Northumberland visitor attraction is ‘going ape’ over superfast broadband

21 Jul 2017

Staff at a major Northumberland visitor attraction are flying high and whizzing through their workloads thanks to a huge boost in broadband speeds.
 
Go Ape in Matfen, a tree top adventure course and outdoor activity centre, was upgraded to superfast broadband earlier this year as part of the multi-million pound iNorthumberland roll-out. Broadband speeds are now 50 times faster and staff are finding they can now download documents faster than the speed of their zip wires.
 
Richard Collingwood, duty manager at Go Ape, said: “We are lucky enough to be based in a beautiful, rural setting but before the upgrade our broadband speeds were slow and we struggled to work online efficiently.
 
“As a business we have always been very reliant on technology – we use tablets to record course inspections, monitor the course and to check bookings – all of which are dependent on a good internet connection.  Often members of the team were having to take work home as it took so long to do it on site.
 
“Since the upgrade, however, we can do everything we need to do and more. Documents upload and download in seconds and the bookings system can be accessed instantaneously. It enables us to work much more efficiently and make better use of our time.”
 
Go Ape Matfen is just one of thousands of homes and business now able to access fibre broadband in West Northumberland. Most recently, New Ridley, Hedley on the Hill, Dilston, Melkridge, Allerwash, Horsley, Juniper, Oakwood, Gunnerton and Wall have been upgraded and many more upgrades are still to come as the roll-out continues. This includes communities such as Carrshield, Spartylea, Whitfield, Walwick, Stonehaugh and Birtley.
 
Richard added: “I’d recommend superfast broadband to anyone. It has made a huge difference to the way we do things online and made it easier for staff to do their jobs. We’re a relatively young company with an active social media presence so it’s vital we are able to respond to our customers immediately via whichever platform they choose to use. Faster broadband has made us more agile, more responsive and ultimately more efficient.”
 
The iNorthumberland partnership between Northumberland County Council and BT has already made fibre broadband available to more than 55,000 premises across the county.
 
More than 40 per cent of Northumberland households and businesses able to upgrade to the new technology have already chosen to do so - a figure which is among the highest levels of take-up in the UK.
 
Councillor Nick Oliver, cabinet member for corporate services at Northumberland County Council, said: "Visitor attractions like these are vital to our rural economy so it is great to see the iNorthumberland programme supporting them in this way.  You can see from this example just how many different activities a company can need broadband for - the potential for it to assist businesses is really endless.
 
"It is also good to see so many new communities across the county able to access fibre broadband - and that independent assessment has shown that more than 90 per cent of premises in Northumberland can now access speeds of 24Mbps or above.

So far, across Northumberland Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) is the main fibre technology rolled out by Openreach, the local network business which is part of BT Group. It typically offers download speeds of up to 80Mbps but there are more than 2,300 homes and businesses in Northumberland which can access Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology, capable of ultrafast speeds up to one gigabit per second (Gbps). This figure is set to be boosted as more than sixty per cent of the premises included in the future phases of the roll-out will be upgraded using the ultrafast technology.
 
According to the independent thinkbroadband.com website, more than 90 per cent of Northumberland premises can now get a broadband speed of 24Mbps or above. This figure will continue to rise.
  
Simon Roberson, BT’s North East regional partnership director, said: “Time and time again I hear about businesses like Go Ape reaping the benefits of upgrading to superfast broadband.  Each story reinforces how important it is for us to continue improving broadband speeds as widely as possible across the county.”
 
Mike Reynolds, Openreach spokesman for the North East, said: “As well as connecting up Northumberland homes and businesses through the iNorthumberland programme, Openreach has an ambition to ‘never say no’ to any community that wants superfast broadband. We have launched a Community Fibre Partnerships programme where we work with a local group not covered by an existing fibre upgrade plan to find a way of bringing this exciting technology to their area. This could be the residents of a rural village or a block of flats in a town centre or even a group of business owners in an industrial park.
 
“We have already signed agreements with more than 300 communities and organisations to bring fibre broadband to some of the UK’s most challenging areas and are keen to have to have conversations with other communities who might benefit from this approach.”
 
BT was awarded the iNorthumberland contract in April 2013, whilst the second phase contract was signed in June last year. More than £29 million will be invested in the programme area by Northumberland County Council, the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) fund, BT and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
 
Openreach’s network is open to all broadband service providers on an equal wholesale basis and so Northumberland households and businesses can benefit from highly competitive products and pricing from a range of providers.
 
For further information visit www.inorthumberland.org.uk