TODAY marks a major milestone for the Cumbrian community of Fell End.
The remote community, whose 58 premises are spread across an 11-kilometre area, are a step closer to getting on the information superhighway in the first project of its kind in the North West.
A trial dig has been taking place this week to test drill newly designed ducting in an ambitious project to bring super-fast fibre broadband to every home, as well as to the local pub.
The innovative project is being spearheaded by Ravenstonedale Parish Council, who hatched its ambitious plan after realising the community was likely to be too remote to feature in any commercial upgrade.
It has raised around £34,000 locally towards the scheme, which has in turn helped them to secure additional funding from the Prince’s Countryside Fund, The Holehird Trust, TalkTalk Digital Heroes and BT.
Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart will join the community and Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of next generation access, to celebrate the completion of the first kilometre of the scheme later today.
BT is trialling a technique known as ‘mole ploughing’ to install new ducting which will house the fibre optic cable. The mini diggers performs the dual task of drilling underground and pulling through the new fibre optic cable more quickly than traditional methods, and greatly reducing disruption on the surface.
Once complete, the network will be open to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis, so residents will be able to choose from a number of suppliers.
If the engineering work continues to go to plan through the summer, the first homes could be logging onto download speeds of up to 80 megabits per second and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps from the autumn.
Councillor and community broadband pioneer, Libby Bateman, said: “Today marks a major milestone for us here in Fell End and other Rural Community Broadband Fund projects across Cumbria. Everyone has worked tirelessly to achieve our goal of gaining access to superfast broadband, which is now only a matter of months away.
“We’re all very excited and looking forward to enjoying the many benefits of the new technology.”
Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, said: “Superfast broadband is becoming ever more important no matter where you live – and this project just goes to show that being in a rural location does not need to be a barrier to access.”
Mr Stewart said:“This is Cumbria showing Britain how broadband can be delivered to the most remote places in the country. It is a project driven by the community, supported by BT and the Government – and it reaches the most inaccessible area at a fraction of what it would cost to do through Government alone.
“Now that we have done it once, I’d like us to repeat this model again and again across Cumbria and then across rural Britain. It will provide the key to ensuring 100 per cent of Britain has the option of superfast broadband, and will make sure that we in Cumbria have the best rural coverage in Europe. "