A Government minister is to visit a Northumberland village today to switch on its pioneering superfast broadband project.
Environment minister George Eustice will be at Rothbury, which is the first community in the UK to receive superfast broadband thanks to more than £400,000 from the government’s Rural Community Broadband Fund.
Mr Eustice will switch on the village’s first fibre broadband cabinet, which has been delivered by BT, Arch - Northumberland County Council’s private sector arm’s-length development company - and the council.
The switch on means that from today more than 370 homes and businesses in parts of Rothbury can place orders for fibre optic broadband and benefit from high-speed internet from a broadband service provider of their choice.
From next week it will also be available to 167 premises in nearby Thropton as their first fibre is also switched on.
The roll-out is expected to reach 98 per cent of homes and businesses in Rothbury and the surrounding area by the end of March 2015.
Mr Eustice said: “Every rural area deserves a good internet connection.
“It has the power to transform business prospects and create more rural jobs.
“Rothbury is the first of many rural areas to receive superfast broadband under the Rural Community Broadband Fund.
“It will be a massive benefit to everyone who lives in this area, and I look forward to seeing many more of these projects get off the ground.
“The government is putting in £165 million into unlocking the economic potential of rural areas, and broadband is a key part of that.”
Ed Vaizey, communications minister, added: “This is brilliant news for the homes and businesses of Rothbury who will now be able to access superfast broadband speeds.
“Taking superfast broadband to the more remote areas of the UK understandably presents us with challenges, which is why we created this fund specifically for these locations.”
Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of next generation access, said: “Rothbury is a great showcase for what is possible when communities and local authorities work together with BT in this way.
“This and other projects in the county are vital for taking faster broadband to places like Rothbury, that are technically and economically beyond the reach of BT’s and other suppliers’ commercial roll-outs of fibre.
“Northumberland is a largely rural county and we know that small businesses form a key part of the local economy in rural areas. Faster broadband breaks down the barriers to doing business in the digital world, like online trading, which helps to empower small businesses to find new markets, sell new products, try new models and compete on an equal footing with larger businesses at home and around the world.”
Coun Dave Ledger, chairman of Arch and deputy leader of the council, said: “This is an important step in the campaign to bring faster broadband speeds to every home, business and school in Northumberland.
“The community of Rothbury should be proud that they are leading the way in the rural roll-out of fibre broadband and grasp all the benefits and opportunities this new technology can bring.”
The £20m fund was established by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs to ensure the ten per cent hardest-to-reach areas of the UK were not left behind in the race for high-speed internet access.