Remote Devon village among first to get pioneering new superfast broadband technology

About half of Northlew homes and businesses already using the high-speed service 

A remote Devon village on the edge of Dartmoor is one of the first places in the UK to benefit from a pioneering new way to get superfast broadband to challenging areas.

Households and businesses in Northlew now have access to broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps – thanks to a four kilometre microwave radio link, which has replaced the need for a fibre optic cable and extensive excavations. More than 120 Northlew customers – about half of the households and businesses in the tiny, historic village - are already using the high-speed technology.

The pilot scheme was made possible by the £94 million Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) programme, a partnership between local authorities in Devon and Somerset and BT.

Paul Coles, BT South West regional manager, said: “Getting superfast broadband to Northlew has been an immensely challenging and satisfying project. We knew that it would not be viable to lay a fibre optic cable to such a small remote community, but we were able to make the village one of the first places in the UK to try out this new microwave radio solution.

“I’d particularly like to thank the people of Northlew for their invaluable support. When it comes to being connected they have shown amazing community spirit and determination. BT and the Connecting Devon and Somerset team have worked with them closely to make this project a reality.

“The radio link connects to a new broadband cabinet near the centre of the village, which offers all the usual fibre broadband speeds and benefits. This is just one example of many innovative approaches to bringing fibre based broadband to remote communities - and that innovation will continue.

“We’re more than four years into rolling out fibre broadband across the South West, whether through our commercial programme or with our public sector partners, so the production line is well and truly established and primed to deliver even more over the coming years.”

Devon County Councillor James McInnes said: "We are very proud to have secured this pilot study to connect up one of our historic rural villages, and the people of Northlew worked closely with the team to make it possible.

“This is another example of how the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme is bringing superfast broadband to communities who otherwise would not be getting it. By proving the value of this new technology, we hope that it will be used in other appropriate locations in the future."

Among the Northlew residents to benefit from fibre broadband is Graham Everitt, who runs a freelance consultancy from home, working with photo libraries across the UK.

“High-speed fibre broadband has made a huge difference to me both from a business and personal point of view,” he said. “For example, as part of my work I often send large files or images to newspapers, PR agencies and other organisations and in the past this has sometimes involved me having to drive seven miles to a Little Chef restaurant to get a sufficiently good connection.

“The benefits are not just about speed, however. There is also the reliability.

“From a personal point of view, I have been able to download films and my daughter, who has just moved to secondary school, is able to use it for her homework and staying in touch with friends.”

Northlew has a long history. It is part of a community mentioned in the Domesday Book and its church, the Parish Church of St Thomas of Canterbury, dates from the 15th century.

Elsewhere in the South West, the Gloucestershire village of Hardwicke will be among the first communities to trial this pioneering wireless technology through the Fastershire partnership between Gloucestershire County Council, Herefordshire Council and BT.
The multi million pound CDS partnership includes Devon and Somerset County Councils, Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay Councils, BT and the UK Government’s Superfast Britain programme.

Connecting Devon and Somerset, alongside the private sector’s commercial programme, aims to make superfast broadband available to around 90 per cent of premises by the end of 2016. It also intends to ensure a minimum of 2 Mbps for all homes and businesses within the programme area.

Anyone wishing to access the new service will need to contact their Internet Service Provider to discuss a new package.

More information on Connecting Devon and Somerset can be found at the website: www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk

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Notes to Editors
For further information please contact the BT Regional Press Office on 0800 085 0660. All news releases can be accessed at our web site: http://www.bt.com/newscentre

  • Most of the programme will be Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) technology, where the fibre runs from the telephone exchange to a fibre optic street cabinet.
    • It can deliver download speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps. These are the top wholesale speeds available to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.
    • According to regulator Ofcom, the average download speed in Devon was 11Mbps and in Somerset 10.1Mbps.
  • The new network is available on an open, wholesale basis to all broadband service providers. Households and businesses wishing to place an order or find out more about fibre broadband should contact their service provider.

About Connecting Devon and Somerset
Councils across Devon and Somerset are working together to bring faster broadband to the area and deliver improved broadband for rural Devon and Somerset – the “final third” – rural areas that are unlikely to benefit from commercial investment in broadband.

The Connecting Devon and Somerset project covers Devon County Council, Somerset County Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, Plymouth City Council, Torbay Council, and North Somerset Council areas.

The project has secured £32 million of funding from the government agency Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and both Somerset and Devon County Councils will be putting in up to £10 million each. Further funding from Bath and North East Somerset Council brought the public sector total close to £53 million. With the £41 million additional investment from BT, Connecting Devon and Somerset is a £94 million project.
For more information, visit www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk

About “Get up to Speed”
The ‘Get up to Speed’ service is delivered by the Cosmic Peninsula Consortium on behalf of Connecting Devon and Somerset. The newly established consortium, formed by Peninsula Enterprise and Cosmic IT, will undertake a series of workshops and events that will follow the infrastructure roll out as it moves across Devon and Somerset, helping businesses and individuals access information and develop the skills they need to get the most from the faster broadband speeds.
For more information please visit www.get-up-to-speed.co.uk

About Superfast Britain
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, visit https://www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk