Superfast broadband reaches remote Northumberland village

Mike Brown, landlord of The Anglers Arms in Kielder, with Kevin Strachan from the iNorthumberland programme.
Mike Brown, landlord of The Anglers Arms in Kielder, with Kevin Strachan from the iNorthumberland programme.

The superfast fibre broadband network has now been lit up in a remote Northumberland village with reputedly the darkest night skies in England.

Households and businesses in Kielder, which also sits at the head of the UK’s largest man-made lake, can now get superfast broadband speeds as a result of a new underground network of fibre-optic cables.

The news comes as the Government today announced that the nationwide rollout of superfast broadband has now reached more than three million homes and businesses.

Minister for the digital economy, Ed Vaizey, said: “Our nationwide rollout of superfast broadband has now reached an additional three million UK homes and businesses and is transforming lives up and down the country. I’m delighted that the people and businesses of Kielder are now able to enjoy all the benefits that superfast speeds have to offer.”

The iNorthumberland broadband programme, a key part of the council’s growth investment, is being delivered by Northumberland County Council and BT.

A team of 16 engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business, have overcome multiple engineering challenges to reach Kielder, such as the clearing of more than 20 underground duct blockages, locating numerous buried and overgrown joint boxes and the removal of old redundant cable to create duct space, to lay more than 21 kilometres of optical fibres between Otterburn and the village.

Coun Grant Davey, leader of the Northumberland County Council, said: “This is more excellent news for our flagship broadband programme. Reaching communities as remote as Kielder and allowing support for businesses there means that it is really proving its worth.

“Access to superfast broadband is becoming fundamental to our everyday lives and it is only right that our residents and businesses expect to be able to access faster broadband speeds no matter where they live. I am delighted that our iNorthumberland programme is delivering increased speeds in locations across the county.”

More than 120 homes and businesses in the village can now place orders as a result of iNorthumberland rollout of the technology and many have already done so.

One Kielder resident keen to see fibre arrive in the village is Mike Brown, landlord of the Anglers Arms, who said: “We offer customers free wifi, which is a brilliant selling point for us.

“People flock to the pub to get online because there’s no mobile signal for a 20-mile radius. As well as getting online, people can also send texts and make calls on mobile over our wifi network. But with my current broadband, if there are a lot of people on it at once, it slows right down, the signal drops out and people can’t get on.

“It also means we have to wait until after the pub is closed to get online to order supplies because there’s not enough bandwidth at other times. Being able to order supplies online is essential, otherwise I can end up travelling thousands of miles a week because everything is so remote here. With fibre I will be able to keep my customers happy, but also manage the business side of things more efficiently.”

The benefits are considerable for businesses, with many of those in Kielder serving the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the area each year. Businesses can now access booking systems, update websites and utilise social-networking sites faster and more effectively, saving both time and money, but the increased broadband speeds will also be of great value to families living in the village.

Simon Roberson, BT’s North East regional partnership director, said: “Tourism is the mainstay of the local economy in and around Kielder and is also a vital economic generator for the county, providing around 13 per cent of employment. The arrival of high-speed broadband can boost this sector in a variety of different ways, for example, providing a more streamlined customer experience with wifi everywhere, cashless transactions and automated check-in services.”