£½m broadband bid

Independent candiate Steven Bridgett.
Independent candiate Steven Bridgett.

A BID for £500,000 has been submitted to upgrade broadband in Rothbury and Coquetdale.

Grey Sky Consulting, working with Northumberland County Council and Northumberland National Park, has asked for the funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to bring superfast fibre-optic broadband to the area, after residents and businesses demonstrated a need for it.

In November 2010 a campaign was led by Coquetdale’s county councillor, Steven Bridgett, to get residents signed up to BT’s Race to Infinity project to ask for faster internet.

While the area was unsucessful in getting into the top five of the competition to get superfast broadband, more than 500 homes and businesses registered their interest placing them 29th nationally out of thousands of exchanges and the highest placed in the North East.

And the bid to Defra has been made because of the commitment shown by residents in and around Rothbury.

Coun Bridgett has also written to residents directly asking them to register their support for fibre-optic broadband and he has received an overwhelming response with more than 650 households and businesses requesting faster internet.

Coun Bridgett said: “We now have nearly half of the households in Rothbury and Thropton that are connected to the Rothbury exchange signed up, we are now demonstrating to the likes of BT that it would be worth their while to upgrade us.”

If the bid is successful it would see the fibre-optic cable from Morpeth extended to the Rothbury exhange and put into some of the street cabinets that are not viewed as commercially viable and a decision is due by the middle of this month.

Coun Bridgett added: “If we can bring superfast broadband to Rothbury and Thropton this opens the door for the whole of Coquetdale, we can then starting pushing the cable up to some of the smaller exchanges such as Hepple, Netherton, Harbottle, Alwinton and Whittingham.

“Superfast broadband is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity for many of our businesses and residents, and I will do whatever is necessary to ensure that we are not left behind.”