Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet have today agreed the council’s new Digital Infrastructure Strategy which sets out ways in which to improve broadband and mobile connectivity across the county.
Digital connectivity, mobile and fixed broadband, are essential for communities and businesses with the importance of these services massively highlighted by the Covid-19 crisis.
Given its importance to modern life and the connectivity it provides, it’s not surprising that digital infrastructure is now recognised as the fourth utility. Providing futureproof digital infrastructure to all residents and businesses in Cumbria, either through supporting commercial deployments, or working with central government to secure funding is vital for economic growth, education and social inclusion.
The coronavirus pandemic has only served to reinforce the importance of digital connectivity. From getting the latest information and health guidance, home working, education and learning, online access to food and supplies, staying connected to family and others and to maintain supply chains - we all now depend on the ability to connect remotely across distance.
Cumbria County Council has already successfully delivered superfast broadband connections for more than 122,000 premises through the Connecting Cumbria programme. However, gaps in coverage remain and only 6.4% of properties are currently able to access gigabit capable services therefore more investment is still needed to ensure that Cumbria catches up with and keeps pace with the rest of the UK.
Cumbria County Council is committed to improving digital connectivity through supporting investment in digital infrastructure and the launch of the Digital Infrastructure Strategy will help to do this. The county council will continue to work with service providers to support the joining of technology for seamless connectivity to services and applications through the most appropriate route. That could be through a cable or Wi-Fi connection to in-premise fixed fibre, or through 4G mobile infrastructure, either indoors or outdoors, or via fixed wireless or satellite solutions.
The new strategy also includes the work that the county council will be doing to support the Government’s ambition for delivery of improved broadband and mobile networks. The aim is to spread gigabit-capable broadband across the UK and for 95% of the UK landmass to have 4G mobile coverage from at least one mobile network operator by 2025.
Cllr David Southward, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Property said: “The importance of digital connectivity is increasing as it becomes more critical to the modern day lives of residents and productivity of businesses. This importance has been further highlighted by the coronavirus crisis and as we recover and restart, access to fast, reliable internet connectivity is no longer a luxury; it is a basic necessity for residents, local businesses and the delivery of public services.
“From living and working in Cumbria, I know first-hand some of the challenges in delivering infrastructure in our county. However, I also know how transformative good connectivity can be. As portfolio holder for economic development, digital infrastructure is my top priority given the significant economic and social benefits for Cumbria.”
The Digital Infrastructure Strategy and more information about it can be found on Connecting Cumbria.