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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Slow take-up for superfast broadband in rural Cumbria

It has taken millions of pounds and years of lobbying to bring superfast broadband to rural Cumbria, but so far the number of people who have chosen to take up the service is slow.

The roll-out of fibre broadband is gathering pace with 50 per cent of the county’s 251,000 homes and businesses now able to connect either through BT’s commercial programme or the work the company is doing for the subsidised county council-run Connecting Cumbria project.

That £70 million scheme has so far reached 32,000 rural premises, but only eight per cent – about 2,500 – have decided to upgrade to speeds of at least 24Mbps.

However, David Morton, who is managing the Connecting Cumbria programme for the county council, is unphased by the low take-up which he says is on a par with the early stages of other schemes around the UK.

“If people are getting 8Mbps they might think they don’t need any more at the moment, but in more rural areas the take-up does increase,” he said.

He was speaking at an event to mark reaching the landmark of supplying 50 per cent of Cumbria with fibre broadband. This was held in Brampton where five cabinets are due to come on stream in the next few weeks. They are situated in Greenfield Court, Main Street, Carlisle Road and two in Dacre Road.

Also at the event was Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart, who has led much of the lobbying for better broadband since 2010.

He admitted the current take-up of the service was disappointing and called on people to be less “coy” about promoting it.

“We’ve had an incredible amount of money to get this and the big challenge is to get people to use it,” he said.

“We should be pushing our GPs to become leaders in telehealth and pushing schools in tele-education.”

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