Superfast broadband network expanding

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A SCHEME to get all of Northumberland online is continuing to make net gains.

As part of the iNorthumberland programme, parts of Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth, Cramlington, and Morpeth have had their internet connections upgraded, and now more towns and villages are set to follow suit.

The programme co-ordinators are now seeking extra cash to pay for superfast broadband links to properties not already in line for them.

Speaking at last week’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s south east area committee, iNorthumberland community engagement officer John Cooper said: “The need for better internet connections, specifically high-speed broadband, has been widely discussed for some time.

“Many parts of the country are already able to access superfast broadband, but without intervention, the gap between those with access to superfast services and those with slow or non-existent services will increase.

“We have had overwhelming support from people wanting better broadband. We have had more than 12,000 registrations to date.

“One in five people in Northumberland has never been on the internet, which is a massive number.

“We don’t want to be in a situation where some people are disadvantaged and aren’t able to get online.”

Central government has approved the county council’s local broadband plan and allocated £7m via Broadband Deliver UK for Northumberland to provide fibre-optic connections not commercially viable for private-sector operators.

The council agreed to match that with £7m of its own, and it is hoped that a commercial supplier will put up a further £14m.

Mr Cooper added: “We envisage this funding will ensure superfast broadband is available to 90 per cent of premises within the county.”

Committee chairman Ian Swithenbank, of Cramlington East, said: “We need to get people on the internet.

“How anyone gets through the modern world without the internet I do not know.”