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Weardale homes get fibre broadband in 'landmark moment'

Tuesday, June 23rd 2015 by Ellen Branagh

More than 2,000 homes and businesses in a Pennine valley can access superfast broadband for the first time, thanks to the region’s fibre rollout project.

Digital Durham, the superfast broadband project for County Durham, announced that fibre had arrived in Weardale, with parts of Tow Law, Hamsterley and Wolsingham the first locations to be reached.

A further 4,000 homes and businesses in Weardale are due to be upgraded by the end of the programme.

Pat Glass, MP for North West Durham, said the arrival – announced on Friday – was a “landmark moment” for Weardale, adding: “It is a real step forward for its businesses and families who will greatly enjoy the benefits of faster broadband.”

BT Openreach engineers began upgrading the BT exchange in Frosterley last year and have installed around 60km of underground ducts carrying cables containing around 7,000km of fibres.

More upgrades are expected in the coming months in Tow Low, Hamsterley and Wolsingham as well as the first superfast connections in Frosterley, Stanhope, Witton le Wear, Eastgate, Edmundbyers, Wearhead and other local communities.

More than 60,000 homes and businesses can now access fibre broadband across the Digital Durham programme area and thousands have already ordered fibre broadband.

'Left behind'

Councillor Jane Brown, cabinet member for corporate services at Durham County Council, said: “This is great news for residents and businesses who can look forward to a raft of benefits that fibre broadband can bring.

“As a council we are committed to making sure rural areas like Weardale aren’t left behind when it comes to getting online so this latest stage of the rollout is really pleasing.”

She encouraged people to attend a public event on Friday (26 June) at Wolsingham Methodist Church to find out more about the programme and said similar events will be organised as the rollout continues.

Speaking at a community event in Tow Law last Friday (19 June), Simon Roberson, BT’s regional partnership director for the North East, said: “Bringing fibre broadband to Weardale has not been easy.

“Rural geographies present engineers with many difficulties not faced in more urban areas.

“Long stretches of winding roads create the need for traffic management. Collapsed and blocked underground ducts are common, meaning often engineers have to build new ducts rather than being able to use existing infrastructure.”

He said it had taken thousands of man hours to plan and lay thousands of kilometres of underground fibre cable.

The Digital Durham broadband programme has seen a total of £34m 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 rollout, whose second phase is expected to start in 2017, is hoped to bring access to fibre broadband to 97% of premises.

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