Cumbria Crack

Cumbrian village on verge of getting world’s fastest broadband

Witherslack digging for broadband victory, from left retired farmer Danny Jackson, sisters Anya, Thea and Tilly Bennett and Steve Ratcliffe, from the B4RN steering group

A SOUTH Lakeland country parish is on the cusp of getting the world’s fastest broadband with speeds rivalling major cities and massive conglomerates.

As communities in Witherslack, Foulshaw and Meathop prepare to roll up sleeves and dig for 1,000Mbps, 60 businesses and up to 50 percent of homes are set to see spiralling opportunities.

B4RN, the rural not-for-profit fibre optic network, has started a four-phase delivery and expects first connections to be made during spring 2021.

According to resident and steering group member, Steve Ratcliffe, the impact cannot be overestimated.

He explained: “Whichever way you look at it, our lives will be changed forever, from the youngest to the oldest getting future chances we couldn’t have dreamed possible without B4RN.

“So many businesses, which include the majority of our farms, have struggled, particularly during Covid-19. For those operating from home with internet speeds that often make crucial online meetings and work incredibly difficult, it’s been especially tough.

“This year has seen a surge in demand for decent broadband, even our favourite TV channels can be streamed. However, here in Witherslack, we were in danger of becoming second-class citizens with technology passing us by.

“Thanks to B4RN, we will be on a par with major cities across the world. Socially, educationally, commercially and economically this is a huge deal for us. Those reliant on high speeds can’t live and work here right now – but they will be able to very soon.”

Mr Ratcliffe said the enthusiastic uptake had seen some farmers who previously had no internet, and older people not currently owning a computer or laptop, signup.

He explained: “We are delighted Dean Barwick primary school will be getting an early connection and are now looking to our close-knit community for help with digging ducts for cable installation and other support jobs too.

“We’ll also establish teams to help those new to the world wide web to revolutionise their lives – as well as our own.”

A small team has negotiated with multiple landowners to install the network and in 18-months has worked tirelessly to turn a pipe dream into reality, explained Mr Ratcliffe.

He added: “This is by the community for the community; people have invested savings in B4RN and we look forward to delivering the best broadband in the world.”