Unfolding plans 90 – The one I’ve been looking forward to

This is the one that I’ve been looking forward to, the broadband launch at Wolsingham. Finally we have made it to the places where they said it would never happen.

I forget how long it is that I’ve been working on the problem of poor broadband. It could be as long as ten years. I came up with the Connected Borough project when I was at North Tyneside which managed to escalate its way to the Mayor’s manifesto only for him not to be re-elected. Admittedly this was just about classic and not superfast broadband. It didn’t exist then as widely as it does today. The idea was to get the whole borough connected to free broadband to make it the home-working capital of the world. I always did get carried away.

When I came here I started Digtial Durham which was a couple of years before the momentum got behind Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). Since then things have slowly yet surely crept forward. We signed a contract with one of the world’s leading providers of telecoms and over the last year and a half have passed more than sixty thousand properties that just would not have had access to decent broadband if we had sat back. Interest and take up has been great. Every month the percentage of people taking up the service grows despite having more properties passed. The figures are growing upon a growing market. It’s a double whammy, a win win situation.

Last week we were at Tow Law and Wolsingham is only another five kilometres up the dale yet they are attached to another exchange which is at Frosterley. This is another five kilometres as the crow flies and has a reach that goes past Stanhope. A similar situation exists within Teesdale where we are inching along the dale. Next week the caravan moves to Staindrop as we fill in some of the gaps between Bishop Auckland and Barnard Castle.

So let’s go back to Wolsingham. Three of the four cabinets have now been live for a couple of weeks. We always give a bit of time before announcing them to allow the market to get its act together and to be able to market its services. The fourth cabinet is going to be stood this weekend as access to the road by where it stands has proved to be problematic.

The team arrived nice and early at the Methodist Church on Front Street and by the time I got there everything was set up, the kettle was on and the biscuits were out. Tony and I had a short meeting and then the crowds came in. Interest was high and it will probably be one of the busiest events that we will have. Broadband in the dales has been so poor that any improvement was going to spark interest. Many of the people I might have expected to turn up have already gone ahead and upgraded which is great to see.

The broadband launch at Wolsingham was the one that I had been looking forward to. It has been and gone and I enjoyed every minute.

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