Work begins to bring Weardale into the broadband fast lane

Work is underway to bring superfast fibre broadband to communities in many parts of Weardale, Digital Durham announced today.

Engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business, have begun upgrading the BT exchange in Frosterley, with the first of more than 5000 homes and businesses due to be connected to the fibre network early next year.

The first stage involves changing and upgrading substantial amounts of equipment within the exchange building itself. It will be the most significant engineering work at the exchange since it was upgraded from analogue to digital in 1985.

This will be followed later in the year by the installation of new fibre optic management systems and a huge civil engineering undertaking to lay around 60km of underground ducts which will carry cables containing around 7000km of fibres.

Derek Richardson, Openreach project director for next generation access in the North East, is responsible for overseeing the successful completion of the work. He said: “This is a complicated but vital engineering project which will bring huge benefits to many rural communities across Weardale.

“Extensive planning has already taken place to ensure that this work quickly and efficiently brings benefits to as many people as possible in Weardale.”

The first communities to feel those benefits will be in the in the Tow Law area early next year. They will be followed by many homes and businesses in locations such as Frosterley, Wearhead, Stanhope, Wolsingham and Eastgate.

Cllr Jane Brown, Durham County Council’s portfolio holder for Corporate Services, said: “Bringing superfast broadband to rural areas is a challenge. Work has now started to overcome that challenge and bring the latest broadband technology to Weardale.

“This is fantastic news for those people living and working in Weardale.”

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

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

Further funding opportunities will continue to be explored with the aim of bringing faster broadband speeds to every home, business and community in the County.

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. 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 – will also be deployed in certain areas.
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


180Mbps 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. Note: I can’t see 2 in the main body of the news release?

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.