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£18.9m deal provides superfast broadband to Northumberland

High-speed broadband will be rolled out to 95% of Northumberland homes following a £18.9m deal between Northumberland County Council and BT.

The iNorthumberland broadband programme is to be delivered through BT, with a massive 660km of fibre laid across the county.

91% of homes and business in the region will have access to broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps and a further 4% will benefit from an improvement in speed of up to 25Mbps.

Northumberland’s current average downstream speed is 8.3 Mbps and 15.9% of premises receive less than 2Mbps according to the Ofcom UK Broadbank Speeds Report in 2012.

It is hoped that this investment in fibre broadband will help create or protect local jobs, benefiting businesses which can use faster speeds to improve their competitiveness in the UK and abroad.

From May this year development company Arch will be responsible for delivering the broad band project across the county.

Arch, Northumberland County Council’s private sector arms-length company, will work closely with BT to ensure the success of the project.

The project will build on BT’s commercial investment in Northumberland, already committed as part of its £2.4bn overall commercial investment in UK fibre broadband.

BT was awarded the contract following a procurement exercise through the Broadband Delivery UK framework.

The company will contribute £2.9m towards fibre deployment in ‘non-commercial’ areas whilst Northumberland County Council will invest £7m plus its £7m share of Broadband Delivery UK framework.

A further £2m is being contributed by the European Regional Development Fund, the ERDF funding will be used to enable fibre connections for more than 2600 small and medium sized businesses in the area.

Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director for Next Generation Access, said: “This is exciting news for everyone who lives and works in Northumberland.

“Superfast broadband will open the doors to countless business opportunities in the county, boosting the rural economy and supporting thriving local communities.

“Northumberland is a large rural county with many remote premises.

“As a result, deploying broadband is a substantial challenge but a vital one which will help local businesses to be competitive and ensure they remain in the county.

“It can also play an important role in attracting even more firms to the county thereby helping to create jobs for local people.”

Due to the scale and complexity of Northumberland’s geography the first premises are currently expected to be connected in January 2014.

The remaining five per cent of premises will also see faster speeds as the project aims to deliver 2Mbps or more to all homes and businesses.

Towards the end of the project BT will also look to work with communities in the final five per cent to see if fibre can be extended further through innovative collaborative projects.

Kate Roe, Northumberland County Council’s deputy chief executive, said: “This is an important step in the campaign to bring faster broadband speeds to every home, business and school in Northumberland.

“Working with BT we will be announcing the installation schedule in the coming months and communities across the county can look forward to improved access to online services and better connectivity for businesses from 2014 onwards.”

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