(Pictured right): Cllr Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council.

Northumberland County Council announces “historic” £114m investment into region

Northumberland County Council has awarded Commsworld, the UK’s largest independent network provider, a 20-year contract worth £22m.

The contract will see £114m of private investment into the region to transform and support the county’s digital infrastructure over the next 20 years. The contract represents a step change by the council, to embrace a progressive, long-term approach to infrastructure and connectivity in line with its digital strategy.

It involves replacing its ageing Wide Area Network (WAN) with “world-class” full-fibre infrastructure which will also provide businesses and communities across the county, including its most rural areas, with access to faster, high-quality, reliable connectivity.

Commsworld will be facilitating the service over a 20-year period, but by 2026 the planned installation of a 262km cable will transform connectivity to nearly 150 council sites and enable access to more than 120,000 residential and business properties to Fibre To The Premises (FTTP), many of which have never enjoyed access to gigabit-capable fibre networks before.

The fibre infrastructure will be linked to Commsworld’s Optical Core Network (OCN), a next generation network in which it invested £10m, built specifically to boost security and resilience of digital infrastructure to organisations the length and breadth of the UK.

The OCN will act as the ‘spine’ from which wholesale fibre broadband providers can branch out into towns and rural areas of Northumberland at reduced rates so communities can enjoy significantly improved digital connectivity of up to one gigabit per second for gigabit-capable fibre broadband.

The contract will also see Commsworld work in partnership with iNorthumberland, Community Action Northumberland and the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) to tackle digital poverty, alongside digital skills and confidence within the communities of Northumberland.

Cllr Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council, commented: “This long-term approach marks a new and historic way forward for the council and its positive impact cannot be underestimated.

“We are one of the first rural counties in England to focus on changing the lives of our communities by not only providing the infrastructure to give them ground-breaking access to full-fibre broadband, but future-proofing the system so it can adapt and grow according to the needs of everyone who lives and works in Northumberland.

“Above all, it will directly tackle digital exclusion, especially for those in our rural areas. Equality of access is vital if we want to improve the lives of all our citizens. Providing access to significantly enhanced internet connections will go a very long way to bridging this digital divide and benefit all our schoolchildren, parents and families, as well as our businesses and organisations.”

By Matthew Neville – Senior Correspondent, Bdaily

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