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Fibre broadband to provide tourism boost to flood-hit Lake District

Wednesday, March 30th 2016 by Ellen Branagh

Visitors to the Lake District’s second largest lake will benefit from faster internet speeds after fibre broadband was made available to hundreds of homes and businesses in the area.

It is hoped the arrived of fibre to more than 200 homes and businesses in the village of Glenridding at the southern end of Ullswater will give the flood-hit area a boost.

An additional 150 premises in other areas around the lake, including nearby Patterdale, can also access the service as part of the Connecting Cumbria partnership between Cumbria County Council and BT.

Engineers had to overcome challenges caused by recent flooding in the area, including flooded ducts, to run 18km of fibre cable underground from Pooley Bridge to the new fibre cabinet in the village.

The arrival was welcomed by local businessman and resident Graeme Connacher who said fibre is essential for local tourism.

Mr Connacher, a captain of the Ullswater Steamers, which has been operating cruises on Ullswater for more than 150 years, said: "When I was a child holidaying in the lakes each year, the first thing I did when I jumped out of the car is ask my dad if we could blow up the dinghy.

"Now when the kids arrive with their parents the first thing they ask is ‘what’s the wi-fi password!’ You can’t run a holiday let or hotel these days without a good, fast broadband connection.

"People want a home from home where, yes they can spend all day outdoors, but in the evening they want to be able to post the photos they took online or put their feet up after downloading a film or catch up TV on their tablet.

"I truly believe that high-speed fibre broadband arriving in the lakes is as essential to the tourism business as a water supply."

'Good wi-fi is vital'

Fellow businessman Jon Holdsworth, who manages Patterdale Hall Estate which provides self-catering accommodation for holidaymakers, said fibre had "transformed the business", allowing them to provide wi-fi for the whole caravan site and all 11 holiday homes.

"Good wi-fi is vital for a business like ours", he said, with people uploading pictures of their day out on the Fells to social media before they even get home.

"Before we had broadband we had a few cancellations simply because we couldn’t offer wi-fi.

"For businesses in the area who haven’t got fibre yet but are thinking about it – I think it is a no-brainer. You’d just be mad not to, especially as the cost of it is only negligibly more and sometimes even less."

David Southward, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for economic development, said: "Tourism is the life blood of the Lake District and with the visitor season kicking off at Easter, it is vital that we do everything we can to show the world that Cumbria is open for business as well as provide our visitors with the best possible experience."

Mike Blackburn, BT North West regional director, said in areas like the Lake District, whose local economy depends on tourism, the internet is "a must".

Getting superfast broadband to rural areas involves challenges "above and beyond" those in an urban environment, he said, but added that alongside BT’s commercial programme, nearly 220,000 homes and businesses have been connected to fibre in Cumbria, with more to come.

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