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Arrival of high-speed broadband in Borrowdale provides tourism boost and brings local businesses out of 'technology dark age'

Press Release   •   Oct 04, 2016 14:44 BST

Alan Leyland from Manesty Holiday Cottages

The arrival of superfast broadband is helping Borrowdale businesses gain a competitive edge in one of Cumbria’s key tourist destinations.

More than 200 businesses and households in Borrowdale are now able to connect to faster fibre broadband, thanks to the Connecting Cumbria project.

Engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business,- have switched on two new green fibre broadband roadside cabinets in the Borrowdale valley – one in Grange and another in Rosthwaite.

One local business already enjoying the benefits of having fibre is Manesty Holiday Cottages, run by Alan and Cheryl Leyland and their daughter Alice. Alan, who signed up to a fibre service in July, said having higher speeds would help them to secure more bookings and meet customer expectations.

He said: “We’re now planning to move our booking system into The Cloud,[1] something we couldn’t do without superfast. These days anyone booking a holiday expects everything to happen instantly, if they have to wait to book something then they will just go somewhere else.You only guarantee you’ll get the bookings by effectively being online all the time.

“People don’t plan ahead – they’ll be driving up the M6 thinking ‘where shall we stay when we get there?’ You have to be in a position to take advantage of that and being in The Cloud will allow us to do that as anyone can access and monitor the bookings remotely from anywhere at any time. It will help us to bring in more of those bookings that before we would just have missed.

“We have to be able to compete with those businesses that have outsourced their booking systems to agencies – who can have a team of people monitoring things 24/7.”

Alan added that having fibre broadband would also enable the business to better cater for customer needs. “We’re planning to install smart TVs in all our cottages so guests can have access to catch-up TV and stream movies. People have become accustomed to having these services at home and now expect to have the same level of service when they come away on holiday.

“If we are going to be able to compete with everyone else then we need to be up with the best. Guest aspirations just keep marching ahead of us and we’ve got to keep up. Superfast broadband has been great for us – I only wish we could have had it sooner.”

Ross Harper, general manager of the Borrowdale Gates Hotel, said the business was already reaping the benefits after signing up to a superfast service six weeks ago. He said: “The biggest impact for us really is the ability for 50 guests to be able to use the internet at the same time and our own office capabilities have improved as well.

“Before we even had trouble using our Outlook email because with standard broadband it took so long for our servers to respond to each other. It felt like we were living in the technology dark ages.

“During our busy periods when the hotel was full we were getting a lot of complaints from customers saying they couldn’t load web pages and couldn’t get on the wifi.Not only do people expect to have wifi and connectivity when they come away but good speeds as well. They want to Skype, they want to stream movies – everything they’re used to doing at home.”

Ross added the hotel was planning to streamline its office systems as a result of having fibre. “Now we have superfast we are considering moving all our office communications from analogue to digital as the analogue systems are being phased out soon. Doing everything over the internet like our telephony will cut down on our costs.”

Statistics show small and medium size business form the backbone of the Cumbrian economy with 84 per cent of firms employing fewer than 10 employees and operating from villages, hamlets and isolated properties.[2]Tourism is the mainstay of the Lake District economy. In common with many rural areas it has taken over from farming as the main source to income.In 2015 Cumbria welcomed over 43 million visitors, who spent £2.62 billion, with tourism accounting for around 20 per cent of the county’s total employment, according to Cumbria Tourism.[3]

Stewart Young, leader of Cumbria County Council, said: “Tourism – perhaps more than any other sector in Cumbria – is hugely dependent on digital technology for web-based marketing, on-line booking and customer contact and many tourism businesses regard higher speed connections as crucial to the future of their business. So it is great to see Connecting Cumbria doing everything it can to reach these homes and businesses however small or remote they may be.

“So far around 30 per cent of homes and businesses served by the Connecting Cumbria programme have connected to the fibre broadband network, but connections don’t happen automatically. To find out if residents and businesses can access the high-speed fibre network, they should contact their service provider.”

Mike Blackburn, BT North West regional director, added: “It is fantastic to see the transformational effect that fibre broadband is having on businesses in Cumbria especially those involved in tourism. It is helping them to meet the increasing digital needs of customers and the industry itself.”

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Press contact:Please contact Janet Hare in the BT Regional Press Office on 0800 085 0660. All our news releases can be found at www.btplc.com/news

Notes to Editors:

About Connecting Cumbria

Since October 2013, the Connecting Cumbria project – a partnership between Cumbria County Council and BT - has enabled more than 550 fibre broadband cabinets across the county, with more being switched on every day. Over 120,000Cumbrianhouseholds and businesses now have access to fibre as a result of the project.

The Connecting Cumbria Programme’s ambition is to, by a combination of commercial investment and gap funding, enable access to Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband to 95 per cent of Cumbrian homes and businesses when added to the private sector’s commercial rollout.And Connecting Cumbria is providing two thirds of its rollout with speeds of more than 50 mbps.

Connecting Cumbria will ensure maximum coverage is achieved from available resources, demonstrating maximum value for money. Cumbria County Council has a continuing commitment to expand NGA broadband services and make NGA broadband service available to additional areas across Cumbria as funding becomes available.

About BDUK

Superfast Britain is a Government programme of investment 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 is comprised of three elements:

  • £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 BT

    BT’s purpose is to use the power of communications to make a better world. It is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed-mobile products and services.BT consists of six customer-facing lines of business: Consumer, EE, Business and Public Sector, Global Services, Wholesale and Ventures, and Openreach.

    For the year ended 31 March 2016, BT Group’s reported revenue was £19,042m with reported profit before taxation of £3,029m.

    British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.

    For more information, visit www.btplc.com

    [1]'The Cloud’ refers to software and services that run on the Internet, instead of locally on your computer. Most cloud services can be accessed through a Web browser, and some firms offer dedicated apps.The advantage of the cloud is that you can access your information on any device with an Internet connection.

    [2]Cumbria Business Survey 2013 Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership - http://www.cumbriaobservatory.org.uk/elibrary/Content/Internet/536/675/4356/41746161019.pdf

    [3]https://www.cumbriatourism.org/