Cumbrian village spearheads the big rural roll-out of superfast broadand

The village of Yanwath in the Eden Valley is celebrating a major milestone today as it becomes the first community in Cumbria to have superfast broadband delivered through the Connecting Cumbria big build of a new fibre telecommunications network around the county. 

The ‘switch on’ of Yanwath’s new fibre-enabled streetside cabinet is a key moment for the broadband delivery project run by Cumbria County Council and BT. It is the first in a wave of upgraded infrastructure in rural areas which will see 93 per cent of Cumbrian properties having access to high-speed fibre broadband by the end of 2015 and other properties having at least 2Mbps – making Cumbria one of the best connected places in Europe and breaking down Britain’s digital divide between rural and urban areas. 

More than 120 properties in the village of Yanwath will now have access to fibre broadband thanks to the new streetside cabinet. Current speeds in the area through the existing copper network are typically less than 3Mbps, but speeds will increase to 24Mbps or even greater for the majority of homes in the village. 

Councillor David Southward Cumbria County Council's Cabinet member responsible for economic development, lead member for Connecting Cumbria and ERDF funding, said: “This is a significant milestone for the project. We are delighted to see actual Cumbrian homes and businesses starting to benefit from the significant investment that has been made in the roll-out of superfast broadband to areas where it had not been delivered commercially. We are now going to see a wave of new cabinets going live right across the county from now until the end of 2015. This is the beginning of a revolution in the standard of internet access in Cumbria.” 

Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of Next Generation Access, added: “This is an important landmark and illustrates our determination to get this exciting technology to more challenging locations – which fall outside the private sector’s commercial plans. Superfast broadband can transform our rural businesses and communities, improve productivity, and enable business to access new markets while breaking down the digital divide within rural communities like Yanwath. It will also improve and transform the delivery of public information and services.” 

One local business looking to take advantage of the opportunities offered by superfast broadband is run by Victoria Relph, whose textile design and millinery business is based in the village. She said she needs the web to showcase her work: “Being able to upload bigger, clearer, more detailed images – and more quickly - will make such a difference to me, and to the many other studio-based designers who live in Cumbria. 

“The internet is vital to show people what I do and I use email all the time to contact organisers of events and shows as well as to keep in touch with my suppliers. 

“I need to be able to upload images onto my website or email them to the organisers of shows where I’m going to be exhibiting, but I regularly have to reduce the resolution of the image or downsize it just to get the email to send. At present, people are not always able to view every detail of my designs,” said Victoria. 

Also looking to take full advantage of the enhanced service and the business support on offer to small businesses in the Connecting Cumbria programme are Yanwath-based agricultural merchants TW Relph & Sons. 

Richard Relph, who runs the business with his brother John, said: “I’m looking forward to exploring the benefits fibre will bring to the business. Currently we’re not able to sell things through our website because the broadband is too slow – faster broadband would enable us to do that and expand the business into new markets. 

“Having faster speeds will also mean we can provide better customer service. For example, we provide identity tags for sheep and cattle. Animals can’t be sold unless they have one but they often go missing and farmers use us to get a quick replacement – often for the next day - because of our links into the manufacturers. The internet connection can drop out and is slow to process orders. Fibre will mean we can guarantee a quick turnaround,” said Richard. 

Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, said: “Today’s switch on marks the start of a real transformation of broadband throughout Cumbria which will see 93 per cent of the region having access to superfast speed in 2015. The UK already does more business online than any other European country and widespread access to superfast speeds will provide a welcome boost to the Cumbrian economy.” 

Children from the first school to benefit, Yanwath Primary, were also on hand to celebrate the village’s unique place in Cumbrian history and help launch the service. They had the opportunity to learn more about fibre broadband and how it gets to their village from local Openreach engineers who visited their school. 

June Venus, headteacher at Yanwath Primary School, said: “Use of the internet now touches every part of the curriculum, with pupils using it every day for everything from interactive exercises to doing online research for school projects and a variety of other schoolwork. Without fast connectivity and speeds there is the risk that children will miss out on what is now an essential learning tool, so having fibre in the village is great news.” 

Yanwath is just the start of one of the biggest telecommunications engineering programmes the county has ever seen. Work is already well underway across the county – with a total of around 10,000 homes and businesses expected to be connected to fibre broadband by the end of 2013. Engineers from BT’s local network business, Openreach, will lay around 3,900 kilometres of optical fibre cable and install a total of around 550 new fibre broadband cabinets throughout the county during the entire programme. It is estimated that engineers will complete over a million man hours of work planning and building the network during the lifetime of the project. 

There’ll be weekly updates on the rollout of super-fast fibre broadband available on the Connecting Cumbria website: www.connectingcumbria.org 

Fibre is also being extended in 2013 to the outskirts of Carlisle, Maryport, Penrith and Workington. Ulverston will this autumn be the first town to be upgraded with fibre broadband as part of the Connecting Cumbria programme. 

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. 

Notes for editors 

The Connecting Cumbria Project will build upon BT and other providers’ existing commercial investment to ensure at least 93% 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’s network will be open to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis and so Cumbria consumers and businesses will benefit from a highly competitive market, in turn bringing greater choice and affordable prices. 

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