​​Rory Stewart sees huge progress in Cumbria's digital network as fibre broadband coverage hits 75 per cent

Cumbria's roll-out of superfast broadband has passed another key milestone, with 90,000 homes and businesses now having access to fibre broadband as a result of the Connecting Cumbria programme.

*Media photo and interview opportunity at Longtown’s Digital Inclusion Event 4.30pm Friday 17 July*
Cumbria's roll-out of superfast broadband has passed another key milestone, with 90,000 homes and businesses now having access to fibre broadband as a result of the Connecting Cumbria programme.

The programme has lifted Cumbria's total fibre coverage to more than 75 per cent of properties in the county when combined with the private sector’s commercial rollout of the high-speed technology.Two thirds (66.6%) of Cumbrian households and businesses with access to fibre through Connecting Cumbria are getting average speeds of over 50Mbps – well above the levels agreed at the beginning of the programme

Penrith and the Borders MP Rory Stewart, one of the Government's leading voices on rural broadband, will be visiting Longtown to see how lives and businesses will be transformed by the network improvements there.

The Longtown Digital Inclusion event is being held at the Community Centre, Longtown on 17th July from 12.30 – 6.00pm.

Making broadband available to people in Cumbria has significant economic and social benefits. Residents and businesses in Cumbria are encouraged to attend the event to exploit the benefits that technology and super-fast broadband speeds bring.

Digital inclusion Events**, with up to 80 people attending, are running across the county to help everyone to gain the skills and confidence to use the Internet. The event will show people how to use the internet to:

Learn new skills
Gain new qualifications
Search for jobs
Shop more cheaply
Stay in touch with family and friends
Get the support to be more independent
Find out about benefits, services and finance

Those who attend the event in Longtown will be able to learn new skills during interactive sessions at 12:30 or 3:00pm. A session for businesses will also be held at 5.00pm. To attend the event, register your interest and the time of your preferred interactive sessions at the Community Centre or by emailing info@connectingcumbria.org.uk.

Rory Stewart MP said: "I'm delighted to be joining the Longtown community in addressing the importance of superfast broadband for residents and businesses. Given that the fundamental challenge of rural areas is the barrier of distance, we must emphasise that there is nothing more powerful than the technology of broadband and mobile in overcoming that barrier and in bringing rural areas all the opportunities of networked lives."

Cllr Pat Bell, Cumbria County Council’s Deputy Leader, said: “The roll out of superfast broadband across Cumbria literally connects the county to the world and brings us many social and economic benefits. It allows businesses to trade nationally and internationally, people to study, work and learn new skills from the comfort of home, and allows us to keep in touch with friends and relatives at the click of a button.

“Connecting Cumbria's programme is ahead of schedule and is already changing lives. The second wave of investment from 2015 onwards will help us reach even further into communities and get to some of the properties we couldn't reach first time around."

Kieran Charleson, BT's Regional Partnership Director for the North West, said: "Connecting Cumbria has now given an additional 90,000 homes and businesses across the county access to this digital technology. Fibre broadband has the power to transform lives and the economy and, of course, it is essential people know how to get it and understand the benefits it can bring. This series of workshops, each attended by up to 80 people, is showing people and businesses how they can be part of the digital revolution and a new connected community."

Through Connecting Cumbria’s business support programme, Big Cumbria, more than £15.1m of Gross value Added (GVA) improvements have been reported by the small and medium businesses supported, nearly double the programme target of £8.5m.

To further support economic development through broadband connections, the County Council is assisting Carlisle City Council with their scheme to offer up to £3,000 Grant Funding for eligible local businesses within Carlisle and parts of Allerdale, Copeland and Eden Districts to upgrade to a faster, more reliable internet connection. For more information visit www.carlisle.gov.uk/connectionvouchers.

Notes to Editors:

**Digital Inclusion Events have already taken place in: Braithwaite, Grasmere, Harrington, Keswick, Kirkby Lonsdale, Tirril and Workington.
Forthcoming events will be held first in: Appleby, Grange over Sands, Longtown, Sedbergh, Windermere to be followed by Ambleside, Aspatria, Barrow, Brampton, Cleator Moor, Langdale, Millom, Silloth, Ulverston.

Also for further information please contact Gareth Cosslett Cumbria Direct line: 01228 226337 at Cumbria County Council on 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

Notes to Editors:

About Connecting Cumbria

The Connecting Cumbria Programme’s ambition will, by a combination of commercial investment and gap funding, enable access to Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband to 93% of Cumbrian homes and businesses by the end of 2015 when added to the commercial rollout.And Connecting Cumbria is providing two thirds of its rollout with speeds of more than 50 mbps.There is, in addition, a commitment that all Cumbrian properties will have access to speeds of at least 2Mbps by some means by the end of the programme. 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.

Connecting Cumbria will ensure maximum coverage is achieved from available resources, demonstrating maximum value for money. Cumbria County Council has a continuing commitment to expand NGA broadband services and make NGA broadband service available to additional areas across Cumbria as funding becomes available.

About ERDF

The project is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the ERDF 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