RURAL villagers have become the latest to benefit from high-speed fibre broadband thanks to a multi-million pound programme.

About 100 homes and businesses in Whorlton, Teesdale, can now enjoy broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps as part of the Digital Durham programme.

A further 70 premises in nearby Greta Bridge and Wycliffe are set to follow, with work under way to provide them with ultrafast broadband.

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Digital Durham is a partnership of local authorities - led by Durham County Council and BT Group - which aims to bring superfast broadband to homes and businesses in areas not included in commercial fibre roll-outs.

Resident, Whorlton Parish councillor and member of a Teesdale Area Action Partnership committee involved with the project, David Kinch, said: “The news that Whorlton can expect fibre broadband two months before Christmas is wonderful news for all the residents of the village, especially when we were not expecting it until the New Year.

“Well done to everyone who made it happen and thank you for this early Christmas present. It’s going to make a massive difference to many people in the village.”

Across Teesdale around 10,000 premises have been upgraded by engineers from Openreach, the business responsible for Britain’s largest phone and broadband network. Most recently additional properties in Gainford have joined those upgraded earlier in the roll-out including Barnard Castle, Cotherstone, Bowes, Barningham, Staindrop, Romaldkirk and Eggleston.

A further 456 will be upgraded under current roll-out plans.

Councillor Joy Allen, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for transformation, said: “Broadband is an essential part of modern life – it is used for everything from homework to shopping to farming.

"Providing the necessary technology to more rural areas such as Teesdale involves extra challenges and there is no quick way to make it happen.

"But good progress continues to be made through Digital Durham and we are committed to making superfast broadband available to as many people as we can through the partnership using the funding we have available.”

For more information about the Digital Durham programme visit digitaldurham.org