Skip to content

Major broadband rollout for Cumbria begins as part of £100 million plan to connect thousands of rural premises

  • Around 60,000 rural premises to benefit from lightning-fast broadband following £108 million government contract award, delivered by Fibrus

  • Will benefit hard-to-reach homes and businesses across the county, from Grasmere to Gilsland and Buttermere to Beckermet

  • Satellite broadband trial launched in the Lake District under plans to connect highly remote areas

Work has started to connect tens of thousands of people living and working in rural Cumbria to lightning-fast broadband thanks to more than £100 million of government investment.

Around 60,000 premises in the county will be connected to the fastest broadband on the market after Belfast-based supplier Fibrus signed the biggest contract yet under the government’s Project Gigabit programme.

Project Gigabit is the biggest broadband roll out in British history, backed with £5 billion to deliver faster connections to hard-to-reach areas that would otherwise have missed out.

Installation work is already underway in the region, with the first gigabit connections expected by the spring.

Gigabit-capable networks are fast and fit for the future, allowing users to work, stream and scroll online without the battle for bandwidth or disruption often experienced with ageing networks.

In a huge boost for jobs and skills for Cumbria, Fibrus has committed to creating at least 90 apprenticeships following the government investment. These will cover a range of roles, from underground and overhead cabling to surveying, and Fibrus has also committed to establish an apprentice training academy at Newton Rigg near Penrith.

It comes as the government brings broadband delivered via satellite for the first time to the Lake District, which will see a mountain rescue base in Wasdale Head connected to faster, more reliable connections than currently available due to its highly remote location. The project is part of a wider trial announced today to test the reliability of satellite technology to bring high-speed connections to the most hard-to-reach parts of the UK.

Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), said:

We’re steaming ahead with our plan to level up internet speeds across Cumbria, which will see the biggest investment to date from the government’s Project Gigabit – the biggest broadband roll out in British history.

Tens of thousands of rural homes and businesses will be able to plug into faster connections in the new network, allowing Cumbrian communities to take full advantage of the endless benefits lightning-fast broadband has to offer.

Dominic Kearns, CEO of Fibrus, said:

Fibrus considers it a privilege to deliver a transformative project for Cumbria which will change the lives of people living in rural and regional areas. Fibrus is committed to supporting local communities, ensuring any work undertaken in our name supports apprenticeships and allows more people to reap the benefits of full fibre.

This win helps us further our mission and commitment to bring fast, reliable and affordable broadband to all.

In a further broadband boost for rural areas in Cumbria and the rest of the UK, the government will triple the value of vouchers available under the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme.

From early next year, eligible homes and businesses will be able to apply for up to £4,500 to cover the costs of a gigabit-capable connection, up from £1,500 for homes and £3,500 for businesses previously, which will enable broadband providers to reach further into rural areas where the build costs are higher.

While the vast majority of rural premises in Cumbria are now in line for a gigabit broadband upgrade, the boost to vouchers is designed to help suppliers reach more premises outside the scope of the Project Gigabit contract or suppliers’ commercial build plans.

Today’s announcement follows millions of pounds worth of contracts signed in Northumberland and Teesdale recently, boosting broadband to level up the north of England.

More than 72% of the UK can access gigabit connections – such as full fibre – thanks to the government’s plan to drive investment in rollout and bust the barriers holding back the industry from doing so at full pace.

The investment will also directly support small businesses in rural areas across the county, just in time for Small Business Saturday, which shines a light on the 5.5 million small businesses registered in the UK.

David Southward MBE, Cumbria County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Digital Champion, said:

Improved digital infrastructure remains a top priority given the significant economic and social benefits for Cumbria and I am delighted that Cumbria will be in the vanguard for investment under Project Gigabit.

I am especially glad to see the Newton Rigg College site again being used for training professionals who will be part of delivering this investment in our region.

