First village benefits from Superfast broadband rollout

Residents in a picturesque Lancashire village have become the first rural community in the county to benefit from the multi-million pound Superfast Lancashire project.

Belthorn rural cabinetThe completion of engineering work means most of the 240 premises in the village of Belthorn will now be able to connect to super-fast fibre broadband.

Superfast Lancashire will bring high-speed broadband to 97 per cent of the county’s homes and businesses by the end of 2015.

Villagers can look forward to download speeds of up to 80 megabits per second and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps, enabling them to download and share large files of information, upload photographs, download music, films and television programmes, and surf the internet more quickly than ever before.

Haslingden and Hyndburn MP Graham Jones, said: “The fact that a rural community like Belthorn is among the first to benefit from this partnership demonstrates the collective determination to get this exciting technology to local villages.

“Superfast broadband can transform businesses and communities, improve productivity and enable business to access new markets, and is vital for places like Belthorn and constituencies like Haslingden and Hyndburn in particular where unemployment needs to fall and the economy become more competitive in the digital age. It will also provide a transformational improvement in the delivery of public information and services.”

Delighted landlord Nicholas Parker, who runs the Dog Inn, said: “We offer free Wi-Fi to customers but with the current connections the service is a bit hit and miss. With fibre we plan to offer a wireless hub for business customers to hold meetings, a sports hub so fans can watch games on their hand-held devices, and an entertainment hub to keep the youngsters occupied watching a film, playing online games or using social media - all at the same time. I believe this service will be a huge benefit to us and cannot wait to get it up and running.”

Local business UK Insulations Ltd was the first premise in the village to order a fibre broadband service and is already seeing the benefits.

Finance director Ian Billing, said: “We’re expanding and have customers around the world from China to South America. Having superfast broadband will help us to compete with larger businesses, in this global marketplace, on an equal footing.

“The fact that we are a relatively small enterprise in a tiny village in the north of England doesn’t matter in the digital world. Customers expect you to be able to offer the same level of service as a large corporate. Superfast broadband helps us to react quickly to customer demands and gives us that competitive edge.

“With fibre we can have staff working remotely or from home, which will save on travel time and costs. Increasingly, customers don’t want the time and expense of travel either and, with fibre broadband, we can look at communicating more with customers online via Skype and video conferencing.”

Work on the Superfast Lancashire project is well underway across the county - with a total of around 17,000 homes and businesses expected to be connected to fibre broadband by the end of this year. Openreach engineers from BT will work on laying around 2,700 kilometres of optical fibre cable and installing a total of around 700 new fibre broadband cabinets throughout the Superfast Lancashire Broadband Project area. It is estimated that engineers will complete over a million hours of work planning and building the network during the lifetime of the project.

The Openreach network is open to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis, so residents will be able to choose from a number of different suppliers of fibre broadband. Superfast Lancashire is a partnership between Lancashire County Council and BT, with additional funding from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK, as well as the European Regional Development Fund, Blackburn with Darwen Council and Blackpool Council.