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Durham superfast broadband scheme reaches ‘significant milestone’

Monday, June 8th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

The rollout of fibre broadband in Durham has passed its halfway mark, bringing access to superfast speeds to more than 58,000 homes and businesses.

The Digital Durham project has hit the milestone in its first phase, and is expected to reach a total of 63,500 premises by the end of June.

A total of 30 new exchange areas have been enabled along with the installation of 264 new green fibre cabinets.

One of the most recent places to be upgraded under the current programme is Lanchester, where more than 2,100 homes and businesses now have access to the new technology.

North West Durham MP Pat Glass said the Digital Durham project is proving increasingly successful and providing "noticeable and lasting infrastructural improvement".

"It allows residents to search for jobs more quickly; it allows local businesses to establish their internet presence and encourages them to explore potentially global commercial opportunities not previously available to them," she said.

"It engages young people in the latest educational tools using the most modern media technology and facilities and allows families to connect to their relatives and entertainment right across the world, something not possible just a short time ago."

To mark the halfway point, the Digital Durham team is running a series of events throughout the county, giving local people and businesses a chance to discover the benefits of faster broadband speeds.

'Working tirelessly'

Councillor Jane Brown, cabinet member for Corporate Services at Durham County Council, said: "It is a fantastic achievement for the Digital Durham programme to have reached more than 58,000 homes and businesses across the programme area so far – with that figure set to grow even further by the end of June.

"All the staff and engineers involved in the rollout have been working tirelessly to reach this milestone and will continue to do so as the project progresses.

"We would urge residents to attend the upcoming events taking place in Lanchester, Burnopfield and Dipton to find out more about the many benefits, both recreational and educational, offered by high-speed broadband."

The Digital Durham broadband programme is delivered by Durham County Council and BT.

A total of £34m has been invested by BT, Durham County Council, Gateshead Council, government funding from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), and public sector partners in Sunderland, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and the Tees Valley.

The second phase of the programme, which will see a further £9m invested in the programme area, is expected to begin in 2017.

By the end of the rollout 97% of premises will have access to fibre broadband.

Speaking at the Digital Durham community event in Lanchester, Simon Roberson, BT’s regional partnership director for the North East, said: "This is a significant milestone.

"[It] has been achieved on time thanks to the dedication of around 100 Openreach planners and engineers who have been keeping busy, clocking up thousands of man hours to plan and lay hundreds of kilometres of underground fibre optic cable."

Superfast broadband would help improve access to jobs, allow companies to compete globally, create new opportunities for local people, and help young people access online resources, he added.

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