Broadband speeds across Cumbria are very variable. A few years ago, when the average broadband speed across Cumbria was apparently close to the national average (then about 6 Megabits per second, Mbps), the speed in rural Cumbria was well below this. My speed here in Loweswater (some distance from the local exchange in Lorton) is typically about 3 Mbps, which is slightly lower than it was a few years ago. It could be a lot worse as there are a good few places in the county (including parts of Loweswater) with speeds, at least at times, no better than 0.5 Mbps.

The current aim of Cumbria County Council is to bring Superfast Broadband (defined as download speeds > 24 Mbps) to at least 95% of properties by mid-2018. The main platform for achieving this is the Connecting Cumbria project, which is a joint venture between the County Council and BT. The main way of achieving this is by using optical fibres to overlay the existing copper wire from the exchanges to the green cabinets, but not using fibre optics from the cabinets to the property itself. In Phase 1 of the project to mid-2016, the telephone exchange in Lorton was upgraded with an optical fibre supply so Superfast Broadband is available within the village itself, but this does not extend to areas outside the village or to premises in Loweswater or Buttermere.

The main priority of the current Phase 2 is to cover as many premises as possible within the available funds, a lesser priority being to give preference to areas with more businesses or areas that have a lower percentage coverage left over from Phase 1. You can see maps with more details of the Phase 2 programme on the When and Where page of the Connecting Cumbria website here. As Phase 2 is tackling the more remote premises, its cost (per new connection) will be greater than in Phase 1 and will have to use more extensive deployment of fibre optics. Pure fibre systems plus other new technologies can get up to download speeds of 300 Mbps now and probably 1000 Mbps (1 Gigabit per second) in the not too distant future, so there will still be a long way to go before Cumbria gets anything approaching state-of-the-art Broadband.

I have been the Broadband Champion for Loweswater since the Connecting Cumbria project started, but the passing on of information from the local Hub Co-ordinator has been poor so I have been able to do very little. Since a local meeting in Yew Tree Hall on 6 September 2016, I hope to be able to get more info through meeting one of the managers from the BT project team. When I get more info, I will post it on this page. In the meantime, you can find out if you can get SuperFast Broadband here.

You can test test your broadband download and upload speeds on this link. It would be great if you could let everyone know what speed you get at your location by sending a message from the box below.

Leslie Webb, September 2016.

23 Responses to Broadband

  1. Michael Gibson says:

    If you seriously want superfast broadband then BT and Openreach will take a very long time to get you there.

    I’d seriously consider looking at B4RN, Broadband for the Rural North. This is community-driven, provides free access for schools, churches and community buildings, and ensures that it will deliver service to everyone who wants it. It brings the community together, as you’ve got to lay the fibre yourselves.

    As for 60Mbps, forget that, this is 1,000Mbps. It has helped transform the Lune Valley near Lancaster, seen people move into the area and done so much more.

    • Steven Q says:

      I did speak to B4RN when I was looking for alternatives to BT/Openreach, who seemed to be dragging their feet at the time. The problem with B4RN is that they have a direct connection to a hub in Manchester I believe, so while they were just reaching into southern Cumbria, it was going to be very many years before their network of fibres might reach the Lorton Valley. Hence BT/Openreach appeared to be the only game in town when I was looking.

      I set up a small BT Fibre Partnership of just 7 houses with the intention of running fibre directly to each of our houses. We had a detailed survey and costing exercise, sought subsidies from Connecting Cumbria, and then Openreach changed their mind and decided to give us a cabinet instead. We now have about 75 Mbps, and all of the 7 houses are above 50 Mbps I believe.

      For anyone who still doesn’t have superfast broadband, setting up a Community Fibre Partnership is an option. It is a frustrating process as BT / Openreach / Connecting Cumbria are difficult to communicate with and often have no idea what each other are doing, but in our case it might have applied the necessary pressure for Openreach to get their act together.

      • Michael Gibson says:

        Well done on getting anywhere with BT and Openreach. The story in Lancashire is over 10 years of promised and never delivered projects. With the government driving towards 1GB, what they are installing just isn’t up to scratch.

