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Traditional hotel in remote hamlet gets ultrafast broadband through inventive solution

Press release   •   Oct 18, 2017 11:02 BST

Howtown Hotel

Howtown Hotel on Ullswater now has access to some of the fastest broadband speeds in Cumbria – after engineers found a low-tech solution to link them up with fibre.Howtown’s high speed connectivity is all down to the perseverance of locals, Connecting Cumbria and engineers from Openreach.

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The tourist hotspot had previously proven beyond the reach of high speed fibre broadband, separated from the nearest telephone exchange by a 2km stretch of challenging fell side.

However, engineers from Openreach, Britain’s leading digital infrastructure provider, came up with a solution by hanging a fibre optic cable from a string of specially built telegraph poles. The cable was then split out and fed directly to the 15 individual households and businesses in the hamlet – using FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) technology. The challenge was to install the poles along the fell side with limited access due to the off road terrain.

Broadband campaigner Graeme Connacher explains: “Some of the engineers, and they’re the real unsung heroes in this, were up on the fell side carrying poles on their shoulders…and eventually we did it.

“And round the back of the little hotel here, which serves this little part of the community is a pole, with fibre direct to it.”

The Howtown Hotel is famous for its ‘very traditional’ hospitality.

Ironically, the hotel markets itself as a haven from the modern world with no TVs or telephones in any of its rooms. But its famous tea rooms are connected which has gone down very well with visitors.

In addition, staff at the hotel, many of who come from Eastern Europe, are thrilled with their high speed connection as it makes staying in touch with home so much easier.

Michael, who works at the hotel, said: “Now the internet is way much better – at least 100 times better than last year. Now everybody can start to make a video call and I am watching the weather at our home town.”

Fast fibre broadband has brought benefits across the whole of Ullswater, including to another business, one of the biggest attractions in the Lake District, Ullswater Steamers.

Lisa Braithwaite, attractions marketing manager at Ullswater Steamers, said: “We’ve now got really fast internet over here to allow customers to download our app when they come which means they can watch all of our commentary.

“We’ve also got the weather stations and our webcam on our website so people can see the conditions from one end of the lake to the other.

“Thanks to fibre broadband business is really booming here.”

Graeme Connacher added: “I’ve likened this bit of infrastructure coming into the valley as to when electricity first came into the dale.

“It really has been down to the community effort and everybody pulling together that’s made this possible.”

The remote hamlet is just one of many small communities across the county that have been connected up to high speed broadband using FTTP technology as part of the Connecting Cumbria project.

Jonathan Harris, Connecting Cumbria senior programme manager, said: “It’s great to see that the Howtown Hotel and some of their visitors are now benefitting from that as well as the business itself.

“What we’re trying to do is get superfast broadband out to as many residents, businesses and visitors as possible as quickly as possible within the funds available to us.”

Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and The Border, said: "I am so pleased for the residents of Howtown and future visitors to Howtown, that they now have access to some of the most impressive broadband speeds in Cumbria. And it shows that fibre providers can use simple, common-sense solutions to drive access through some of the most challenging terrain.

“This is great news for rural communities across the country, and I know that BT are working hard to invest resources into technological solutions to get fibre into the most remote corners, and I absolutely back them in that."

When an area has gone ‘live’ for fibre, people need to contact their service provider to upgrade as it doesn’t happen automatically. Because the network is ‘open’, they have a wide choice of fibre broadband providers.

More than nine out of ten premises across the UK can already access superfast broadband speeds. For more details on the roll-out visit openreach.co.uk/whereandwhen. People struggling with broadband speeds who are not included in a plan can visit www.communityfibre.com to find how to help bring superfast broadband to their local area.

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Press contact:Please contact Janet Hare in the BT Regional Press Office on 0800 085 0660. All our news releases can be found at www.btplc.com/news

Notes to Editors:

About Connecting Cumbria

Since October 2013, the Connecting Cumbria project – a partnership between Cumbria County Council and BT - has enabled more than 600 fibre broadband cabinets, with more being switched on every day. More than 120,000 households and businesses now have access to fibre as a result of the project.

The Connecting Cumbria Programme’s ambition will, by a combination of commercial investment and gap funding, enable access to Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband to 95 per cent of Cumbrian homes and businesses when added to the private sector’s commercial rollout.And Connecting Cumbria is providing two thirds of its rollout with speeds of more than 50 mbps.

There is, in addition, a commitment that all Cumbrian properties will have access to speeds of at least 2Mbps by some means by the end of the programme. In the majority of cases this is already available or will shortly be made available via the deployment of fibre services however where properties cannot yet access this basic level of broadband services there are subsides available through the Broadband Delivery UK Better Broadband Scheme to support access to services using alternative technology – details of this scheme can be found on the Connecting Cumbria website.

Connecting Cumbria will ensure maximum coverage is achieved from available resources, demonstrating maximum value for money. Cumbria County Council has a continuing commitment to expand NGA broadband services and make NGA broadband service available to additional areas across Cumbria as funding becomes available.

About BDUK

Superfast Britain is a Government programme of investment in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race. The portfolio is comprised of three elements:

  • £780m to extend superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017
  • £150m to provide high speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities
  • £150m to improve quality and coverage of mobile phone and basic data network services
  • Administered on behalf of Government by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), Superfast Britain is transforming Britain by promoting growth, enabling skills and learning, and improving quality of life.

    For further information: https://www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk

    About BT

    BT’s purpose is to use the power of communications to make a better world. It is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed-mobile products and services.BT consists of six customer-facing lines of business: Consumer, EE, Business and Public Sector, Global Services, Wholesale and Ventures, and Openreach.

    For the year ended 31 March 2017, BT Group’s reported revenue was £24,062m with reported profit before taxation of £2,354m.

    British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.

    For more information, visit www.btplc.com

    About us

    Openreach is Britain’s digital network business. That means we connect homes, mobile phone masts, schools, shops, banks, hospitals, libraries, broadcasters, governments and businesses – large and small – to the world. It’s our mission to build the best possible network with the highest quality service, and make sure that everyone in Britain can be connected.

    Our 30,400 people work on behalf of more than 580 communications providers like Sky, TalkTalk, Vodafone and BT. Our fibre broadband network is the biggest in the UK, covering more than 26.8 million premises. And our technology is the basis of Britain’s thriving digital economy, which is the largest of the G20 countries.

    We’re working hard to give people the broadband speeds they need at work and at home. Over the last decade, we’ve invested more than £11bn into our network. And we now manage more than 158 million kilometres of cable stretching from Scotland to Cornwall, and from Wales to the east coast. But we’re not stopping there – we’re making superfast broadband speeds available to thousands more homes and businesses every week.

    We’re owned by BT Group and independently governed. Our business is highly regulated, and more than 90 per cent of our revenue comes from services that are regulated by Ofcom. Any company can access our products under the same prices, terms and conditions.

    In the year ending 31 March 2017, we reported revenues of £5.1bn.

    To find out more about us and what we do, go to openreach.co.uk.