Broadband for business

These case studies show how faster broadband can bring benefits to businesses in our parishes.

If you run a business in Matterdale or Martindale, tell us what superfast broadband would mean to you.

Outward Bound Trust
Sundog Energy Ltd
Fit to Print Ltd
Grant Cowley
Dr Tristan McGee
Nic and Monica Tweddell

Outward Bound Trust

“We need a reliable consistent service at both sites”

The Outward Bound Trust is the organization for outdoor adventure in the UK and for over 60 years has influenced the lives of more than a million young people. Outward Bound has two centres on either side of Ullswater at Watermillock and Howtown.

Richard Nelson, Outward Bound’s IT manager, says:

“The current ADSL connection speeds at Outward Bound Ullswater are around 0.5Mbps, upload is 0.28Mbps. In addition the line tends to be unreliable, with frequent data loss. The line at Howtown is so slow and unreliable that we had to install a wireless link across the lake to make IT usage viable at this site.

Of particular interest to us as a business is the upload speed. With ADSL the “headline” speed is 20Mbps download, however the upload speed is often in the region of 0.5Mbps. As our site to site links run at the speed of the slowest part, a 1Mbps symmetrical link is of greater value than a 20Mbps down, 0.5Mbps up service.

The poor data performance makes it difficult to provide a reliable, consistent service to our employees at both sites, which impacts our ability to operate effectively as an organisation. Were a faster service to become available, at reasonable cost, The Outward Bound Trust would certainly sign up for it. We have investigated many options in the past, and found them to either be uneconomic or unproven.

The Outward Bound Trust recognises the importance of this issue in rural areas and will fully support and encourage all efforts to improve data connectivity, believing this to be an essential service that will assist the growth both of our business and the wider rural economy.”

Sundog Energy Ltd

“Vital for entrepreneurs”
Sundog Energy Ltd is one of the largest and fastest-growing independent companies in the UK, designing, supplying and installing systems that generate electricity from solar energy. The company began life in Matterdale End before recently moving to larger premises at the North Lakes Business Park, Penrith.
Martin Cotterell, Managing Director and Cumbria Director of the Year 2009, says:

“Having broadband is absolutely essential to our business. We communicate and transfer huge amounts of data electronically every day. While thankful to have a connection, unlike some near neighbours in the valley, our broadband speed available in Matterdale was nevertheless very slow by the standards expected by most companies. The government aims to encourage entrepreneurs to start-up businesses which we did ourselves 15 years ago, but without proper broadband the challenges are even greater.”

Fit to Print Ltd

“Creative and digital businesses struggle to keep up”

Ali Turnbull is a web content editor who runs her own business, Fit to Print, from home in Watermillock.

“I work online for web developers across the North West, updating and refreshing web content. My clients build innovative content management systems to upload new material to the web. But with download speeds averaging 0.5Mbps and upload speeds of 0.4Mbps, I’m left twiddling my thumbs previewing and refreshing every time I want to clean up a spelling mistake or a stray apostrophe.

Remote meetings can save me a day’s travel. But my fuzzy telephone line means that voice calls are punctuated with ‘sorry’ and ‘pardon?’ and video calls are pixelated, which doesn’t give a very good impression of me or my business.

The NWDA boasts that the North West is ‘Europe’s Second Largest Media Hub’ with the creative and digital industries generating more than £16 billion a year. But by ‘North West’ they really mean Manchester and Liverpool.

Apparently 18 million metres of optical fibre have gone into the first phase of the new Media City UK complex in Salford Quays. That’s approximately the distance from Penrith to Auckland NZ. You’d think they’d have a few miles of the stuff left to get over to Dufton or down to Patterdale, wouldn’t you?

Those of us in rural areas who are an essential part of North West’s creative and digital industries will struggle to keep up until we can take advantage of fibre-optic technology.”

Grant Cowley

“No longer a luxury but a necessity”

Grant Cowley works locally as a finance manager having moved from New York to Matterdale five years ago.

“I had happily got used to my high-speed cable connection in my apartment in New York and struggled desperately on moving to Matterdale as, after some failed attempts by BT, we were summarily dismissed and BT told us that we were too far from our local exchange to be able to get reliable broadband. Every time I wanted to check my e-mail I had to go to Eden Rural Foyer in Penrith, or a cafe in Patterdale.

We tried a one-way satellite service for a while which used a downlink via satellite and an uplink via the telephone, but the company pulled the plug, citing the fact that it was not economical for them. We then looked at two-way satellite but the costs were enormous. Lastly, thanks to the efforts of a near neighbour in the valley, we were given the opportunity to subscribe to a microwave link. The speed is not brilliant and there has been some downtime but it is thankfully better than dial-up. Our worry is what would happen if the company behind the service should decide to exit? We would be back to square one.

It’s not just a trite matter of Facebook or Twitter access: the Government itself is pushing people towards using online services. For example, I file my tax return on-line, and HM Revenue & Customs has stipulated that everyone who registers for VAT after 1st April 2010 must file electronically. Broadband is no longer a luxury in a modern progressive society but a necessity.”

Dr Tristan McGee

“I look to the present Government to deliver!”
Tristan McGee is a barrister who runs various businesses from his home in Matterdale.

“I run a Law Practice and a business consultancy. I also part-own a publishing business with my son, who runs the Nottingham office. We rely heavily on e-mail and the internet, and a reliable service is crucial to all my business interests. Previously I used a satellite link because broadband was not available to me. More recently I have subscribed to a wireless system, which was set up in the valley a few years ago.

I am connected to the mast via a relay installed at a neighbouring property. Unfortunately this system has not proved wholly reliable and, whilst it has improved, there were occasions where I was off the internet for many days. This caused immeasurable difficulties for my various businesses.

The previous Government promised all sorts of things in order to help rural communities get reliable broadband connections, but they failed wholesale in this valley. I look to the present Government to deliver!”

Nic and Monica Tweddell

“Save us the trip to Penrith”
Nic and Monica Tweddell live in Martindale where Monica works as a copy editor with publishers (mostly Penguin).

All her communication with others who are working on a book is by email; there is no difficulty with simple text emails, but large attachments are very slow to send or receive – at least 5 minutes for 1Mbps.

Nic says:

“If we want to download large files, such as program updates or new applications, we have to go to Penrith and bring things back on a memory stick. We also go to Penrith for internet research. Increasingly, it is assumed that everyone has a broadband connection; for example the latest version of our antivirus software automatically tries to download new virus definitions as soon as we are online. Our connection cannot cope with this, but the automatic download cannot be disabled. More and more organisations expect you to carry out tasks online: banking, tax returns, etc.

We have a dial-up internet connection; our service provider is Virgin. Our house is 6 miles from the telephone exchange at Pooley Bridge; BT advertising says that we could receive broadband, but when we talk to BT engineers they say that we might get a very slow connection but that it would drop out continually. Virgin state a connection speed of 0.033Mbps, but it is often slower than this: I measured a recent download at 0.015Mbps.

If we had a reliable broadband connection we would not need to go to Penrith for large downloads and for internet research, and we would be able to make use of facilities such as BBC iPlayer.”