Connecting Cumbria – a multi-million pound partnership between Cumbria County Council and BT – has made fibre-optic broadband technology available to more than 122,000 homes and businesses across the county. The fibre network is being installed by Openreach, the local network business which is part of BT Group. And recent figures announced show the average number of homeowners and businesses choosing faster fibre connections in the Connecting Cumbria area has jumped from less than 30 per cent last year to 40 per cent.
One business that is over the moon with the arrival of high-speed broadband is Silverlink Clinics, which has properties across the North, including a clinic in Carleton, Carlisle. The business helps people to lose weight with non-surgical therapy, together with skin tightening and body shaping. Chris Matthews, founder and chief executive officer of the clinics, said: “With our high-speed fibre connection we’re now able to operate a site-to-site Virtual Private Network (VPN) service between our clinics which has improved security and privacy when sharing data. The better connectivity also allows us to operate an internet based phone service between our clinics, saving us money. Our website and social media pages rely heavily on client testimonial videos to promote the services which we offer. Prior to our upgrade, the upload of these videos was time consuming and unreliable, now uploads are fast and without error. We are now also able to offer a wi-fi service to our patients. Being able to offer a fast and reliable wi-fi connection is a definite advantage to our business.”
In Howtown, Ullswater, the Jones family living at Cote Farm have seen a 90 fold increase in broadband speeds from their previously slow connection of around 0.5 megabits per second (Mbps). Explaining what a difference it has made to their online lives, Gill Jones said: “Living in the middle of nowhere it’s cheaper to get food shopping delivered than drive to the nearest supermarket but, before fibre broadband, whether I would end up ordering the right things was very hit and miss! As I was doing the shopping everything would start freezing on screen and I would end up pressing the button several times thinking nothing was happening. One time I ended up with six bags of radishes instead of one! Now we’re getting around 45 Mbps and everything is so much quicker and more reliable. My eldest son is at university and is into online gaming. Quite often he didn’t want to come home due to the slow speeds we were getting. Now we’re all looking forward to watching online TV together.” Gill has also found online admin tasks at the farm, like registering calves’ births, much easier with high-speed broadband.
David Southward, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for economic development, said: “Fibre broadband is transforming the lives of people in Cumbria. So much we do these days relies on a fast internet connection whether we’re at home or at work. And demand for better, faster broadband in Cumbria is clear – with so many homes and businesses continuing to sign-up to use the new technology installed as part of the Connecting Cumbria programme. To check availability in your area visit www.connectingcumbria.org.uk”
Kieran Charleson, BT Regional Partnership Director, for the North West said: “We are delighted the rollout in Cumbria is proving to be so popular. It’s great to see the benefits of all the hard work of the programme coming to life through the number of people who are now taking advantage of the high speeds. The technology really does have the ability to transform the way people use the internet and make home and work lives much easier.”
Steve Haines, Managing Director of next generation access for Openreach, the local network business which is delivering the broadband infrastructure, said: “Cumbria has some tricky terrain to work across but we continue to overcome obstacles to go as far as we can. Around 91 per cent of Cumbrian homes and businesses can now order fibre broadband thanks to our investment and the Connecting Cumbria partnership and that figure is increasing every day.”
All of the engineering work as part of Connecting Cumbria is being carried out by Openreach, which offers an open wholesale network. This means residents and businesses can order fibre broadband services from a wide range of internet service providers and benefit from competitive pricing and products. When an area has gone ‘live’ for fibre, people need to contact their service provider to upgrade as it doesn’t happen automatically.