Villages across the county that have suffered from low internet speeds are set to get a major upgrade.
Locations expected to be in the second phase of the iNorthumberland fibre broadband roll-out include parts of Hebron, Longhirst and Matfen.
The high-speed network installed by BT’s local network business, Openreach, is available on an open, wholesale basis to all companies offering broadband services, so homes and businesses can reap the rewards of a highly competitive market.
The next phase of the programme, which is being delivered by Northumberland County Council, is expected to begin in January 2016. Approximately 3,000 properties will benefit.
A period of detailed surveying and planning of all potential locations will begin in the coming weeks, following which more detailed information will be made available to residents.
A working party covering various rural parishes near Morpeth has been in contact with the iNorthumberland team to raise awareness of the issues facing people living in these communities.
Hebron Community Association members Lyn Chapple and Chris Hill and Juliet Brewster from Hebron Parish Council set up a village broadband working group.
Coun Brewster said: “The maximum internet speed we can get at the moment is about 2Mbps, so we’re absolutely delighted that Hebron is included in the iNorthumberland programme’s second phase.
“It will be particularly helpful for those who are running a business from home because they are currently being badly hampered.
“It will solve some people’s problems, but not everyone’s.
“From what we understand, this broadband provision will cover properties in the main part of the village, but there is still work to do for the areas of the parish that it won’t cover.
“The working group is looking into satellite and wi-fi options for them.”
She added that John Cooper of iNorthumberland, who they have spoken with a number of times, has been very helpful.
Benefits for businesses include faster file and data transfers, better access to cloud computing services and software, more sophisticated web-based contact with customers and support for more flexible working.
Baz Appleby, a farmworker at Longhirst-based Quick Lawn Turf, said: “The speeds are very, very slow at the moment and things like using PayPal and search engines take a really long time, so having fibre broadband would make a huge difference.”
The county council’s deputy leader, Dave Ledger, said: “Access to superfast broadband is becoming fundamental to our everyday lives and it is only right that our residents expect to be able to access faster speeds no matter where they live.
“We are still working hard to find innovative solutions and improve broadband speeds for those homes and businesses where fibre broadband is not available.
“We will be approaching those communities in the coming months to talk in more detail about how we can improve speeds for those living and working in areas not currently within the roll-out plans.”
For more information, visit www.inorthumberland.org.uk