        Might be worth having another chat with B4RN. The existing footprint in North Lancs and South Cumbria has been joined by pockets in Northumberland, Cheshire and Norfolk, with their own connections.

        The Nortumberland one is the most interesting as they must have the same issues as you have

        Good luck with it all and great to see a community working together. Only found this site as looking for locations for electric vehicle chargers we’re installing as part of a government funded project.

  2. Leslie Webb says:

    I have just changed the Speed Tester link and can report a current download speed here of just under 50 Mbps – not bad at all as Singapore is still quoted as having the fastest country-wide average at 60 Mbps.

    • Gill Locking says:

      Hello Leslie – I have just come across your interesting posts. We live about a mile south of Lorton, just past Hopebeck. We have been hoping (praying!) for Superfast Broadband…in vain so far. I have just used your link to carry out a speed test – 9.17 for download, 0.74 for upload. Unfortunately the link you kindly provided to see if we can get Superfast Broadband does not work. Can you give us any help, hope or advice? Thank you very much – Gill Locking

  3. Leslie Webb says:

    Latest news is that the Loweswater fibre supply should be up and running soon, by end May 2018 latest, so we can look forward to Superfast speeds in Loweswater very soon, can’t we?

    • Leslie Webb says:

      Sine the above post, some of you in Loweswater may have been contacted by BT with offers of “Superfast” speeds. I have been offered 15-24 Mb/sec with an absolute minimum of 13 Mb/sec, which isn’t quite superfast, but a lot better than my existing ca 3 Mb/sec, all for an extra £3 per month. We’ll see what the speeds actually are when I have a new router next week.

      • Leslie Webb says:

        I am now connected via a new “Smart” BT Router and am getting 15-16 Mb/sec download and 6 Mb/sec upload. Anyone else connected yet?

      • Steven Q says:

        We switched over yesterday and now get 75Mbps down and 19Mbps up which makes quite a change from 3 down and 0.8 up!

      • richardeaston2013 says:

        Hi Les, we’re now connected via BT Infinity and have 20 Mpbs download and 4 Mbps up, a ten-fold improvement. Great. I’ll keep the satellite system as a backup for the a period though.


  4. Leslie Webb says:

    Latest news from BT is that they are having some land access problems that will delay the Loweswater Broadband upgrade to an unspecified date in 2018.

  5. Matthew Shepherd says:


    I am moving into Latterhead Farmhouse at Loweswater on Saturday. Can anyone tell me what the BB speed is like currently? The estimated speed seems to vary quite a bit depending on which website you look at.

    Thanks, Matt

  6. Leslie Webb says:

    I have heard from BT that the Loweswater fibre cabinet is still going ahead after a hiatus regarding costs. No dates are available, but it looks unlikely before the Autumn.

  7. Leslie Webb says:

    I have managed to establish that the the optical-fibre cabinet near Oak Cottage in Loweswater (mentioned in my post of 18 October 2016) is definitely going ahead and may be installed quite soon. However, the feeding of optical fibre up from Lorton does not start until the cabinet is in place and Openreach will not give a timescale for this at the minute. Nothing yet on further cabinets in Loweswater, but it is being looked into.

  8. Steven Q says:

    Just posted this on the main message board, but it is relevant to the discussion here:

    4G appears to have been enabled on the EE mobile network in the valley today. I think they are still testing it as it isn’t there all of the time, but I ran a speedtest earlier showing 32Mbps down / 13Mbps up.

  9. Leslie Webb says:

    Acting as the Loweswater Broadband Champion, I met several representatives of Connecting Cumbria today in Carlisle to discuss broadband in the area. The good news is that there should be two fibre-enabled cabinets in Loweswater in the not-too-distant future. The first will be close to the old BT telephone box (now a home for a defibrillator and 999 line) near Oak Cottage, which could be operational by Spring 2017. Those lucky enough to be very close to this should get 60-80 Mbps with potential improvements upstream for everyone with less than 2 km of copper cable to the cabinet. The location of the second cabinet is still not certain as more surveying is required.

