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Introduction Tim O'Sullivan

Half of remote Devon village signs up to pioneering new superfast broadband technology

BT engineer 

Northlew, a Devon village on the edge of Dartmoor, is one of the first places in the UK to benefit from a new way to get superfast broadband to challenging, remote areas. More than 120 Northlew customers, about half of the households and businesses in the tiny, historic village, are already using the high-speed technology.

Homes and businesses in the village now have access to broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps through a four kilometre microwave radio link. It would not have been viable to lay a fibre optic cable to such a small remote community due to the extensive excavations that would have been required so the village is one of the first places in the UK to try out an alternative microwave radio solution. The radio link connects to a new broadband cabinet near the centre of the village, which offers fibre broadband speeds and benefits.

The scheme was made possible by the £94 million Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) programme, a partnership between local authorities in Devon and Somerset and BT.

One business that has benefited already is a consultancy that can now send large files and images to newspapers, PR agencies and other organisations. Previously, the owner had to drive seven miles to a Little Chef restaurant to get a sufficiently good connection!

Elsewhere in the south west, the Gloucestershire village of Hardwicke will also be using this pioneering wireless technology through the Fastershire partnership between Gloucestershire County Council, Herefordshire Council and BT.

The multi million pound CDS partnership includes Devon and Somerset County Councils, Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay Councils, BT and the UK Government’s Superfast Britain programme.

Connecting Devon and Somerset, alongside the private sector’s commercial programme, aims to make superfast broadband available to around 90 per cent of premises by the end of 2016. It also intends to ensure a minimum of 2 Mbps for all homes and businesses within the programme area.

Anyone wishing to access the new service will need to contact their internet service provider to discuss a new package.

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