Councillor Nick Oliver and MPs Matt Warman and Guy Opperman

Council looks to pioneering broadband scheme

Some of the most rural households in Northumberland could soon be connected to broadband through a unique initiative being pioneered by the council.

The local authority is planning to use its own skills and resources to connect isolated homes and communities across the county.

It’s already met Digital and Broadband Minister Matt Warman and Hexham MP Guy Opperman to push the concept - with the council being asked by the Minister to provide a full business case, to be considered ahead of the Government’s budget.

This new initiative will build on the £12m funding boost for rural Northumberland secured by the North of Tyne Combined Authority last year from the Government's Local Full Fibre Networks Programme. That money will pay for the roll-out of fibre internet connections to public buildings across Northumberland, improving the speed and reliability of digital connectivity to these sites.

The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal is also committed to investing in digital infrastructure to improve broadband and mobile phone signal in rural communities.

However the new initiative proposed by the county council is the first time it will be physically doing the digging themselves in the installation of broadband to homes.

Nick Oliver, the county council’s Cabinet Member for Corporate Resources, said: “It is one of those lightbulb moments when you start to think about how we connect some of our most rural homes to broadband, when major companies are unwilling or unable to link them up.

“Within the council we already have in-house vast expertise in terms of planning, laying trenches, building infrastructure and IT.

“So rather than waiting for other organisations to develop longer-term solutions we just want to get on with installing broadband and connecting communities - something that many of just take for granted.

“As a council we’re committed to a can-do approach and working to ensure everyone can benefit from key services and feel part of the wider community, wherever they live in the county.”

Hexham MP Guy Opperman said: “Broadband is essential to homes and businesses in rural communities, and faster speeds are vital. 

“That’s why it was great to meet Digital and Broadband Minister Matt Warman MP with Cllr Nick Oliver to talk about innovative new ideas to improve broadband rollout across Northumberland - we are working hard to ensure no community gets left behind.”

If the scheme gets the go-ahead from Government, work could begin installing broadband at the most rural properties this year.
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