Access to fast, reliable internet connectivity is no longer a luxury; it is a basic necessity for residents, local businesses and the delivery of public services. The importance of resilient connectivity has been further highlighted by last winter’s storms and the coronavirus pandemic. This £108m investment will help people and businesses access faster internet which will in turn allow them to flourish in a modern, global job market and unlock the economic potential of the region.

–ENDS–

Notes to editors

Fibrus will deliver Project Gigabit under its Hyperfast brand. More information on the deployment can be found at www.hyperfastgb.com.

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships covering a range of roles, from underground fibre cabling to surveying, will pay at least the national minimum wage, meaning an 18-year-old entering the apprentice programme will be paid 42% more per hour than the minimum requirement for apprentice pay.

Apprenticeships will be bolstered by a minimum of three graduate recruits, three university student placements and three work experience placements per year for three years.

Feasibility studies (including satellites)

The government is confirming today that some of the UK’s most remote locations will be connected to improved broadband via satellite and other technologies.

Trials have commenced at Wasdale Head in the Western Lake District, which hosts thousands of visitors each year alongside farming and conservation efforts in a protected landscape. Residents, businesses and rescue teams all struggle with unreliable connectivity in this part of Cumbria.

A feasibility study bringing together input from the National Trust, Lake District National Park, Wasdale Mountain Rescue, Connecting Cumbria and other local stakeholders is reviewing a range of technology solutions. The first step will involve the provision of a low earth orbit satellite test network, to test integration with mountain rescue radio and positioning services.

These trials will test the technology in very hard to reach locations, alongside the feasibility study assessing the costs and timing of delivery of other solutions.

Vouchers

As part of the drive to deliver UK-wide gigabit connections, DCMS is also boosting its flagship gigabit voucher scheme, increasing the value of vouchers to reach hard-to-reach parts of the UK that broadband suppliers are not currently building to as part of commercial plans.

The Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS) ensures that rural communities and businesses, which commercial suppliers are not planning to reach, can get more immediate help with the costs of installing a gigabit-capable broadband connection.

Voucher funding on offer will triple to as much as £4,500 for homes and increase for businesses, up from just £1,500 for homes and £3,500 for businesses previously. These increased values, set to come into effect early in the New Year, will enable broadband suppliers to explore building networks to ever more remote locations.

Across the UK, 72% of premises are now able to access gigabit-capable broadband, up from 6% in early 2019, according to Building Digital UK’s (BDUK) Project Gigabit autumn update 2022, published today.

Project Gigabit

  • Project Gigabit is the government’s flagship £5 billion programme to enable hard-to-reach communities to access lightning-fast gigabit-capable broadband. It targets homes and businesses that are not included in broadband suppliers’ plans, reaching parts of the UK that might otherwise miss out on getting the digital connectivity they need

  • By the end of 2025, the government is targeting 85% of the UK to have gigabit-capable connectivity, with as close to 100% as soon as possible thereafter

  • As the drive to deliver gigabit-capable connections intensifies, over recent months several multi-million pound local and regional Project Gigabit contracts have been awarded covering North Dorset, Teesdale and North Northumberland

  • Areas including Cornwall, Hampshire, Shropshire & Telford, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk are all in line for contract awards by summer 2023

  • Overall, more than 111,000 vouchers have been issued through the government’s vouchers schemes, and to date, more than 77,000 of these vouchers have been used to connect premises to gigabit-capable broadband

  • Wasdale Head hosts over approximately 250,000  visitors a year, within an active farming community and a protected physical and cultural landscape

  • The Cumbrian satellite trial is using Starlink equipment from Space-X due to the immediate availability of equipment and capacity. We remain in discussion with other suppliers and distributors for delivering connections to future sites, including OneWeb and other providers

More about Fibrus

Fibrus Ltd is an exciting new telecommunications provider seeking to transform the digital infrastructure of rural and regional areas of Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Fibrus brings full fibre broadband to homes and businesses in towns and villages that have previously been underserved by broadband providers.

Working with a team of industry experts, Fibrus has designed and built a brand new, reliable, low latency, full fibre network and are bringing this to homes and businesses throughout the UK.

Source: GOV.UK