More than a hundred people attended the Broadband Meets Localism conference at Carlisle racecourse recently to hear about the future developments for Cumbria.
Last October, Cumbria was named as one of four rural areas selected by the government to pilot the next generation of high speed broadband.
Each area will be allocated funding to support the roll-out of broadband in areas that are commercially unviable for operators.
Addressing the packed room Bill Murphy, managing director Next Generation Access, BT, congratulated Cumbria for being selected for one of the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) pilots.
He backed the decision to use public money to help finance broadband investment in hard-to-reach rural areas.
He said that BT had already committed £2.5bn to ensure that two thirds of the UK can access superfast broadband.
“The challenge is reaching the final third – and it’s a big one,” said Bill.
“But it’s not a technology challenge - it’s a business model challenge. That’s why we are working with groups all over the country to create business models that work – for them and for us."
“For instance, we have announced similar public/private partnerships in Northern Ireland, Cornwall, and the small village of Iwade in Kent. And we are on the cusp of announcing more locations where by working together, we are finding viable and sustainable ways to deliver fibre services outside of the private sector’s commercial zone,” he said.
Even before the Government announced that Cumbria was in line for BDUK funding, BT had been talking with Cumbria County Council about extending coverage in the county.
“We were looking at an area with 47 exchanges, covering 75,000 homes and 10,000 businesses. As I said before, this is something we can do. It’s not a technology problem - it’s a business model problem.”
Since those talks BT has already installed ethernet in Carlisle and Kendal. ADSL2+ is also already live in Carlisle while Kendal should be connected by March.
The conference followed hot on the heels of news that BT had chosen Penrith to be the first area of Cumbria to benefit from the next phase of BT’s roll-out of superfast fibre broadband.