Rishi Sunak and B4RN CEO, Michael Lee.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak visited a remote B4RN project and paid tribute to volunteers who brought gigabit full fibre broadband there.

The MP for Richmond (Yorks) also talked about Project Gigabit in Cotterdale. He learned from CEO Michael Lee and COO Tom Rigg how gigabit voucher funding is helping B4RN level up the connectivity of previously underserved rural areas.

The Cotterdale project was part-funded by the Government’s broadband gigabit voucher scheme for rural areas, funded by DCMS, which contributed £47,000 towards the total cost of the scheme.

Mr. Sunak was invited to complete the last connection for the Cotterdale project – a remote hut on the estate, which now boasts 1,000Mbps broadband. He joined the fibre to the property using a process called “splicing” under the watchful eye of B4RN Connections Engineer, Stephen Cottam.

Rishi Sunak having a go at splicing with connections engineer, Steve Cottam.

The Chancellor was then shown a speedtest of the connection – noting both the upload and download speeds were way beyond anything he got in London.

He then met with dedicated local volunteers who helped promote, plan, and build the gigabit network – including the volunteer champion for Cotterdale, David Colley, who has a background in telecoms. Landowners were also present, who granted B4RN crucial free wayleaves. At the end of the visit, he cut some cake – a vital fuel for all the B4RN team!

B4RN CEO Michael Lee said: “It was great that the Chancellor was able to witness the completion of another successful B4RN project, as we continue to deliver on our promise to connect the hardest to reach communities in the country with full fibre infrastructure. B4RN projects are only possible thanks to a combination of voucher funding from the Government and the hard work and dedication of communities – it was great to see these two elements coming together in a remote corner of northern England today. My thanks go to David Colley and his group of hardy volunteers, as well as all the local landowners who supported this project and the Yorkshire Dales National Park.”

Rishi Sunak said he was most impressed by what had been achieved in Cotterdale by local people and B4RN, supported by the National Park and the Government: “This is a tremendous example of what can be achieved. Cotterdale is one of the most isolated parts of my constituency and yet it now has broadband speed and quality better than many of our cities.

He added: “The volunteers and B4RN have done an excellent job in overcoming geographical isolation and I am delighted that scheme has also been assisted by £47,000 of Government funding – direct to households and businesses – through the Gigabit Broadband Voucher scheme.”

Rishi Sunak meets local volunteers and landowners.

Local B4RN volunteer champion, David Colley, said: “This is an immense leap forward for Cotterdale and its residents. The hard work of our four volunteers, coupled with the generosity of spirit of local landowners, shows what a small community can achieve.

“In twelve months, with the support of B4RN, Cotterdale has moved from a forgotten, neglected backwater to being amongst the fastest connected communities in the UK.

“The tables have turned somewhat, as we now visit our children in Leeds, London etc. and complain about their internet!”

Local volunteers dug in around six miles of ducting. The network was laid about three miles along the roadside of the A684 from the Moorcock Inn in Upper Wensleydale to Thwaite Bridge Farm, before being led north over the fell and into Cotterdale.

The Sustainable Development Fund officer at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Andrea Burden, said: “We have been ready supporters of communities working with B4RN.  Not only does it provide broadband speeds that can support new businesses, home-working and educational access but it does so in a way that has almost no impact on the special landscape of the National Park.  Last year we funded a similar community scheme in Mallerstang and this year we’re supporting more projects in Ravenstonedale and Wharton in Cumbria.”

Rishi Sunak cut some cake to mark completion of the Cotterdale Project.