Rory Stewart MP has picked out two Cumbrian broadband schemes to be national models for community broadband – and is working with the Minister for Broadband to share the Cumbrian example across the country.
Rory met residents in Milburn and Dufton, this week, who are behind two successful community broadband schemes, established to bring high-speed broadband to their remote Eden villages.
Fellnet in Milburn and Dufton Digital both took matters into their own hands after being told that the main providers could not offer commercially-viable broadband. As a result of their efforts, both are now delivering reliable broadband connections within these rural communities, and plans are already underway to improve speeds even further.
Speaking after the meeting Rory said: “The commitment of Milburn and Dufton’s communities to providing their parishes with high-speed broadband is truly inspirational. I really believe these community schemes could act as a blueprint for other rural communities and I have immediately spoken with the Minister for Digital and Broadband, Matt Hancock, to highlight the work the groups have done and the progress they have made.
“It is absolutely vital that we continue to roll out and improve broadband services in Cumbria, and I am absolutely committed to bringing broadband to as many homes as possible. It could be that the solution to delivering broadband to the very final rural miles, could be right in front of us, and is largely thanks to the ingenuity and dedication of our communities and people such as Lee Page in Milburn and David Main in Dufton.”
As a result of the Government’s superfast broadband programme 93% of UK premises already have access to superfast broadband – according to independent figures from thinkbroadband.com. That’s expected to rise to 97% by 2020 but even with this investment, there will still be around one million premises unable to access speeds of 10Mbps or more – the level that Ofcom says a typical household currently needs. The costs of connecting these premises are high, particularly for the final 1%, which are in some of the most remote regions of the UK, such as Cumbria, but Rory believes that schemes like Fellnet and Dufton Digital could act as a template to connect this so-called rural ‘last mile’.