    On the less bright side, it seems certain that not everyone in Loweswater will get SuperFast speeds via this programme due to the dispersed nature of property locations. The telephone line for those properties above the lake (01946 numbers) comes down from the Lamplugh exchange via Mockerkin, which itself has not yet been surveyed for fibre enabling. The line to Thackthwaite comes from Lorton, but is about 3km away so SuperFast speeds are unlikely. In the more distant future, broadband via the 4G mobile network is possible as EE has a contract to extend 4G coverage to all roads that emergency vehicles are expected to reach. You can check mobile coverage from the various suppliers at the Ofcom website here (or turn your mobile on).

    • Steven Q says:

      Thanks for the update, Les. Very interesting. I assume that the fibre for the Loweswater box will run from Lorton, past the small cabinet (Cabinet 1 I believe) on the B5289 Buttermere/Loweswater junction.

      Do you know if we can expect this cabinet to be fibre enabled at the same time as the old BT telephone box cabinet in Loweswater? If not, who can I ask about this?


    • richard copsey says:

      Hi leslie
      We are thinking of moving to Latterhead farmhouse near thackthwaite
      we only really use the net for emails and Skype
      do you know if Skype works for there and if there are any plans to update in the near future
      many thanks
      Richard copsey

      • Leslie Webb says:

        As you may know, I live opposite Letterhead Farmhouse and get download speeds around 3mb/s. I have used Skype and currently use FaceTime, the Apple version, which runs fine. As you may have seen from my post yesterday, things are set to improve soonish in parts of Lowesater, but whether we will benefit on this side of the Cocker is unclear.

  10. richardeaston2013 says:

    Our BT broadband is still running at a beggarly 1.5mbps. We’re about as far away as you can get from the exchange. We have a 2 year contract on satellite and if BT get up to 20mbps by the end of it we’ll revert. Richard

  11. John David Collis says:

    John in Mockerkin here, getting an earth shattering 4.00Mb down and 791Kb up at the moment. That’s surprisingly good at the moment as we often get 3Mb or less download and 300Kb or so upload. One of the really annoying things in our experience is that it can just seem to disappear entirely for up to a few minutes and return before we get the chance to run a speed test.
    It’s not as if we are living right out in the stix here but… almost dial-up speed internet, no buses, no mains gas, no shop or pub therefore no social cohesion… tap water stinks of chlorine too.

  12. Steven Q says:

    2 miles south of Lorton towards Loweswater and we get a maximum of 3 Mbps download. Upload seems to vary between 0.3 and 0.6 Mbps depending on the device, or perhaps a quirk of the test. On occasion we struggle to get 2Mbps download.

    As with Roger, we find this too slow and have considered switching to satellite broadband, which should reach 20 Mbps on a good day. However the issue of latency has put us off so far. That is the delay caused by the distance which the signal has to travel from Earth to the satellite (in a high geostationary orbit) and back. While this wouldn’t be a problem for video streaming, the delay of a second or so can make FaceTime / Skype communication awkward, and is less than ideal for online trading in shares, for example.

    I’m pleased to hear that running fibres to Loweswater should be technically straightforward, and that is certainly the solution we would prefer. I have struggled to get any information about when this might happen, so we would welcome any update on this.

  13. Roger here from Loweswater
    8/9/16 10.30am – broadband just checked out at 2.9 Mbps Download, 0.365 Mbps upload (much the same as normal).

    Interestingly I was talking to two guys this week in an unmarked BT Openreach van who were travelling around NW Cumbria checking out sites for new fibre optics cabinets including one here at Loweswater’s red phone box.

    Apparently central government has given BT Openreach a kick in the proverbial about getting on and providing the promised high speed broadband to rural areas. They could see no problem with the site so there should be no technical reason for delay.

    Time scale is unknown but it looks an awful lot closer than it did before. I may just hold back on satellite internet (20Mbps) in favour of BT’s superfast (up to 70 Mbps) pending further news

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