rory’s cumbrian broadband campaign reaches contract milestone
On Thursday 29th November Rory joined BT’s Managing Director of NGA (Next Generation Access) Bill Murphy and Cumbria County Councillor Elizabeth Mallinson at the historic signing of the £40 million pound rural broadband contract between BT and Cumbria County Council – just over two years since the local MP pledged to secure for Cumbrians the best super-fast broadband in Europe at the high-profile conference he hosted at Rheged which kick-started the campaign.
Rory’s campaign has involved many high-profile successes, such as securing for Penrith and the Border some of the most innovative 4G mobile broadband and Open Femto pilots; supporting the very first community broadband project in the UK, Fell End, in receiving a Rural Community Broadband Grant from DEFRA; nominating the 2011 Digital Hero winner, Libby Bateman, for her work with the East Cumbria Community Broadband Forum; and, importantly, bringing the campaign to the forefront of parliamentary debate. Broadband Minister, Ed Vaizey, has said “Rory Stewart’s… ability to gauge the issues which concern the house are second to none” whilst DEFRA minister Richard Benyon praised “Rory Stewart’s visionary speech and the leadership he is giving in broadband and on improving mobile coverage.” The former Secretary of State for Culture, Media, Sport, and Broadband, Jeremy Hunt, added: ‘I was particularly impressed by Rory Stewart’s approach and advocacy of broadband and mobile coverage for Cumbria. He and the Cumbrian communities should be very proud of what they have achieved.”
Speaking at Thursday’s event, Rory said: “We are here today thanks to the tireless work of our communities, government staff too numerous to name, our elected local councillors, and their officers, all of whom have worked extraordinarily hard behind the scenes over the last two years to help us get to where we are today: at a point where we can begin to connect our villages, towns, homes and businesses to some of the fastest fibre networks in Europe. I very much look forward to working with BT to make this process as comprehensive and as successful as possible. I urge anyone who has concerns about their location to be in touch, since I am now collating a list of those who are worried that they may be left behind. With our excellent community broadband projects showing how the final few hard-to-reach homes and premises can also be connected, we will work very, very hard to make sure that no-one is left behind. We do, however, have to be patient: as Bill Murphy from BT says, this isn’t just a question of flicking on a switch, but undertaking a major engineering project and covering one of the most difficult terrains in England. But we will rise to the challenge, and make sure Cumbria has the connected networks it deserves.”
Councillor Elizabeth Mallinson said: “We recognise that broadband opens doors – for businesses, for households, for public service providers including the county council – and today we are making sure we get our foot in that door permanently. Although we’re still awaiting the final green light from Government for state aid and confirmation of EU Major Project status, signing this contract is a clear message that Cumbria is ready for action. We’re all desperately eager to roll our sleeves up and begin the task of actually delivering super-fast broadband to people who simply would not have got it without the intervention of the Government and county council. We have a tremendously exciting three years ahead of us, but I would ask people to be patient and allow us to deliver this huge programme in a strategic way which is in the best interests of the county as a whole. The hard work starts now and we need to work together so that by the end of 2015 Cumbria has one of the best fibre networks in Europe.”