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.

5 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

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