broadband industry day
Following confirmation of news that Cumbria is to receive £16.8 million to go towards rural broadband initiatives, Rory chaired a unique ‘industry day’ on Friday at Plumpton’s Stonybeck Inn, bringing together the best of Cumbria’s community broadband groups with representatives of the tele-communications industry, many of whom had travelled far and wide to attend the event – another milestone in Rory’s year-long campaign for better broadband in Cumbria.
Community broadband groups from Great Asby, the Northern Fells, Leith/Lyvennet, Garsdale and Dentdale, and Grange over Sands made presentations to the assembled audience of industry representatives, made up of suppliers from companies including BT, Fujitsu, Cable and Wireless, Ericsson and Cisco. Industry representatives were then given an opportunity to engage with the groups in breakout sessions, asking detailed questions about the community solutions that each group had formulated to overcome lack of broadband access in remote areas.
Rory said: “This is a very exciting day, and is the culmination of many, many months of hard work. For the first time we are presenting some very advanced, professional community solutions to some of the very key industry players, and inviting suppliers to make commitments so that we can get spades in the ground later this year. Our fundamental challenge is to connect some of the most sparsely populated parts of Cumbria to broadband, and we have today some of the most innovative, and the most imaginative, local thinkers on the subject. I don’t doubt that we have a lot of work ahead of us, but know that we have the commitment and the expertise to pioneer some of the most exciting solutions to rural broadband issues that can be replicated across Britain.”
Rory paid tribute to both Cumbria County Council for its patience and energy, and to Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), led by Mike Kiely, for their support of Cumbria as a pilot. The event was also attended by representatives of other community groups interested in broadband initiatives, including from Alston, Patterdale, and rural Carlisle.
Community broadband activist Libby Bateman of Mallerstang said: “The industry day appeared to be very successful with a productive dialogue between local community broadband projects and potential suppliers to those projects. Many of the suppliers and community projects were playing their cards very close to their chest which I am hoping is a sign that plans are developing and community – supplier relationships are blossoming. This day was really just the beginning of the process, it is now that the real work begins and the race is on to get the first fibre network into the ground to offer future proof connectivity beyond the wildest dreams of our remote rural communities. As chairman of the Forum I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to Mike Kiely from BDUK and Rory Stewart MP who have continuously encouraged and inspired our communities to realise their ambitions of future proof connectivity in remote rural locations.“