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Full speed ahead! Rothbury becomes first UK community to go superfast using the government’s rural community broadband fund

Press Release   •   Dec 09, 2013 00:00 GMT

The remote Northumberland town of Rothbury can now enjoy some of the fastest broadband speeds in the country with the unveiling of the town’s first fibre broadband cabinet three months ahead of schedule. 

The ‘switching on’ of the cabinet, on Station Road, by Secretary of State, Owen Patterson MP, means that from today more than 370 homes and businesses in parts of Rothbury can place orders for fibre broadband and benefit from high-speed internet from a broadband service provider of their choice. From next week fibre broadband will also become available to 167 premises in the nearby village of Thropton as their first fibre cabinet on Village Farm is also ‘switched on’. 

Rothbury is the first community in the UK to benefit from superfast broadband funded by the Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF). The £20 million fund was established by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to ensure the ten per cent hardest-to-reach areas of the UK were not left behind in the race for high-speed internet access. 

After more than £400,000 was secured from the RCBF to roll-out superfast broadband across Rothbury, BT was chosen to build and deliver the infrastructure and network. BT is also making a significant financial investment towards the roll-out which is expected to reach 98 per cent of homes and businesses in Rothbury and the surrounding area by the end of March 2015. 

The project will transform broadband speeds for this rural community which, in turn, is expected to boost the competitiveness of local businesses and give households better access to on-line public services, entertainment, learning and development. 

Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary, said: “Every rural area deserves a good internet connection. It has the power to transform business prospects and create more rural jobs. 

“Rothbury is the first of many rural areas to receive superfast broadband under the Rural Community Broadband Fund. It will be a massive benefit to everyone who lives in this area, and I look forward to seeing many more of these projects get off the ground. The government is putting in £165 million into unlocking the economic potential of rural areas, and broadband is a key part of that.” 

Ed Vaizey, Communications Minister, said: “This is brilliant news for the homes and businesses of Rothbury who will now be able to access superfast broadband speeds. Taking superfast broadband to the more remote areas of the UK understandably presents us with challenges, which is why we created this fund specifically for these locations.” 

The roll-out in Rothbury will require around 22 kilometres of fibre optic cable, six new green street cabinets and a mixture of both fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) and fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) technologies. 
FTTC, where the fibre runs from the exchange to a local roadside cabinet, gives download speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps1. FTTP technology, where the fibre runs all the way to the home or business, offers a current download speed of 330Mbps. 

BT is also working closely with local communities to find solutions to bring fibre to more challenging, extremely remote areas. 

Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of next generation access, said: “Rothbury is a great showcase for what is possible when communities and local authorities work together with BT in this way. This and other projects in the county are vital for taking faster broadband to places like Rothbury, that are technically and economically beyond the reach of BT’s and other suppliers’ commercial roll-outs of fibre. 

“Northumberland is a largely rural county and we know that small businesses form a key part of the local economy in rural areas. Faster broadband breaks down the barriers to doing business in the digital world, like online trading, which helps to empower small businesses to find new markets, sell new products, try new models and compete on an equal footing with larger businesses at home and around the world.” 

From May this year delivery of the broadband project across Northumberland became the responsibility of Arch, Northumberland County Council’s private sector arm’s-length development company 

Under the banner of iNorthumberland, Arch will work closely with the council and BT to ensure both the Rothbury project and a separately funded project to extend fibre broadband availability to 95 per cent of the wider county2 are delivered on budget and on time. 

Councillor Dave Ledger, chairman of Arch and deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “This is an important step in the campaign to bring faster broadband speeds to every home, business and school in Northumberland. The community of Rothbury should be proud that they are leading the way in the rural roll-out of fibre broadband and grasp all the benefits and opportunities this new technology can bring.” 

For Rothbury residents, fibre 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, watching catch-up TV or posting photos and videos to social networking sites in seconds. Fibre improves the quality of online experiences and supports exciting new developments in internet services. 

The benefits are also considerable for businesses, which can do much more in far less time. Firms can speed up file and data transfers, collaborate with colleagues and customers on conference or video calls or swap their hardware and expensive software licenses for files, processing power and software from cloud computing. Staff can work as effectively from home as they would in the office. 

For up to date information on the project and roll-out please visit www.inorthumberland.org.uk. 

Ends 

80Mbps and 330Mbps are wholesale speeds. ISPs may use different speeds in their advertising. Individual line speeds will depend on network infrastructure and the service chosen by the ISP 
2 The iNorthumberland project is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund Programme 2007 to 2013. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme, which is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs. For more information visit www.communities.gov.uk/erdf 

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 Arch 

Arch, The Northumberland Development Company, has been established by Northumberland County Council as an arms-length development company to drive capital economic development, physical regeneration projects and business growth in Northumberland. Arch brings together five subsidiary companies delivering services in housing, commercial property, physical regeneration, digital transformation and business growth. The company has a clear economic focus and will help Northumberland develop credible sites and propositions to win new jobs and businesses for the area.