Thousands tap in to broadband

Left to right, parishioner Pauline Ferguson, Rev Simon Whiter, Rev Beth Rookwood and community worker Fliss Tunnard.
Left to right, parishioner Pauline Ferguson, Rev Simon Whiter, Rev Beth Rookwood and community worker Fliss Tunnard.

People living and working in Morpeth are reaping the benefits since upgrading to high-speed fibre broadband.

Nearly 9,000 households and businesses in the area can now access the new technology thanks to the iNorthumberland programme and BT’s own commercial roll-out.

Nearby communities such as Pegswood, Mitford and Fairmoor have also been upgraded and others, including Longhirst,Tranwell and Hebron, are included in the second phase of the iNorthumberland roll-out, which will begin early next year

Among those who have already signed up to the new technology is David Hancock, who runs family firm Hancock Stoves and Flues on the Coopies Lane Industrial Estate.

He said: “We got fibre broadband installed a few months ago and the difference has been absolutely fantastic. We use Voice over IP (VoIP) to make all our calls over the internet to keep costs down. Before we had fibre the connection was very intermittent, but now the connection is as solid as a rock.”

The business was also able to get help with connection costs after applying to the Government’s Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme.

David has also signed up to the iNorthumberland business support programme which, as well as giving tailored support and training, offers a voucher which can be used to offset the monthly costs of fibre broadband for the first year. Local businesses interested in applying for the vouchers should do so before the end of November.

Coun Dave Ledger, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council said: “This is another superb example of the benefits the iNorthumberland programme is bringing to communities across the county.”

Superfast broadband is also providing a leg up for youngsters with their schoolwork.

The new Beacon Project Community Hall, funded by St Aidan’s Church, in Stobhill, is planning to use its newly-acquired fibre connection to provide free wi-fi to kids needing online help with their homework.

Rev Simon White said: “Many schoolchildren and families in and around Morpeth and Stobhill don’t have access to broadband at home so we wanted to provide a free resource for them to use. There is an existing scheme to provide free second hand laptops, but they’re not much use if you cannot get online. They’re also no use without some means of printing off work, so as well as launching the homework club we’re now looking to raise funds to buy some printers.”

The programme is being delivered by Northumberland County Council and BT. A second phase contract will see more than £4.1million invested in the programme area in addition to the £18.9million initially invested by Northumberland County Council, BDUK, BT and the European Regional Development Fund. A further £5.1million has been secured by the county council to extend fibre broadband coverage even further.