Connecting Cumbria fibre broadband team celebrates first birthday

Landmark passed as 50,000 homes and businesses get fibre through 200 new cabinets 

Lake District business boosts jobs and free wi-fi for customers
The first birthday celebrations of Connecting Cumbria today marked the partnership making high speed fibre broadband available to 50,000 homes and businesses.

The £51 million partnership between Cumbria County Council and BT has, in just 12 months, extended the fibre network by 500 kilometres.

A year ago today Cumbria celebrated the ‘switch on’ of its first fibre cabinet in the village of Yanwath near Penrith. That event kick-started a massive engineering project, which will transform the county’s telecommunications network for this and future generations.

BT’s local network business, Openreach, has installed more than 200 new fibre broadband cabinets on behalf of Connecting Cumbria, with a further 100 cabinets in place and ready to go throughout the county. Each of these new cabinets can reach hundreds of surrounding homes and businesses, providing high-speed fibre broadband connection for local people. During the lifetime of the project Connecting Cumbria will install some 500 of these cabinets.

One of the Cumbrian businesses that has seen the benefit of fibre broadband to the local economy is Windermere Lake Cruises. The Bowness on Windermere firm entertains thousands of tourists with cruises on the Lake District’s iconic lake and are strong advocates of a network they say boosts their customers’ enjoyment, jobs and the firm’s working systems.

Andrew Simon, finance director, said: “The arrival of high-speed fibre broadband has transformed our business and the way we are able to promote and market to customers. Far Eastern visitors especially are keen to upload photographs and send them to friends and relatives in Japan and China. We have been able to introduce free wi-fi and the fantastic change in upload speeds means we can now use the Cloud and transform the efficiency of our in-house data systems. And fibre broadband has meant two more jobs – a digital marketing specialist and an IT support executive.”

The partnership roll-out builds on BT’s commercial fibre investment so that 93 per cent of Cumbria’s 251,000 homes and businesses will have access to fibre broadband by the end of 2015 After the first year of the partnership the combined fibre broadband coverage for the county now stands at 58 per cent of premises.

It is estimated engineers will complete over a million hours of work planning and building the network during the lifetime of the project.

Councillor David Southward Cumbria County Council's Cabinet member responsible for economic development, lead member for Connecting Cumbria and ERDF funding, said:

“All the hard work is paying off, with thousands upon thousands of households and businesses now being given the opportunity to upgrade their broadband to a faster fibre service that wouldn’t have been there without the work of Connecting Cumbria. For some, the ‘old’ service has been sufficient and they haven’t felt the need to upgrade so far, but this work in building a new fibre network is helping to future proof the county’s needs so that the capacity is there as demand increases. Many people are finding that they can upgrade to fibre for little or no extra cost, and I’d urge everyone to shop around and get the best deals rather than paying over the odds for a slower service.”

Bill Murphy, managing director for BT’s Next Generation Access, said: “As Cumbria is one of the biggest counties but also the one with the second most thinly spread population it was never going to be easy. However, the county council and BT have made a sound beginning and middle to this challenging project and, of course, we are determined to finish the job well. There is much to do, but we will work closely with our council partners and with the people and businesses in Cumbria to ensure we provide a network that will help grow and sustain the county’s economy.”

When an area has gone ‘live’ people are able to order an upgrade from a wide range of internet service providers because the Openreach network is open to all fibre broadband suppliers on an open, wholesale, basis, thereby ensuring competitive prices for Cumbrian residents and businesses.

It enables them to access download speeds of up to 80 megabits per second and uploads of up to 20Mbps*.

++Media opportunity and photocall: Jamie Reed, MP for Copeland, will be visiting the Phoenix Enterprise Centre in Cleator Moor (Jacktrees Rd CA25 5BD) at 1.30pm on Friday 3 October to see how businesses there are benefitting from the recent arrival of fibre broadband and to learn more about investment plans for the centre’s Rural Growth Hub.

The Connecting Cumbria team will be set up in the Market Square outside the Phoenix Enterprise Centre to help inform local people about the project and the steps they should take to get fibre broadband (please preview this opportunity to the public on Thursday 2 October). Meet for the photocall at the Connecting Cumbria gazebo at 1.30pm. Contact on the ground: Gareth Cosslett on 07973 811206.


*These are the top wholesale speeds available from BT’s local network business Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.

Notes to Editors:
Photography illustrating the Connecting Cumbria project is available here:


About Connecting Cumbria

The Connecting Cumbria Project will build upon BT and other providers’ existing commercial investment to ensure at least 93 per cent of Cumbrian homes & businesses can access fibre broadband by the end of 2015, with the aspiration that all Cumbrian properties have speeds of at least 2Mbps.This includes working with some of Cumbria’s remotest communities to extend the fibre network through innovative community projects in the hardest to reach areas.
BT is contributing £15m to the project with £17.1m coming from Broadband Development UK (BDUK), £13.7m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and £5m through the Performance Reward Grant (PRG) from all councils in Cumbria. On top of this, additional ERDF and PRG funding will contribute to the roll-out and marketing of fibre broadband in Cumbria.
According to Ofcom, the county’s average downstream speed is currently 7.1Mbps whilst 18.8 per cent of the population receive less than 2Mbps.

About ERDF
The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme, which is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/erdf-programmes-progress-and-achievements

About BDUK
Superfast Britain is a Government programme of investment 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 is comprised of three elements:
• £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