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Residents still using dial-up despite Northumberland superfast broadband rollout

Tuesday, February 24th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

A Northumberland town is still suffering from “woefully inadequate” broadband despite superfast speeds apparently being available in their area, a local businessman has said.

Martin Pickup, who runs an IT business in Corbridge, said people in the town are still struggling on 1-2Mbps, with some even still using dial-up connections.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk, he said many areas are being told they are officially covered by the government’s superfast broadband rollout, but they cannot actually get it, or have no idea when they will be able to.

The government has set a target of bringing superfast broadband (speeds of 24Mbps and above) to 90% of the UK by 2016, extending to 95% by the end of 2017.

Mr Pickup said: “We provide IT and networking services throughout Northumberland so are in a good position to know the exact situation with broadband over a wide range of scenarios.

“A good number of our customers including a number of businesses are on woefully inadequate broadband with little hope for improvement.”

His own firm, in the heart of Corbridge, manages to get speeds of 24Mbps – the government’s minimum speed for superfast broadband – but he said that is still “distinctly lacking” for a heavily internet-dependent business.

'Simply cannot get it'

Mr Pickup said he had supported the iNorthumberland campaign to roll out superfast broadband across the county and, when it was announced in September that superfast was available in Corbridge, he eagerly tried to arrange installation.

He said he was told superfast broadband was not available at his address, which is just metres from the exchange and several green cabinets.

He said certain addresses in Corbridge have superfast broadband, but a large concentration “simply cannot get it”.

And a mile out of the centre, people are still struggling on 1-2Mbps, with some paying what he described as “outrageous amounts” for satellite broadband.

Some people are even still on dial-up, with lines too far from the exchange and too old to carry broadband, but there is “no chance” the infrastructure will be improved for just a handful of farm cottages, he said.

“It is incredibly misleading of BT to announce that certain areas have superfast broadband, when in reality only a fraction of properties actually have access to it,” Mr Pickup added.

'False dawns'

The situation in Corbridge was raised by local MP Guy Opperman (Con – Hexham), who told a Commons debate that he had received several examples of places that had still not received upgraded services despite being officially covered by superfast broadband.

He said: “The reality is that we have false dawns and the situation is extremely difficult, because the lack of communication, and the inability of the roll-out to perform as we were originally told it would, led to a loss of enthusiasm and support among local communities and constituents.”

A spokesperson for iNorthumberland said: “We are pleased to say that work to bring fibre broadband to the centre of Corbridge is ahead of schedule and set to complete before the end of Spring.

"A roll-out being what it is, not everywhere can be upgraded at once and we have always been clear that Corbridge town centre would take slightly longer to upgrade than other parts of the town due to the extent of engineering work required.”

When Corbridge was announced as the first west Northumberland town to benefit from the iNorthumberland project in September, organisers said more than 1,200 homes and businesses would benefit, but work would continue around the town's market place where some telephone lines were not served by a street cabinet but run straight from the phone exchange to premises.

Work to install new cabinets to benefit those properties is expected to complete by the end of June this year.

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