County makes broadband bid

A FINAL bid for superfast broadband has been submitted to the Government.

Northumberland County Council has made a commitment to improve the broadband services across Northumberland and submitted a Local Broadband Plan to the Government funding body, BDUK.

In August 2011 the Government allocated an ‘indicative’ amount of £7million to Northumberland towards the costs of broadband improvements, but this was conditional on the council contributing an equivalent amount and agreeing to fund a long term improvement programme alongside a commercial partner.

The council has signalled its intention to meet these requirements and has set out an outline roadmap for future improvements in the Local Broadband Plan, but local people are being warned that these changes will take time.

The plan calls for a whole county approach in developing and supporting innovative solutions to overcome some of the specific barriers faced in the county.

It emphasises the scale and cost of the challenge Northumberland faces because of its existing broadband infrastructure, relatively small population, large geographic area and difficult terrain.

The project is vital to the future economic prospects of Northumberland but parts of the county have the lowest levels of broadband usage in the UK and it’s estimated (ONS May 2010) that there are more than 1 in 5 people who have still not yet used the internet.

Coun Roger Styring, Deputy Leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “The ouncil has underlined its determination to improve broadband quality, growth and services in its Local Broadband Plan. It is a key component in the economic recovery of Northumberland.

“However we will still need a significant level of additional investment to ensure Northumberland has the world class broadband services that it needs and which it deserves.

“The aggregated costs of upgrading telephone exchanges and cabinets and replacing existing copper cabling with the fibre optic cable needed to deliver ‘superfast broadband’ – particularly in rural areas – are enormous.

“In order to deliver the improvements we have to secure a commercial partner willing to match the potential contribution from ourselves and the Government. Discussions have already started and will be formalised later in the year.

“Everyone in Northumberland will need to work together collaboratively to raise additional capital, share resources and develop lower cost solutions which is why we have emphasised our ‘whole county’ approach in our plan.

“We will also develop an effective communications process to keep everyone informed and engaged in this vital project that is so important to local people and the future success of Northumberland.”

The council has launched an awareness programme under the banner of iNorthumberland and will recruit a dedicated programme delivery team to drive the Local Broadband Plan scheme forward.

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