Cumbria hits major milestone with half the county reached by fibre broadband

Around 121,000 Cumbria homes and businesses now able to access faster fibre broadband; 

Connecting Cumbria roll-out helps deliver ‘blooming broadband growth’, with more than 13,000 premises passed this Spring alone;
Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, hails milestone for county.

Media Opportunity: From 12 noon today, representatives from Connecting Cumbria will be at the Moot Hall in Brampton – one of the next communities to get high-speed fibre broadband – giving local people an insight into how they might benefit from the technology when it begins to become available there within the next few weeks. They will be joined by Rory Stewart MP at 4pm. During the session there will be the opportunity for photos, interviews and vox pops.

More than half of Cumbrian homes and businesses are now able to access high-speed fibre broadband.

The rapid progress of Connecting Cumbria – the partnership between Cumbria County Council and BT – during this Spring, combined with BT’s commercial roll-out, means around 121,000 county premises now have access to broadband speeds of up to 80 megabits per second (Mbps).

Today’s half-way point was reached in part by the surge in work by the partnership between March and May, when Connecting Cumbria made fibre broadband available to a further 13,216 homes and businesses.

This was made possible by engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business, clocking up more than 70,000 man hours and laying 350 kilometres of fibre optic cable – more than 19 times the length of Windermere lake. In addition, 48 new green fibre street-side cabinets have been installed.

As a result, a number of areas which previously had no fibre broadband at all have now been connected for the first time, including the communities of Dalston, Egremont, Cleator Moor and Millom.

This progress means a total of more than 30,000 premises are now able to access high-speed fibre broadband as a direct result of the Connecting Cumbria partnership.

Ed Vaizey, Communications Minister, said: “The Government subsidised national rollout of superfast broadband continues at pace and I’m delighted to hear that the Connecting Cumbria project has already passed the half way mark. 93 per cent of Cumbria’s homes and businesses will have access to superfast broadband by the end of December 2015 as a result of this project, providing a significant boost to the local economy.”

Councillor David Southward, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for economic development, said: “This is a significant milestone that has been achieved on time thanks to the dedication of everyone involved in the programme who are all working tirelessly on this project.

“Fibre broadband will open the doors to countless business opportunities in the county, boosting the rural economy and supporting thriving local communities. Now is the time for people to talk to their Internet Service Providers and check whether they can get access to fibre and look out for the best deals around. There’s some great opportunities to upgrade to fantastic speeds for not much money.”

Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of next generation access, added: “Enabling half of the county to access fibre is a great achievement, particularly with all the challenges that rolling out a fibre network in such a geographically diverse and sparsely populated county like Cumbria brings.

“Fibre broadband will bring the digital world right to the doorsteps of homes and businesses across the county. It enables local small businesses to compete on an equal footing with larger firms, and means that families in rural areas are better connected and able to do more online than ever before.”

Work on Connecting Cumbria is continuing apace across the county, with the number of homes and businesses expected to be connected to fibre broadband as a direct result of the partnership rising to around 51,000 by the end of 2014.
Openreach engineers will lay nearly 4,000 kilometres of optical fibre cable and install a total of around 550 new fibre broadband cabinets throughout the county during the entire Connecting Cumbria programme. It is also estimated they will complete over a million man hours of work planning and building the network during the lifetime of the project.

The partnership roll-out builds on BT’s commercial fibre investment so that 93 per cent of Cumbria’s 240,000 homes and businesses will have access to fibre broadband by the end of December 2015 and the aspiration that speeds of at least 2 Mbps are available to all.

The high-speed network installed by Openreach is available on an open, wholesale basis to all companies offering fibre broadband services so Cumbrian households and businesses will benefit from a highly competitive broadband market when they opt for an upgrade.

Fibre broadband gives users the ability to run multiple bandwidth-hungry applications at the same time such as sending and receiving large amounts of data much more quickly and efficiently. At home, fibre broadband enables a family to simultaneously download a movie, watch catch-up TV, surf the internet and play games online. A whole album can be downloaded in less than 30 seconds and a feature length HD movie in less than 10 minutes, whilst high-resolution photos can be uploaded to Facebook in seconds.

To help businesses in Cumbria take advantage of the faster broadband speeds a support service has been put in place to provide free services such as training workshops, skills master classes and business development events. This will demonstrate how faster broadband connections can help to develop business and increase profits by maximising efficiency and productivity. For more information visit www.bigcumbria.com For further information on the Connecting Cumbria programme visit www.connectingcumbria.org.uk

New Exchange Areas – March to May 2014
Cleator Moor

Due to the current network topography, and the economics of deployment, it is likely that some premises within the selected exchange areas will not initially be able to access fibre-based broadband. Alternative solutions for these locations are being investigated.

For further information please contact Graham Taylor at the BT Regional Press Office on 0800 085 0660. All our news releases can be found at www.btplc.com/news

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