We have a plan to ensure that everyone in Northumberland can stay connected and get online. Internet access has become a vital part of daily life and in our rural county ensuring everyone is able to get online is vital to reducing inequalities. As cabinet member for corporate services it is my responsibility to ensure Northumberland County Council is doing all it can to ensure all residents have the opportunity to access internet services.
This week it was announced that Northumberland residents would benefit from a £3.8 million fund to ensure 5G mobile connectivity as a result of our Borderlands growth deal. This will ensure that areas that have previously suffered from low mobile signal will actually benefit from the latest high speed internet connectivity even in our count's most remote areas including Kielder, the area of the Sill at Hadrian’s Wall and rural communities along the river Tweed.
We are using all tools available to ensure we can measure where more needs to be done to improve connectivity. To accurately map mobile coverage ten of our bin lorries have been fitted with a device that constantly tracks mobile connectivity. Our refuse collectors travel along virtually every road in the county and over the next month these lorries will map our mobile reception in Northumberland in full. We will do everything in our power to use this data to ensure mobile companies know where they need to invest so there's no excuse for them not providing residents with the service they need.
On the ground, the rapid rollout of superfast broadband is continuing. Rural parts of our county struggle when it comes to solutions like fibre where the nearest connection may be many miles away and unaffordable. Our voucher schemes address some of these issues. However, this only helps so much and I have directed our officers at county to consider new and imaginative approaches to helping those most difficult to reach areas including support with technology such as Star Link to bridge the divide.
Separately in September we started major improvements to our Council’s Wide Area Network “WAN” programme is fully upgrading connection to 146 council. The project which includes 164 miles of new fibre passes more than 120,000 premises which will enable them to access Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) services, benefiting people living and working in these areas. Our partner Commsworld will work with external partners to deliver FTTP services to properties in Morpeth, Ashington, Bedlington and Blyth as well as to 50,000 most digitally isolated rural properties in the county by December 2026 as part of the programme which will create over £100m of economic activity across the county.
We aim to reduce inequalities in everything we do, and our plan to ensure everyone in Northumberland can access digital services will ensure our rural communities aren't left in the dark.