Engineers swap holes for poles to link up remote hamlet with Ultrafast broadband

Households and businesses in Howtown now have access to some of the fastest broadband speeds in Cumbria – after engineers found a low-tech solution to link them up with fibre. The tourist hotspot had previously proven beyond the reach of high speed fibre broadband, separated from the nearest telephone exchange by a 2km stretch of challenging fellside.

However, engineers from Openreach came up with a solution by hanging a fibre optic cable from a string of specially built telegraph poles. The cable was then split out and fed directly to the 15 individual households and businesses in the hamlet – using FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) technology.

Openreach senior operations manager, Matt Fishwick explained: "Some areas were completely inaccessible to the vehicles and equipment needed to lay fibre in the ground. The only way round it was to hang the fibre cable from poles. But there weren’t any poles to hitch it to so we had to erect several new poles along the fellside.

"We had engineers with these 10m long poles which each weigh about 300kg, over their backs walking up the fell for about a mile. There are some tracks but you can’t get a vehicle up there so the only way of doing it is by hand. Some serious heavy lifting was involved.”

Engineers also had the task of connecting up the overhead fibre link with the cable running back to the telephone exchange in Pooley Bridge. More than 4km of fibre spine was put in place using newly built or existing roadside ducts. Blockages in the ducts had to be cleared, with giant de-silting machinery brought in to clear debris washed into the ducts by rainfall over the years.

One business due to benefit from fibre is the Howtown Hotel. Owner David Baldry commented: "Although technology is not at the forefront of our business, having fibre broadband will most certainly be a welcome addition for tearoom visitors as well as those families who come to our self-catering cottages throughout the year, wishing to stay in touch with family and friends.”

People struggling with broadband speeds who are not included in a plan can visit www.communityfibre.com to find how to help bring superfast broadband to their local area.