Innovation heralds high speed broadband revolution for 25,000 more Cumbrian homes and businesses

Local MP attends switch-on of first part of new Milnthorpe system

Connecting Cumbria has overcome a major technical challenge to make high-speed fibre broadband available to thousands more Cumbrian customers.

The innovation will see almost 25,000 Cumbrian homes and businesses able to move to the outside lane of the superfast broadband highway in the next 12 months. Until now, they have been unable to get the high-speed technology because of being served by lines directly from the telephone exchange, rather than via a roadside cabinet.

By rearranging the existing network and installing extra cabinets to serve affected customers, engineers from BT’s local network business, Openreach, have been able to overcome the problem. The first customers to benefit are in Milnthorpe, near Kendal, where the first 160 of 1900 premises in the village now have access to fibre broadband after a 15-kilometre fibre spine was installed to feed the village.

More than 60 Openreach engineers are working in Cumbria on overcoming the “exchange only” lines challenge . The fibre technology means download speeds of up to 80 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20 Mbps* will be available to a further 25,000 premises in 120 locations.

Connecting Cumbria, the partnership of BT and the County Council, has overcome major challenges to deliver this part of its programme, which will mean that by the end of next year at least 93% of properties in Cumbria will have access to the fibre network, transforming businesses as well as home working, entertainment and communication in the county.

At today’s launch in Milnthorpe of this new phase of the fibre broadband rollout, which will take 12 months to complete, Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron said: “Broadband is vital to local communities and will make a massive difference. I’m delighted that the funds that we have been able to secure from the Government are now being spent on connecting residents in Milnthorpe. But we can and must do more. I will keep working and campaigning to bring superfast broadband to local residents.”

Councillor Ian Stewart, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet member for Community Services and whose Kent Estuary division includes Milnthorpe, said: “Today’s launch marks the start of rolling out high-speed broadband to communities that were linked directly to telephone exchanges, and I’m delighted that Milnthorpe will be the first to benefit from this latest innovation. Across the county, thousands of households and businesses are being given the opportunity to upgrade their broadband to a faster fibre service, through the work of Connecting Cumbria. I’d encourage people to check if they can now get fibre – there are lots of good deals available, so it’s well worth shopping around.”

Mike Blackburn, BT regional director for the North West, said: “This is an innovative way forward to give 25,000 more homes and businesses the chance to become part ofthe fibre broadband revolution. Over the next year, Openreach engineers will be wiring up 120 special cabinets in a technically complex operation that will make the benefits of high-speed broadband available to thousands more people whether they are home workers, setting up businesses at home, shopping online or enjoying television and digital entertainment. It’s a big step forward.”

Check availability at Connecting Cumbria: http://www.connectingcumbria.org.uk/home and then people can contact one of 140 communications providers for their connection to fibre broadband.]
Connecting Cumbria will give a total of 115,000 homes and businesses access to fibre broadband and when added to BT’s rollout 93% of premises will be able to connect to the network by the end of 2015.

For further information please contact Jim Smith at Cumbria County Council 01228 226337 or Graham Taylor at the BT Regional Press Office on 0800 085 0660. All our news releases can be found at www.btplc.com/news
* These are the top wholesale speeds available from by BT’s local network business, Openreach, to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.

Notes to Editors:

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