present many difficulties not faced in more urban areas. Long stretches of narrow, winding roads can create the need for temporary traffic lights and other restrictions with engineers often having to build long stretches of underground cabling ducts.