Broadband Boost for Cumbrian Village

The secluded community of Newbiggin, situated around 15 miles from Carlisle, has had a massive ‘full fibre’ broadband boost, transforming the lives of people living and working there.

Working in partnership with Lewis Battersby’s Construction Group, Openreach’s engineers ran around three kilometres of underground and overhead fibre cable, built new underground ducts, cleared multiple blockages from existing ducts and erected eight new telegraph poles, to build the new ‘full fibre’ network, which benefits around 35 homes and businesses.

And it’s proving popular, with local residents jumping at the chance to sign up for Ultrafast broadband speeds of up to one gigabit bit per second (1Gbps) using Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) technology - where fibre is run directly from the exchange all the way to individual properties.

Dairy farmer, Robert Craig, has improved and modernised the management of his farm using some of the latest broadband dependant technology and Ben Wright, who led the community’s quest for faster broadband, is no longer working from a mobile hotspot in his Alpaca shed.

Ben Wright, who is also Head of ICT for South Lakeland District Council and Eden District Council, said: With two of us working from home during the pandemic and my children also studying at home, the need for better, faster broadband was more apparent than ever before.

“With insufficient broadband speeds and no mobile signal in the house I actually had to resort to working from a mobile hotspot in my Alpaca shed which did the job but obviously isn’t the best place for a video call.

“Now that we have full fibre speeds the difference is incredible. We can do what we need to, when we need to it and all at the same time if need be. It has transformed how we can use the internet.”

Dairy farmer, Robert Craig, who lives about a mile from the village itself, has been able to modernise his farm and embrace more effective ways of working.

He said: “Modern farming depends on decent broadband and since the upgrade to full fibre we’ve been able to implement some important changes. The first was installing state of the art CCTV across the farm – not only does this better protect our machinery it also enables us to monitor the calving shed 24 hours a day which saves so much time.

“As we’re a pasture farm we also have to monitor grass growth each week. Measurements are taken and submitted online so we can ensure optimum grass conditions for the herd. There’s also all the general admin which goes hand in hand with running a business. This can all be done online in an instant.”

Robert Thorburn, Openreach’s regional partnership director for the North, said: “Thanks to the drive and determination of Ben Wright and the community of Newbiggin we were able to upgrade this very rural village to full fibre broadband and they were among the first people in Cumbria to make the move to a fully fibre-optic network.

It was brilliant that people in Newbiggin rolled up their sleeves to work with us, it meant the economics stacked up and they were not left behind. Demand for services has been spectacular, with almost everyone opting for an upgrade to make the most of their new high-speed network.”

Following the success of bringing full fibre to Newbiggin Ben Wright also helped the nearby village of Cumrew to secure the new technology. Build there is underway and expected to complete early next year.

The new fibre network in Newbiggin was enabled by Openreach’s Community Fibre Partnership (CFP) programme - a scheme designed to help people living and working in rural communities that are not included in any current full fibre roll-out plans.

The Community Fibre Partnership scheme is in addition to Openreach’s existing work in Cumbria. More than 12,000 homes and businesses can already order ultrafast, ultra-reliable full fibre broadband – around half of which were built as part of the Connecting Cumbria broadband partnership with Cumbria County Council.

Openreach recently made a number of announcements on its latest build plans across Cumbria where more than 100,000 additional homes and businesses in mainly rural and harder to serve areas will get access to ultrafast fibre broadband.

Openreach is investing £15 billion to build its ultrafast full fibre technology to a total of 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.

Find out more about our Fibre First programme, latest availability and local plans here.