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Bristol’s historic bridge pressed into service for rural broadband

Gigaclear is running cables underneath Bristol’s historic Clifton Suspension Bridge to bring ultrafast full-fibre services to forgotten communities

Rural full-fibre broadband supplier Gigaclear has received permission to run cables underneath the deck of the historic Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, to bring ultrafast broadband services to rural communities in north Somerset for the first time.

Because of the unique geography of the area, the 154-year-old Clifton Suspension Bridge is the only existing crossing point over the Avon Gorge to the west of the city.

This means that while Bristol has developed into one of the UK’s better-connected urban areas, the more isolated communities on the west side of the gorge are still making do with antiquated copper networks, receiving speeds of under 1Mbps, despite being a few minutes’ drive from the city centre.

The Clifton project is being conducted under the auspices of the wider Connecting Devon and Somerset Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project – through which Gigaclear holds a contract to address the needs of around 53,000 homes and businesses across both counties.

By running fibre cables across the bridge, it hopes to not only address the needs of locals in nearby villages, such as Abbots Leigh, but to help it roll out its fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network footprint more widely into north Somerset.

“Not since 1935 has another utilities provider crossed the bridge directly, and we’re delighted to be helping Gigaclear bring this life-changing service to locals,” said Chris Booy, chairman of the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust.

“By taking the direct route, there will be no disruption and is a win-win for everybody in the community. It’s amazing to see this monument of British engineering being utilised as a catalyst for modern infrastructure.”

By running the cables underneath the deck of the bridge itself, Gigaclear said besides avoiding road closures on a critical route, the new cables would both be shielded from the weather and less prone to damage, helping it guarantee a more resilient broadband service.

“Over 150 years ago, Clifton Suspension Bridge was a pioneering development, linking communities together using what was revolutionary technology for the time. Today, Gigaclear is using the best technology the 21st century can offer to move forgotten communities into the modern age,” said Gigaclear chief executive Matthew Hare.

“Our focus is to ensure that rural communities have access to the latest and very best quality broadband technology. This investment into the broadband infrastructure in Bristol and Somerset will ultimately help to drive the area’s digital economy, providing future-proof connectivity.”

Elfan Ap Rees, North Somerset Council deputy leader, added: “We are keen to see our rural communities in North Somerset receiving better high speed broadband connections, especially for those who work from home. Anything that brings that objective closer is welcome.”

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