A remote community in Cumbria is enjoying the benefits of superfast broadband after working together to fund the rollout of fibre to the premises (FTTP) services.
The Fell End Broadband project has seen fibre rolled out over a 15km network, hooking up 58 premises – 28 of which are businesses – to BT Openreach services that can reach speeds as high as 330Mbps.
Local residents raised £6,000 towards the project, enabling them to go to other sources of funding such as the government’s Rural Community Broadband Fund, which gave £53,000, and the Prince’s Countryside Fund, which stumped up £26,000.
BT also got involved by providing network kit and manpower for a six-figure sum. Mini diggers were used for the rollout, using a technique called ‘mole ploughing’ to both dig the ditch and lay the cable at the same time (shown below).
Now, businesses are enjoying speed far in excess of the paltry 2Mbps they used to endure, such as the Fat Lamb Country Inn and Restaurant, as landlord Paul Bonsall, explained.
“We have 12 rooms here and guests expect to have a good WiFi connection. They want to be able to upload images of their holidays straight away on social media to show their friends and family what they have been doing. Now we have enough bandwidth to keep everyone happy all of the time,” he said.
The owner of sign-writing firm Raven Graphics, Stephen Morris, said the impact on his business had been huge: “My job involves uploading and downloading a lot of big graphic files for customers. With fibre I can send then in a matter of seconds – it’s absolutely staggering.”
Politicians have lined up to praise the initiative, with local MP Rory Stewart saying he hoped it would serve as a model for other remote communities to access high-speed broadband. “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,” he said.
“It will provide the key to ensuring 100 percent of Britain has the option of superfast broadband, and will make sure that we in Cumbria have the best rural coverage in Europe.”
Digital economy minister Ed Vaziey was equally effusive about the project: “This is brilliant news for the residents and businesses of Fell End who can now access superfast broadband and all the benefits it offers,” he said.