Digital Durham today announced it has achieved a major milestone in its rollout of fibre-based broadband as St John’s Chapel in Weardale became the latest community to ‘go live’ with the high-speed technology.
More than 100,000 premises across the programme area now have access to fibre-based broadband as a direct result of the partnership. Engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business, have laid thousands more kilometres of underground, fibre-optic cable and installed 447 green fibre street cabinets.
The 100,000th premises was one of more than 200 homes and businesses in the rural village of St John’s Chapel to get access to the technology. Parts of Barnard Castle, Middleton-in-Teesdale, Eggleston, Gateshead and Thornaby have also been upgraded in recent weeks.
Pat Glass, MP for North West Durham, said: “I am delighted that the Digital Durham programme has reached its 100,000 premises milestone. I continue to fully support their programme as they make progress towards giving as many constituents of mine as possible access to fast broadband.”
Thousands of orders for the newly available superfast service have already been placed since the beginning of this year and demand continues to grow as more and more local people opt for the fibre optic technology, which can see their speeds increase to up to 80Mbps1. Orders can be placed with any company offering fibre-based products on the Openreach network.
Cllr Jane Brown, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for corporate services, said: “It is really pleasing to see the programme making this positive progress and that hundreds of homes and businesses are signing up to use this exciting technology every month.
“The fact that we have brought fibre-based broadband to communities as far afield as Ryton in the north, Darlington in the south, Westgate in the west and Saltburn-by-the-Sea in the east of the programme area helps demonstrate the scale and breadth of the roll-out.”
Janice Stobbs, head teacher at St John’s Chapel Primary School, said: “Use of the internet now touches every part of the curriculum, with pupils using it every day for everything from interactive exercises to doing online research for school projects and a variety of other schoolwork. Without fast connectivity and speeds there is the risk that children will miss out on what is now an essential learning tool, so having fibre in St John’s Chapel is great news.”
Simon Roberson, BT’s regional partnership director for the North East, said: “To have reached 100,000 homes and businesses in just over two years is a huge achievement and one that the Digital Durham team should be proud of.
“The true measure of success, however, will be the benefits that communities across the programme reap from using this technology so it’s encouraging to see the vast number of local residents and businesses taking advantage of what is now on offer to them.
“Access to this technology can play a major role in building the competitiveness of local businesses and offer new education, social and entertainment opportunities for residents. And with plenty of choice of suppliers and pricing, I would urge even more local people to take advantage and get connected.”
Fibre-based broadband at home 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. Superfast broadband improves the quality of online experiences and supports new developments in internet services.
Benefits for businesses include faster file and data transfers, better access to cloud computing services and software, more sophisticated web-based contact with customers and support for more flexible working.
It’s an ‘opt in’ service, but because the Openreach network is ‘open’, residents and businesses wanting to upgrade have a choice of fibre broadband providers, with more than 140 companies now operating across the UK.
The Digital Durham broadband programme is delivered by Durham County Council and BT. In total, £34 million has been invested by BT, Durham County Council, Government funding from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and public sector partners in Sunderland, South Tyneside, Gateshead, North Tyneside, Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees.
A second phase of fibre deployment is already planned to begin in July 2016. This involves a £9 million investment in the programme area. It includes £2.82 million from the Government’s Superfast Extension Plan and £4 million from BT, with the remaining investment split between the local authority partners. An additional 29,000 homes and businesses will benefit as a result. By the end of the roll-out, 97 per cent of premises within the programme area will have access to fibre-based broadband.