Digital Durham unveils fibre broadband plans for thousands more homes and businesses

Digital Durham today announced the next phase in its expansion of high-speed fibre broadband, which is expected to help create jobs and give a boost to the local economy.

More than 12,000 homes and businesses in 14 exchange areas are to be included in the second phase of the multi-million pound programme with engineers set to install many more new green fibre broadband cabinets and lay hundreds of kilometres of cable.

Sedgefield and Trimdon will get access to fibre broadband on the BT network for the first time. There will also be a substantial investment in making fibre more widely available in Beamish, Coxhoe, Crook, Meadowfield, New Brancepeth, Peterlee, Stanley, Washington, Burnopfield, Dipton, Lanchester and Wellfield, which already have the high-speed technology. Survey work is well under way with the first households and businesses expected to be able to place orders by late July.

Cllr Jane Brown, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for corporate services, said: “We are extremely pleased with the progress of Digital Durham and it’s great to see the second phase already getting underway. This latest work will see thousands more homes and businesses across County Durham and beyond benefitting from high-speed fibre broadband.”

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.

Digital Durham builds on BT’s commercial roll-out which is already making fibre broadband available in many locations across the region as part of its plan to reach around two-thirds of UK premises.

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.

Fibre is transforming internet use within the home, from communicating with family and friends to entertainment, shopping and online gaming.

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.

Farooq Hakim, BT’s regional director for the North East, said: “To build a fibre optic broadband network on this scale is a massive undertaking. While, of course, this won’t happen overnight, this announcement shows we are making excellent progress.

“Work on the first phase is already progressing at a rapid pace and Digital Durham expect to exceed their target of reaching 9000 homes and business as part of that phase.

“Homes and businesses in dozens of communities are already getting their first opportunity to find out for themselves why there’s such a buzz about fibre broadband and I would urge people to check with their internet service provider to see what is on offer.”

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 the Tees Valley.

In February this year more than £1 million of further funding was secured from the Rural Community Broadband Fund which will be invested to extend fibre broadband coverage in the Durham and Tees Valley areas.

The combination of rural, urban and coastal geographies offers various engineering challenges.

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 1 – will also be deployed in certain areas. Openreach, BT’s local network business, has also started to make FTTP technology, available on demand 2 in certain areas where fibre broadband has been deployed, and plans to expand access in due course.

Unlike other companies, Openreach offers fibre broadband access to all service providers on an open, wholesale basis, which underpins a competitive market and delivers real customer choice.
For more information about the Digital Durham programme please visit www.durham.gov.uk


1 80Mbps 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
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.