Northumberland County Council has appointed telecommunications company BT to deliver a major scheme to boost digital connectivity in the county.

The North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) made a bid to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for a £12m investment from its Local Full Fibre Networks Programme managed by Broadband Delivery UK. After successfully passing the initial stage, the investment panel were invited to work up final detailed plans which were formally approved in March 2020.

Following agreement by Northumberland County Council’s cabinet, the Council will put forward a further £932,111 of funding towards the programme, and have since signed a contract with BT to deliver the scheme in Northumberland.

The funding will pay for the rollout of gigabit fibre internet connections to public buildings across Northumberland, improving the speed and reliability of digital connectivity to these sites.

North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll said: “Fast, reliable broadband has never been more important. Coronavirus has shown how vital it is that people are hooked up to the internet and can get online for work, daily essentials, and to connect with family and friends.”

Cllr Nick Oliver, Northumberland’s Cabinet Member for corporate resources, said: “This is an exciting upgrade to our infrastructure in the county, providing rural Northumberland with better connectivity than many city centres.

“Work has already begun to bring high-speed, affordable and reliable connectivity to our businesses and residents, which is crucial in maintaining our economic competitiveness and achieving social inclusion, now more than ever.”

Sarah Walker, Director for Enterprise in the North of England for BT, said: “Our world-class full fibre network will help transform Northumberland’s digital connectivity potential.

“We will provide ultrafast broadband speeds that will enable faster and more reliable connections for people across the county. We are pleased to be supporting Northumberland County Council’s digital ambitions and it is among the leading areas in the UK to take advantage of the opportunities full fibre networks will provide.

“Digital technology is transforming every element of the way we live. In a world where everyday life and work increasingly depend on technology, digital skills can be the difference between getting ahead, or being left behind.”

BT’s Enterprise business will be deploying the full fibre network across Northumberland via its infrastructure partner, Openreach. On a national level, Openreach recently expanded its full fibre ambitions and will bring ultrafast broadband to within reach of 4.5 million homes and businesses across the UK by the end of March next year.

The funding will deliver gigabit capable full fibre connectivity to 271 public sector sites via the Northumberland Gigabit Project, and aims to be complete by early 2022.