Monday, 28 August 2017 18:13

£2.2m for rural broadband scheme

Written by  Ruralcity Media
£2.2m for rural broadband scheme

Up to 2,000 homes could benefit from £2.2m to bring faster broadband to remote Northumberland communities.

The iNorthumberland programme aims to bring the high-speed technology to some of the most expensive and technically difficult to reach communities in the county.

It follows an agreement between Northumberland County Council and telecoms giant BT.

    See also: Mixed reception for BT broadband proposal

Communities not currently in any fibre broadband plans will be able to partner with Openreach, which is part of BT Group, to get superfast broadband in their area.

These communities can now apply to use the new iNorthumberland fund, which can be matched by up to 50% of additional private funding, on top of Openreach's investment.

If fully matched, the value of new broadband schemes could be more than £4 million.

Matched funding

The fund offers up to £2,000 matched funding per premises for a superfast broadband connection – or £2,500 for ultrafast – with a maximum contribition of £100,000 to a single community.

To apply, each community must have a nominated person or organisation.

They will be responsible for getting a community fibre broadband quote from Openreach and also required to arrange payment of the community's contribution to the scheme.

Cllr Nick Oliver, cabinet member for corporate services at Northumberland County Council, said a number of communities were geared up to sign contracts.

"There is a high demand among households in these more hard to reach areas, and a number of businesses are struggling to sustain their current business models due to connectivity issues.

These final premises are in some of Northumberland's most rural and dispersed communities where providing connectivity has been both technologically challenging and costly.

Access to services

Mr Oliver said: "Securing schemes through this funding will help to increase access to services and allow greater adoption of digital services for rural residents.

"It will also help to grow the economy by both supporting existing businesses and encouraging new ones to become established in Northumberland."

The iNorthumberland programme aims to have have delivered superfast broadband to 93% of homes and business in the county by the end of this year.

It is envisaged that the new community fund could increase that figure to almost 98%.

Some of the first communities set to benefit include Nunnykirk, Stanton near Netherwitton, Bolam, Pauperhaugh and Styford.

Steve Haines, managing director of next generation access for Openreach, said the company was committed to making fibre broadband as widely available as possible.

Transform communities

"The technology really does have the ability to transform the way people interact online."

The iNorthumberland team will liaise with communities who have previously been in touch with the council or BT to support them through the process.

Funding for the iNorthumberland Community Broadband Scheme has been made available due to efficiencies in the first phase of the iNorthumberland programme.

For full details, visit www.inorthumberland.org.uk.

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