Last week I had a detailed meeting with BT, and received an update from Northumberland County Council, on the roll-out of broadband across Tynedale.
Access to broadband is a vital amenity for any household in the modern era, but especially so for those in the more rural parts of the UK. In this, rural Northumberland is a prime example. We are almost at the end of phase 1 of the roll out, which has seen all major towns and significant villages covered. There are some teething problems on phase one in villages like Byrness village, but having seen BT this week, I am assured they are being fixed, which is good. Certainly the Byrness village problems are being fixed.
On phase 2 I received welcome good news on the progress of the roll-out. 35 further areas are currently in line to be connected, as part of the second phase of broadband expansion. Matfen is the biggest outstanding village to be done and this is first in the queue, and should be up and running around September.
Specifically this phase 2 includes:
NB the location is the exchange, and then the bracketed location is the site of the improved / extended coverage:
Allendale (Catton Beacon),
Bardon Mill (next to the exchange, Westend Town, and Ridley),
Corbridge (Dilston), Haydon Bridge (Langley), Humshaugh (Gunnerton, Wall, and Colwell),
Haltwhistle (Melkridge), Hexham (Warden, Bridge End, Oakwood, Sandhoe, and Acomb School), Newbrough (Allerwash Hall), Ponteland (600 metres south of the exchange, Medburn, South Medburn, Prestwick Park Business Centre, and Horton Grange), Slaley (Nr Slaley Hall / Park, Ordley, Wooley, and Whitley Chapel), Stamfordham (Matfen, and Hawkwell), Stocksfield (New Ridley, and Hedley on the Hill), West Allendale (Carrshield), West Woodburn (Nr the exchange, East Woodburn), and Wylam (Heddon-on-the-Wall, Horsley, North Dunslaw Holm).
Of course there is a long way to go. Improved broadband speeds won't reach every corner of the UK overnight, but the direction of travel is clear. When we came to office as a coalition in 2010, only 45 per cent of the country had access to superfast broadband. Today, we have provided superfast broadband access to 90 per cent of the UK – some additional 4 million homes and businesses.
It is great to see some of this progress here in Northumberland, and moving forward I hope to be able to provide even more encouraging updates on the areas connected. I am acutely conscious that isolated farms, hamlets and smaller communities are still struggling in certain places. If you are one of those then please get in contact and I will see what I can do. There will be a phase 3 and the technology is improving all the time. But the cost of provision to truly outlying areas is also very significant, and there is not an unlimited taxpayers sum of money to pay for this upgrade to technology. The present limit is effectively £1700 per household of taxpayer subsidy but this is being reviewed.