At a meeting of Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet today (Thursday 15 December), Members heard how significant progress in its Digital Infrastructure Strategy has been achieved over the last 12 months, with almost 95% of properties in the county now able to access broadband services of at least 30Mbps. Over 31% of properties have access to gigabit-capable broadband, an increase from just 12% at the beginning of the year.
It is expected that access to gigabit capable broadband will expand much further over the next few years. Nine broadband suppliers have broadband programmes in progress in Cumbria, investing hundreds of millions of pounds into the county and creating jobs and opportunities for business growth in the area.
Cumbria was the first regional contract awarded through the UK government’s Project Gigabit Programme, which will invest up to £108 million into deployment of gigabit-capable broadband in areas where commercial investment is not planned. This will benefit many rural communities, such as Buttermere and Gilsland. Fibrus will be delivering the gigabit contract and an added benefit from this is their investment in the establishment of a new training academy at the former Newton Rigg campus offering at least 90 apprenticeship opportunities for local people over the next three years.
Cllr David Southward, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Digital Champion said: “Improved digital infrastructure remains a top priority given the significant economic and social benefits for Cumbria, and I am delighted with the progress we have made over the last year.
“We have also continued to look at how to accelerate delivery of improved services to areas with the worst connectivity. The Cumbria Gigabit Broadband Voucher Top Up scheme went live in May with £2 million of funding to support rural communities to install futureproof connectivity in some of our worst connected areas. Communities such as Kirkoswald and Newby East are already benefiting from the previous Borderlands voucher top up scheme.”
The UK government recently announced that they will significantly increase the value of their vouchers, recognising that without top ups, more support is needed to make rural broadband projects viable. Cllr Southward added: “We welcome this increase and are reviewing our top up funding to try to ensure that no one and no place is left behind.”
Find out more on the Connecting Cumbria webpages: connectingcumbria.org.uk