Digital infrastructure, both fixed line broadband and mobile connectivity, is increasingly critical for all residents, businesses and visitors in Cumbria. Since launching the Digital Infrastructure Strategy in November 2020, Cumbria County Council has made significant progress in delivering projects and programmes to improve connectivity across the county.
An update report has been prepared describing progress (Digital Infrastructure Strategy : Connecting Cumbria and highlights include:
- As a result of activity led by the County Council, broadband services of at least 30Mbps are now available to almost 95% of properties in Cumbria, with more than 31% of properties able to access gigabit capable services. Coverage of 4G mobile services from all four major Mobile Network Operators has also improved and outdoor geographic coverage has reached almost 64% of the county.
- The Digital Borderlands Top Up Scheme, which supported 40 community schemes across Cumbria enabling delivery of gigabit connectivity to more than 1,000 properties, has been replaced by the Cumbria Top Up scheme which launched last year. This new scheme has so far supported three voucher top-up community schemes in Cumbria, delivering gigabit capable connectivity to 110 premises.
- Cumbria is the regional pilot for the UK Gigabit Programme (Project Gigabit). A contract worth up to £108.5m has been awarded to Fibrus by the Government to deliver gigabit capable services to up to 60,000 properties in Cumbria which are not expected to be covered through commercial deployments or voucher projects.
- The County Council has been working to support the Shared Rural Network which has a target of 80% 4G coverage from all four Mobile Network Operators by 2025 in Cumbria and 97% from at least one. This work will be achieved by a combination of commercial investment in areas with partial coverage and £500m of public funded investment into areas with no coverage from any operator.
Whilst there have been significant achievements, continuing to improve digital connectivity will be essential over the coming years so that Cumbria can at least match or exceed the coverage in other parts of the UK. From 1 April 2023 the County Council will be transferring ownership of the successful Connecting Cumbria programme to Cumberland Council and Westmorland and Furness Council, where the programme will continue in delivering the Digital Infrastructure Strategy across the county for the benefit of residents, businesses and visitors.
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 residents and businesses and I am delighted with the progress we have made over the last year and to see the increase in take-up of broadband services.
“The job is not yet complete and continued effort is required to achieve the goal that no one and no place is left behind. As Cumberland and Westmorland and Furness Councils pick up the baton, I am sure we will continue to see further improvements in our digital connectivity in the next couple of years so that Cumbria has access to fast, reliable internet connectivity to support residents, local businesses and the delivery of public services.”
Find out more on the Connecting Cumbria webpages: connectingcumbria.org.uk