The Duchess of Northumberland has launched a project which will deliver superfast broadband to thousands of people in her home county.
The duchess was at Alnmouth, one of three villages which are the first to benefit from the multi million pound “iNorthumberland” project which will see fibre broadband provided to thousands more homes and businesses over the next six months.
More than 10,700 homes and businesses across 12 communities are to be included in the first stages of iNorthumberland’s roll-out.
The project will see 91% of Northumberland homes and businesses have access to broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps.
At Alnmouth yesterday, the duchess cut a ribbon in the red and gold Northumberland colours to officially unveil the first fibre cabinet to go live as part of the project, opposite Alnmouth ex-Serviceman’s Club on Northumberland Street.
She then gave a speech to an audience of dignitaries and members of the public at the Hindmarsh Hall.
The duchess said: “In today’s world having access to high-speed broadband is as important as having decent road and rail links as all provide accessibility and opportunities for people living and working in the area.
“I’m told that by the time the project is complete 660km of fibre will have been laid – seven times the length of the A1 stretch running through the county – and that 95% of homes and businesses in Northumberland will have access to high speed broadband.
“I think this is a hugely important project for all of us here in Northumberland especially given that 96% of the county is classed as rural.
“It’s fair to say that the issue of broadband access impacts greatly on many aspects of rural life.
“While of course superfast broadband can only be good for economic growth it also has a positive impact on the way we live our everyday lives.
“Whether it helps us work more productively and get online faster or helps us works from home when we’re snowed in or simply by the fact it enables our children to do their homework or research online we can all benefit from increased speeds in some way.
“Local businesses will find they can maintain websites more effectively, run online booking and ordering systems more efficiently and most importantly be able to compete online against the rest of the UK.
“All of these things will help us show the rest of the country everything Northumberland has to offer both in terms of a place to visit and to do business.”
BT is contributing £2.9 million towards the scheme with Northumberland County Council investing £7 million, plus its £7 million share of Broadband Delivery UK funds.
The remaining £2 million is coming from the European Regional Development Fund.