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Fibre broadband project connects rural Cumbrian community to 330Mbps speeds

Rural fibre project Fell End Broadband has started connecting its first customers who will soon be able to enjoy speeds of up to 330Mbps.  

The four year project, developed in association with BT, will see a total of 58 premises across the parish of Fell End, Cumbria connected to FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) lines. 

Residents will get a future-proofed full fibre connection that will be able to fully meet all of their online needs for now and far into the future. 

Laying a cable: Fell End Broadband digging a trench for ducts in November 2013
Laying a cable: Fell End Broadband digging a trench for ducts in November 2013

Local residents have been involved in digging trenches for fibre ducts and setting up the network themselves while BT has taken care of supplying the service. The top download speed possible on FTTP connections from Openreach, BT’s network arm, is 330Mbps and the maximum upload is currently capped at 30Mbps. 

While that should be enough for most households in the short term, BT has demonstrated that its full fibre lines can easily handle gigabit speeds. If the demand for more bandwidth is there, ISPs will be able to supply it. 

Consumer ISPs currently offering FTTP services on the Openreach network include Zen Internet, AAISP and BT. 

The first customers are being connected now with everyone able to order next-gen broadband services over the coming weeks. 

Project founder and local Councillor Libby Bateman said: “It’s been a long journey and this is a staggering achievement for everybody involved; I’m so pleased to hear such great feedback from the residents who are connected and am looking forward to the rest of the network going live shortly.” 

Bateman was nominated as a TalkTalk Digital Hero by local MP Rory Stewart who has long been campaigning for better broadband in Cumbria. Stewart is keen on repeating the success of Fell End Broadband elsewhere in the county and wants the rest of the UK to follow the project’s example. 

Stewart said: “This is Cumbria showing Britain how broadband can be delivered to the most remote places in the country. It is a project driven by the community, supported by BT and the Government – and it reaches the most inaccessible area at a fraction of what it would cost to do through Government alone. 

“Now that we have done it once, I’d like us to repeat this model again and again across Cumbria and then across rural Britain. It will provide the key to ensuring 100 per cent of Britain has the option of superfast broadband, and will make sure that we in Cumbria have the best rural coverage in Europe.” 

Fell End Broadband has been funded by a mixture of private cash – £6,000 raised from local residents – and public money including £53,000 from the UK Government’s RCBF (Rural Community Broadband Fund). 

Money from the Prince’s Countryside Fund (£20,000) the Holhird Trust (£2,000) and TalkTalk Digital Heroes (£1,000) was also used to bankroll the project. BT also contributed money to the project, a sum which is said to be in the six-figure region, but it’s unsure how much the UK’s biggest ISP gave to Fell End Broadband. 

Over 110,000 Cumbrian premises have been connected to superfast broadband under BT’s commercial upgrade programme and the local BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) scheme – Connecting Cumbria – aims to bring superfast broadband to 93 per cent of locations across the county. The remaining 7 per cent will get a basic 2Mbps service. 

In most cases, locations due for an upgrade to superfast broadband will get slower FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) connections which aren’t future proofed in the same way FTTP lines are. 

With Fell End not due to get anything better than the 2Mbps service, residents decided to take matters into their own hands. Now sitting pretty with FTTP lines, the parish is better served than many places that have been upgraded under both the commercial and BDUK superfast rollout. 


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