Christmas comes early for historic city as superfast fibre broadband arrives

First homes and businesses connected by Digital Durham project can get superfast fibre broadband before Christmas 

News welcome by Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey
Durham’s historic marketplace today became the first location to benefit from the multi million pound Digital Durham project as high-speed fibre broadband arrived six months ahead of schedule.

More than 130 homes and businesses in the 12th century marketplace will be joined by more than 8500 homes and businesses across the county, which will also have access to high speed fibre broadband speeds within the next six months as a result of the project.

Digital Durham is a £24 million initiative to transform broadband speeds for businesses and residents across County Durham, Gateshead, Sunderland and Tees Valley.

In April this year a partnership of eight local authorities including Durham County Council, agreed a deal with BT to extend high-speed fibre broadband availability to around 94 per cent of premises by the end of 2016.
It is also aiming to provide a minimum of 2Mbps broadband speeds for all.

Ed Vaizey, Communications Minister, said: “Today’s announcement is a welcome early Christmas present for Durham.

The first homes and businesses to benefit from the Government’s nationwide rollout of superfast broadband are doing so six months ahead of schedule, and access to faster speeds can make a tremendous difference to the local economy.”

Digital Durham builds on BT’s commercial roll-out of fibre broadband, which is already making fibre broadband available in many locations in Sunderland, Tees Valley, County Durham and Gateshead as part of its plan to reach around two-thirds of UK premises during Spring 2014.

The majority of premises will be getting access to some of the best broadband speeds boosting the competitiveness of local firms and offering new ways of flexible working, entertainment and learning opportunities for local residents.

Faster broadband will help local businesses find new customers and become more competitive and efficient, whilst for households the high-speed technology will offer new educational, training and leisure opportunities.
Cllr Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “The Digital Durham programme is fundamental to the future of County Durham. Modern communications, including effective broadband is key if we are to have a thriving city, vibrant towns, successful people and sustainable communities.

“We’ve always been at the forefront of digital inclusion here in County Durham, with first generation broadband routed into all exchanges in the county ahead of everywhere else so it is no surprise that we are leading the way with superfast broadband.”

BT’s investment of £5.9 million bolsters the public sector investment, which includes £7.8 million from Durham County Council & Gateshead, £9.1 million Government funding from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and a £1.3 million contribution from public sector partners in Sunderland and Tees Valley.

Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of next generation access, said: “Rolling out fibre is a big job – it’s not a question of simply throwing a switch, so the fact that fibre has arrived six months early in Durham is testament to the skill and hard work of the engineering teams on the ground and demonstrates our commitment to getting Durham superfast – superfast.

“Increasingly, broadband is an essential part of everyday life, whether you’re Christmas shopping online, sharing photographs and videos with the family, working in an office or as a homeworker, improving your education or just wanting to download a film or programme online.

“It has the power to transform every aspect of our lives and is a vital part of ensuring the future prosperity of communities across the county.”

The combination of rural, urban and coastal geographies will offer various engineering challenges, but the predominant technology used will be fibre optic broadband.

Most of the programme area will receive fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC), where the fibre runs from the telephone exchange as far as the nearest BT street cabinet. It can deliver download speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps. 1

Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology where the fibre runs all the way to the home or business - delivering speeds of up to 330Mbps – will also be deployed in certain areas. BT’s local network business, Openreach has also started to make FTTP technology, available on demand2 in certain areas where fibre broadband has been deployed, and plans to expand access in due course.

Openreach will install the fibre network which will be open to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis. Households and businesses will therefore benefit from a highly competitive market, bringing greater choice and affordable prices.

180Mbps and 330Mbps are top wholesale speeds. ISPs may use different speeds in their advertising. Individual line speeds will depend on network infrastructure and the service chosen by the ISP
2 Openreach will levy an installation charge for FTTP on demand. It will be up to service providers to decide whether they pass that on to businesses or consumers wishing to use the product.

Notes to Editors:

Superfast Britain is a Government investment of £1.08bn in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race. The portfolio comprises three linked programmes:
• £780m to extend superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017
• £150m to provide high speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities
• £150m to improve quality and coverage of mobile phone and basic data network services

Administered on behalf of Government by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), Superfast Britain is transforming Britain by promoting growth, enabling skills and learning, and improving quality of life.
For further information: https://www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk

About Digital Durham
The Digital Durham programme‘s vision is to improve the economic and social wellbeing of residents, by enabling a greater access to digital services through the provision of fibre broadband and other ground breaking technologies to businesses, homes and communities in County Durham, Gateshead, Sunderland and the five Tees Valley areas.

Working in partnership with BT, we aim to bring faster broadband to those areas that are outside of any commercial rollout plans. By mid 2016, we aim for at least 90% of properties to have a minimum of 24 Mbps and all premises at least 2 Mbps; and the remaining 10% to have 24 Mbps by the end of 2017.