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Tony Blair Witnesses Broadband
By: MarkJ - 23 January, 2004 (1:16 PM)

Prime Minister Tony Blair visited his local telephone exchange today, he was there to witness it being upgraded by BT and help with the unveiling of One NorthEast's plans to extend broadband into every community of the region:


One NorthEast and BT in 10 million project to extend broadband to every North East exchange

Prime Minister Tony Blair visited his local telephone exchange today to see it being upgraded for high speed broadband internet services. He also welcomed the unveiling of regional development agency One NorthEast's plans to extend broadband to every community in the region.

Following a competitive tender exercise, One NorthEast has named BT as successful bidder to deliver the agency's objectives of making the North East a flagship for broadband Britain. Every exchange in the region is now set to get ADSL broadband by March 2005.

Prime Minister, Rt Hon Tony Blair MP said: "Information technology is transforming our world and broadband is at the forefront of this revolution. By speeding up communication, broadband is opening up new opportunities in almost every area of our lives.

It will play a central role in the reform of our public services, improving our competitiveness and building a modern digitally connected Britain. I am delighted these benefits are coming to Trimdon and the rest of the North East.

One NorthEast chairman Margaret Fay said: "This scheme will mean the North East leads the country in terms of urban and rural broadband infrastructure, helping to break down the barriers faced by people currently outside the reach of broadband.

It will allow people to work from home successfully in rural areas, potentially starting new businesses and bringing opportunity into areas currently unable to take advantage of high speed internet services.

The project will bring broadband within reach of almost 95 per cent of North East homes and businesses. Those further than 6km from their local exchange are out of reach of the current technology.

Ben Verwaayen, BT chief executive, said: "The vision that One NorthEast has shown with this groundbreaking project will see the North East lead the way in getting towards 100 per cent availability of broadband.

The switch on here in Trimdon is another step in creating a broadband Britain. We share the Prime Minister's passion for broadband and its ability to make the UK more competitive. But the broadband story is not just about availability or entertainment - it's about businesses knowing how it can help them compete more strongly; school pupils and students using it to help with their studies; the delivery of public services being transformed; and people using it to develop their skills and help find work.

Ben Verwaayen praised local campaigners who worked to raise awareness of the benefits of broadband with their friends and neighbours. "The part played by local campaigners everywhere has been vital in driving awareness and demand so BT can focus delivery on the areas where demand is strongest. The campaigners here in Trimdon have been out in all weathers delivering leaflets and explaining the benefits of broadband and their efforts deserve to be recognised."

Michael Callachan, 18, a graphics design student at New College, Durham, got involved in the local campaign after work initiated by people involved in the Trimdon Digital Village project, including BT engineer Mike Clare who lives in the village.

Michael Callachan used the web design skills being developed on his BTEC college course to set up the broadband4trimdon website and encourage more people to sign up for broadband. He said: "The campaign was getting there when I got involved so I set up the website to keep the momentum going to help reach the target we needed to bring broadband to Trimdon. BT provided us with leaflets to encourage people to sign up and I bribed my 14-year-old brother Stuart to help me deliver them!

People have said they want broadband so they can play online games faster and download music. The fact you can use the phone at the same time is great. I'm hoping to do more work as a web designer so having broadband means I'll be able to download and send images and web pages just as fast here in Trimdon as in a large town or city.

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