Local champion Brian Smythe taking the Secretary of State through the route map.

Secretary of State for DCMS, Nadine Dorries, visited the Kirkoswald B4RN project to meet local volunteers and see first-hand the impact of gigabit voucher funding.

Ms. Dorries watched a cabinet being installed; saw a moleplough in action; and even got to try splicing some fibre.

She then had tea and cake (the fuel of the B4RN army!) with volunteers at Kirkoswald Methodist Church.

B4RN staff – including CEO Michael Lee and Chief Operating Officer Tom Rigg – and contractors were also there.

Ms. Dorries said: “It’s really exciting to see – from October until now – this is a whole community which is going to benefit. They’ve got almost nothing now and to think they’ll go up to gigabit by June – the opportunities that will present to families and businesses.

“[B4RN] use innovative measures to achieve the end result. They don’t let an obstacle get in their way, they plough through and find a way. It’s nimble, it finds solutions to get everyone connected.”

The Secretary of State meets local volunteers.

Local champion volunteer, Brian Smythe, said the local group of volunteers had risen to the challenge with B4RN: “People have enjoyed it. Everybody on our side has enjoyed it. We’ve had people who’ve moved into the area and they’re just amazed in terms of what’s going on here.”

Brian added he hoped the day had sent the message that gigabit vouchers are working: “It’s great to get the publicity, and I hope this has an impact in Whitehall.”

MP for Penrith & The Border, Dr. Neil Hudson, said: “I’ve been working with the local community, working with B4RN, and putting pressure on government to secure the gigabit voucher scheme. This is living proof we are getting to the really rural areas.”

Dr. Hudson also took time to recognise the volunteers: “These are community champions, people in their own time volunteering and getting together, this is community at its best. The pandemic has brought into sharp relief the importance of being connected with each other.”

Kirkoswald is B4RN’s first project in the Eden Valley. 68km of ducting will bring B4RN’s gigabit full fibre broadband network to 458 properties. Work began in October 2021 – the first customers are due live in June with the project completed a month later.

The Secretary of State with local MP Dr. Neil Hudson and B4RN CEO Michael Lee.

The Secretary of State had a going at splicing fibre.