Digital Durham celebrates Christmas anniversary with major milestone

One year on from launch of first fibre cabinet – 36k homes and businesses can now get fibre broadband as a direct result of the project. 

Digital Durham has announced that more than 36,000 homes and businesses 1 can now access high-speed, fibre broadband as a direct result of the project – following the launch of the first fibre cabinet in Durham city centre last Christmas.

A team of more than 100 planners and engineers from BT’s local network business, Openreach, have been busy laying around 200 kilometres of optical fibre cable and installed 235 new fibre broadband cabinets in streets across County Durham, Gateshead and Sunderland.

Already hundreds of residents and small businesses have ordered the new technology and are reaping the benefits of increased broadband speeds.

For freelance video games developer Chris Kirby, having fibre broadband provides a vital link for his business and gives him more free time to spend with his twin four-year old sons.

Chris, who lives in Trimdon Station, said: “My job involves writing games software which means I am uploading some very big files to send to clients based around the world. The great thing about fibre broadband is the fast upload speeds. Before I had fibre – uploading a file would take more than an hour – now it takes about ten minutes. The gaming industry is fast moving and clients can want updates or changes to things at the last minute. Having superfast speeds means I can easily meet tight deadlines, and turn things around as quickly as they want it.

“I work from home as part of a virtual team of producers, artists and designers based all over the world including Australia, Jordan, Malaysia and the US, so having a reliable fast internet connection is vital. All my meetings are done via Skype and we send a lot of files to each other to work on. Fibre means the connection is uninterrupted and makes everything that much quicker and efficient. Because of the time differences a lot of my work is done in the evening which allows me to spend more time with my two boys earlier in the day. And being able to complete work tasks so much faster with fibre I can now devote more time to them.

“My wife Charmaine uses the broadband for watching movies, online shopping, Facebook, that kind of thing. When I was uploading files before it sucked up an awful lot of bandwidth and slowed everything else slowed down, but now we can both be online at the same time without anything being buffering or stalling.”

Councillor Jane Brown, cabinet member for Corporate Services, said: “It is great to hear stories like Chris Kirby’s where people are already seeing such a difference from upgrading to superfast broadband. No doubt many families will see new technology enter the household over this Christmas, so I would urge people to look at whether they too can benefit from faster internet access.”

Simon Roberson, BT North East regional partnership director, added: “Delivering a project of this size is never easy, but our engineers have been working tirelessly to keep everything on track and on time – making fibre broadband available to roughly 1000 new premises every week.

“Investment in fibre and faster broadband speeds will be a key part of this regions’ future economic growth. Broadband is now seen as an essential rather than a luxury. Broadband numbers are increasing strongly, not least because people see it as a route to jobs and markets. It provides the cornerstone for prosperous communities – helping local people build their skills and knowledge and encouraging the creation of new businesses and jobs.

“People should also remember that superfast does not mean super-expensive. A recent Ofcom report found the difference between rental for traditional and new superfast broadband to be very small, ranging from £5 to £10 a month. 2”

The high-speed network installed by BT’s local network business, Openreach, is available on an open, wholesale basis to all companies offering broadband services so North East households and businesses will benefit from a highly competitive market.

The high speed service will boost the competitiveness of local firms and offer new ways of flexible working, entertainment and learning opportunities for local residents.

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 a TV replay service, surf the internet and play games online all at the same time. 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.

Digital Durham is a £25 million initiative to transform broadband speeds for businesses and residents across County Durham, Gateshead, Sunderland and the Tees Valley.

In April 2013 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 within the programme area.

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.

In February this year more than £1 million of further government funding was secured to invest in extending fibre broadband coverage in the Durham and Tees Valley

The funding, along with an additional investment from BT, will enable Digital Durham to extend the reach of next generation fibre broadband coverage to 98 per cent of County Durham homes and businesses.

Fibre broadband means everyone in the family can do their own thing online, all at the same time, whether it’s downloading music in minutes or watching catch-up TV; streaming HD or 3D movies in a few minutes; or posting photos and videos to social networking sites in seconds. It will also improve access to new job opportunities, and make it easier to shop around for cheaper services.

The benefits are also considerable for businesses, which can do much more in far less time. Firms can speed up file and data transfers, collaborate with colleagues and customers on conference or video calls or swap their hardware and expensive software licenses for files, processing power and software from cloud computing. Staff can work as effectively from home as they would in the office.

Current plans will see most of the programme area receive fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology, 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. 3

Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology where the fibre runs all the way to the home or business - delivering speeds of up to 330Mbps4 – will also be deployed in certain areas.

For more information about the Digital Durham programme please visitwww.digitaldurham.org.


1 Details of Digital Durham locations where fibre broadband is available can be found at www.digitaldurham.org

2 UK Fixed-Line Broadband Performance, Ofcom Report, November 2012.

380Mbps and 330Mbps are top wholesale speeds. Internet service providers (ISPs) may use different speeds in their advertising. Individual line speeds will depend on network infrastructure and the service chosen by the ISP

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.