MP facilitates opening of UK’s first Cyberbarn by Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport

MP facilitates opening of UK’s first Cyberbarn by Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport

Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and the Border, was delighted that Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt accepted his invitation to meet with local Cumbrian broadband champions and ‘virtually’ open the UK’s first Cyberbarn, situated at Bleatarn in Warcop.

The Secretary of State celebrated the Cyberbarn’s opening by fusing together a fibre-optic cable, rather than cutting a ribbon, to herald a prime example of the next generation of broadband for rural areas and the benefits that this will bring for businesses, communities and citizens.

Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt 'virtually' opens the Cyberbarn as Rory Stewart MP looks on. L-R: Jeremy Hunt, Miles Mandelson, Lindsey Annison, Rory Stewart MP

The Ministerial visit to Penrith and the Border was the latest in a series that Rory Stewart has organised. One of Parliament’s most vocal and effective advocate of rural broadband, and responsible for putting Cumbria firmly on the map as one of the four pilots for the Broadband Delivery UK rural broadband pot (resulting in a total investment of £23.8million to date), Rory said: “I am delighted that the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, was able to be here in Penrith and the Border today. We were able to introduce him to some of the key players of the East Cumbria Community Broadband Forum, and it was a real honour to have him virtually open the Warcop Cyberbarn by actually fusing a piece of fibre-optic cable. It’s been great that the Secretary of State has seen just how effective our community broadband activists are here in Eden, and to see how Cumbria is driving forward the government’s superfast broadband agenda. I’d also like to congratulate Lindsey on the opening of the Cyberbarn, which will be an amazing resource for the people of Warcop and the surrounding area.”

The Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt praised Rory Stewart in his speech to a packed conference at Rheged to celebrate the tourism opportunities of the Olympic year ahead, saying: “Rory Stewart is a brilliant MP, who has done more than any other Parliamentarian to champion the case for rural broadband.”

Lindsey Annison, parish councillor and rural broadband campaigner, asked the Minister to fuse fibre optic (his first time) and gave a short presentation to the Minister about Cyberbarn, which has come into existence in three short months. Funding from UK Online, support from the Upper Eden Community Partnership, goodwill from many local people, and a gift of one mile of high specification fibre optic cable from AFL to connect the Cyberbarn to the village, have meant progress has been swift.

She said: “We are delighted that Cumbria’s broadband work is being recognised in Westminster, and that Cyberbarn has been able to splice the first piece of our fibre optic broadband with the Minister’s help,” said Lindsey Annison. “This is the first step in enabling Upper Eden and Cumbria with hyperfast broadband and we would like to thank everyone who has helped make this possible.”

The Cyberbarn is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday between 1 and 7pm and is situated between Warcop and Bleatarn. Rural broadband options such as satellite, fibre and 3G mobile are currently being demonstrated, as well as courses in UK Online Basics for the digitally nervous e.g. email, e-government services and safety online; DEFRA and CTS; smartphones and mobile usage; internet and social media marketing for small businesses; how to use Twitter, Facebook and Google+, and more technical courses on creating apps, programming, and fibre and wireless skills. Advice ranging from saving money on your utility bills and managing your finances, to community regeneration and environmental schemes is also available.

Hot desk facilities are available at a small fee for local businesses and teleworkers who need access to better broadband, and the venue is available to be booked for meetings, discussion groups, and gatherings. Everyone is welcome to drop in for a coffee and chat, young or old to discuss how this facility can help you.

Libby Bateman, Project Officer of UECP, is pleased that Cyberbarn has received this level of national government support and recognition so soon. “Upper Eden is a vanguard and pioneer in so many aspects of rural community life. Our progress with local planning and leading the way in next generation broadband is an exemplar for the rest of the country, so we should all be extremely proud of what this community is capable of.”