More than 1,500 homes and businesses in Cumbria have benefitted from government funding that will future proof their internet connections for a generation.
Vouchers worth almost £3.5m have been issued to cover the costs of bringing gigabit-capable broadband directly to doorsteps in hard-to-reach areas of the county.
Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman is calling on more rural businesses and residents in the region to find out if they are eligible for more than £70 million of nationwide funding on offer to take them out of the digital slow lane.
Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: ”People in Cumbria are getting access to fast and reliable gigabit-capable broadband thanks to our investment alongside the sterling work of industry.
“As new figures today show we’ve passed a significant milestone I urge those in rural Cumbria in the digital slow lane to apply for the immediate financial help available. This will help them seize the benefits of better connectivity – from making work easier to catching up with family and friends.”
The government’s Broadband Upgrade Fund currently provides up to up to a maximum of £3,500 for eligible businesses and £1,500 for eligible residential properties. New figures show 45,000 vouchers, worth more than £90 million, have been issued across the UK.
Businesses and residents in Cumbria are eligible to receive these contributions towards gigabit-capable connections if they are based in locations unlikely to get these speeds soon through normal commercial broadband rollout, or where available services are currently less than 100 megabits per second (Mbps). Premises in those areas with speeds of less than 30 Mbps may also be eligible for additional ‘top-up’ funding provided by the Borderlands Growth Deal.
The Broadband Upgrade Fund helped Gavin and Belinda Keeble keep their international business ahead of the curve.
Gavin and Belinda, who live in Grisedale, Cumbria, run a corporate training business. They were paying £115 a month for an unreliable service which would drop out every time low-flying RAF planes went overhead. They had their broadband upgraded by using one of the government’s vouchers, which contributed to the cost of installing gigabit-capable broadband.
Gavin and Belinda saw their speeds, as well as those of 121 homes and 56 businesses in the surrounding area, rocket from 8 Mbps to 1000 Mbps, which means they can successfully run their business.
Gavin said: “The difference that the new service has made is completely cosmic. It has given us total peace of mind connecting to the outside world and running an international business from a beautiful and remote part of the UK and dramatically improved our businesses professionalism and capability as well as transforming our family life. I love the fact that we have immeasurably better internet than all our friends and even people and businesses in central London.”
Gavin and Belinda worked with Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN).
CEO Barry Forde said: “Our volunteers and staff are working in their communities to bring B4RN’s gigabit full-fibre broadband to previously digitally disadvantaged rural parts of Cumbria. The business and, particularly, social benefits of faster connectivity have only been amplified during the Covid-19 pandemic – with more people working from home and only seeing loved ones via video calls.
“The government’s voucher scheme – topped up with the Borderlands Growth Deal – is directly helping Cumbrian communities struggling with slow speeds to fund their B4RN digs.”
Gigabit-capable broadband carries speeds of a thousand megabits per second. These connections will not only underpin the use of smarter devices such as intelligent heating systems and internet-connected fridges, but they will allow people to download HD movies in seconds and stream TV and gaming content at 4K picture quality on multiple devices at the same time.
The speeds will pave the way for new and unexpected social benefits alongside jobs and economic growth, and revolutionise rural communities by giving people the freedom to live and work more flexibly.
Almost 500,000 premises across the UK have been given access to gigabit-capable broadband since summer 2018, as part of a wider £1 billion funding commitment until the end of 2021. It means that, alongside commercial investment, more than 7.5 million premises can now access faster, more reliable broadband compared to around 1.4 million premises two years ago.