A team of Northamptonshire engineers are busy preserving the past, while looking to the future, as they build a high-speed fibre broadband network across the county.
The engineers from Openreach – the business responsible for Britain’s largest phone and broadband network – are tackling a wide range of challenges head-on as they upgrade the broadband network, in partnership with the county council’s Superfast Northamptonshire programme.
So far, they’ve negotiated a Roman aqueduct, sites of special scientific interest, and key parts of the national road infrastructure such as the M1 motorway. And as a result, around 96 per cent of the county now has access to high-speed fibre broadband with work continuing.
Three years ago, parts of Blisworth, Long Buckby, Paulerspury, Towcester and Weedon were the first areas in the county to be upgraded thanks to the county council’s multi-million pound Superfast Northamptonshire contracts with BT. Since then, hundreds of new fibre broadband cabinets have been built and hundreds of miles of fibre optic cable laid. It means that, when combined with BT’s commercial rollout of fibre, more than 270,000 homes and businesses in Northamptonshire can now benefit from faster broadband speeds, with tens of thousands already choosing to do so.
This massive feat of civil engineering is being carried out by dozens of Openreach planners and engineers, responsible for getting the technology in the ground, around ancient sites and over private land, all with the minimum of disruption to people in Northamptonshire going about their everyday lives.
The next areas set to benefit from the work of Superfast Northamptonshire are Blakesley, Hardwick, Hargrave, Wadenhoe and Warkton.
Councillor Gonzalez de Savage added:
“Many of the things that make Northamptonshire such an incredible place to live and work can also make this roll-out difficult. In a large town or city a new fibre cabinet can be relatively simple to build and can provide services to hundreds of people.
"In rural parts of Northamptonshire, a cabinet can take extensive planning followed by months of civil engineering and the end result may only be providing faster broadband to a much smaller number of people. But for those people it’s absolutely vital this work takes place.”
Steve Henderson, Openreach’s regional director for next generation access in the East Midlands, said: “Getting fibre broadband to homes and businesses in sparsely-populated, rural areas is not easy. We know how the technology works and we know how to get it from A to B, and our vast experience means we know how to overcome major challenges, such as rivers with no convenient bridges, little or no existing infrastructure, historical sites, private land or wildlife. Planning and surveying is a huge part of our work but there are still some things you simply can’t plan for.
“Although we’re providing the technology of the future, we’re always mindful to protect, preserve and create the minimum disruption to the environment around us. In some areas, we’ve gone as far as having our initial work supervised by an archaeologist to make sure we’re not disturbing land of historical interest. We’ve done lots of great work in Northamptonshire, in partnership with the county council, and we’re keen to extend our reach even further in the future.”
The Superfast Northamptonshire project is led by Northamptonshire County Council and is part of the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme. It includes a multi-million partnership between the county council and BT. So far, more than 68,000 homes and businesses have been able to benefit from superfast broadband through this work.