Broadband Boost for Borrowdale

A remote Lake District community with no access to terrestrial TV or mobile signals can now access some of the fastest broadband in the world thanks to Openreach’s Fibre Community Partnership (FCP) programme - a scheme designed to help people who aren’t included in any existing upgrade plans.

Thirty residents in Borrowdale, which is situated at the foot of Honister Pass, within the Lake District National Park’s dramatic Borrowdale Valley, are now enjoying a broadband network which offers speeds of up to one gigabit bit per second (1Gbps) using Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) technology - where fibre is built directly from the local exchange all the way to people’s properties.

To build the new ‘full fibre’ network, Openreach engineers and Battersby Civil Engineering installed more than two kilometres of fibre cables, erected telegraph poles and dug more than 1500 metres of new underground duct along country roads, across fields and even over a river and a beck.

In the short time since the network was switched on, the new technology has already transformed the lives of people living and working in the community. Hotel owner, David Oglethorpe, can now offer all of his guests Wi-Fi and feels confident that the card payment machine will work when they check out. Local resident, Kevin Crisp, is now able to long-distance video call his family and stream TV programmes for the first time. And Michael Chapman, one of the team who led the community’s quest for faster broadband, is just blown away by the difference the technology has made to life in the valley.

David Oglethorpe, who owns and runs the Glaramara hotel, said: “People come to our remote valley to relax and enjoy our amazing scenery but in recent years there’s been an increasing demand to still being able to stay connected to outside world. Teenagers don’t want to holiday with their parents if they can’t get online and keep in touch with their friends. And in the evenings people want to catch up on their favourite boxset or upload their photos to social media platforms – online activities that most people take for granted,

“Until now that has been impossible here - on a bad day we’d be lucky to get the card machine working but now I can offer Wi-fi throughout the hotel whether that’s for overnight guests or walkers stopping by for lunch or coffee. And I’m really excited to be able to expand our business offerings. We have huge potential to offer team building and conference type events but without decent broadband it was a no go. It will definitely give us another string to our bow.”

For Michael Chapman, a driving force behind getting ultrafast full fibre to the valley, the new network is everything he hoped it would be. He said: “The technology is amazing - this is the best thing to happen in Borrowdale since the arrival of the telephone. No more twiddling my thumbs in front of the computer, now things happen instantly. Life in the Borrowdale Valley is transformed.”

Kevin Crisp added: “Having full fibre broadband in our remote corner of Cumbria has improved everything we do online. We can send photos on WhatsApp, enjoy high-res video calls with friends and family and no longer endure endless buffering and interruptions.

“We live in an area with no terrestrial TV signal, so being able to stream TV and films is just brilliant. From working from home to being able to use of cloud services to store and share family photos and videos. It’s just a life changer.”

Openreach Chief Engineer, Mike Poole, who led the build team, said: “This was a challenging build from the outset. One of our biggest obstacles was negotiating permissions to build the network over private land and, without the support of local people and landowners, that could have been the end of the build before a spade even went in the ground.

“We also had to respect the constraints of working in a National Park, avoid important events on the farming calendar such as lambing season and keeping the heavy tourist traffic - which filters down one very long, thin and winding road - flowing and also dodge the autumnal downpours in one of the wettest locations in the UK.

“The lack of connectivity was also challenging – with no Wi-fi or mobile signal every single person on the team had to go in every day fully prepared for every eventuality.”

Fibre Community Partnership schemes add to Openreach’s existing work in Cumbria where more than 12,000 homes and businesses can already order services over its ultrafast, ultra-reliable full fibre broadband network. Around half of those were built as part of the Connecting Cumbria broadband partnership with Cumbria County Council.

Openreach recently announced its latest commercial build plans which will see the business invest around £35 million to extend the network to 100,000 additional homes and businesses across Cumbria. Work is expected to get under way in many of the announced locations within the next 12-18 months, although due to the size of the build, some places will see work continue into 2024.

The company is investing billions of pounds into the build and is aiming to reach a 25 million premises across the UK, including more than six million in the hardest-to-serve parts of the country by the end of 2026.

You can Find out more about Openreach’s Fibre First programme and check the most up to date availability and build plans here.