Thursday 20th April, 2017
“Radical, completely radical. That’s the effect superfast broadband has had on our family. Now, all of us can do what we want when we want – simultaneously.” Said Claire Aindow, from Belmont in Lancashire
“Radical, completely radical. That’s the effect superfast broadband has had on our family. Now, all of us can do what we want when we want – simultaneously.” Said Claire Aindow, from Belmont in Lancashire
A determined community
Ollerton is a small, semi-rural village in Cheshire with a population of around 350 people and a history that goes all the way back to the Domesday Book. The village itself is a long way from the exchange that serves it. Consequently, hardly anybody in Ollerton receives speeds of more than 2Mbps.
David Malkinson, an IT consultant who moved into the village in 2011, says Ollerton is an attractive place to live: “We’re now seeing more and more young professionals moving into the area and changing the community dynamic. But too many of us have been frustrated with the slow broadband speeds. This frustration was amplified because Ollerton hasn’t been on any fibre rollout plans.”
David set up Connecting Ollerton – a local community campaign group aimed at getting faster broadband for the village. He produced fliers, knocked on doors and began collecting email addresses.
He also got in touch with the BT Community Fibre scheme to explore fibre funding options. David organised a meeting in the village hall and invited representatives from Connecting Cheshire, Openreach and the Community Fibre Partnership programme.
“That meeting was extremely positive,” says Glen Fendall from the BT Community Fibre Partnerships programme. “There was a strong sense of determination coming from the community. Connecting Cheshire was listening. Openreach was listening.”
Soon after David Malkinson set up a website for Connecting Ollerton and started gathering financial pledges from residents.
“Initially we were quoted £50,000 for the upgrade work,” says David. “That’s £50,000 to be raised by the residents to go with a £50,000 contribution from Openreach. But then thanks to more modelling done by the local council and Openreach – and the fact that the Community Fibre team found a legitimate way for us to remove the VAT, our part of the bill came down to £20,000.”
Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme comes into play Things were beginning to look a lot rosier for the residents of Ollerton. But then came an even more welcome development, as David Malkinson explains:
“I pointed out to Connecting Cheshire that if we had gone for a satellite arrangement, each of the villagers would have been entitled to a £350 Better Broadband Subsidy thanks to a scheme developed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Residents were all eligible because everyone was getting less than 2Mbps connection speeds. All those three hundred and fifty pounds added together would have paid for everything.”
“So I asked the question: ‘Why can’t the Better Broadband Subsidy scheme be applied to Ollerton?’ They replied – ‘we think it can’…and I have to say, that was a tremendous moment.”
And, after consultation with the BDUK team in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Connecting Cheshire clarified that the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme was applicable and available to Ollerton.
“After that confirmation I wasted no time at all,” says David. ‘I sped round to just about every household in Ollerton to collect everyone’s £350 voucher codes and entered them into the scheme’s website.”
Ollerton will now be the first community in the UK to be provided with access to fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband as a result of the voucher scheme.
“Fibre is now on its way,” says David Malkinson. “I must say thanks to Connecting Cheshire for being so positive and the BT Community Fibre Partnership scheme for being so responsive to our needs.”
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Although it would be accurate to describe Kings Cliffe in Northamptonshire as a small village, it’s been growing quickly in recent times. Evidence of this includes the shiny new Sovereign Grange development built on the edge of the village which features a range of homes designed to attract first time buyers as well as larger families.
Although many Kings Cliffe residents were unhappy with the broadband speeds they were getting, expectations rose when a potential solution emerged – as local broadband campaigner Sam Schofield explains: “Unfortunately Kings Cliffe wasn’t in any superfast fibre rollout plans which, of course, was frustrating for the community. But then a communications provider stepped in to say they could connect the village providing there was sufficient demand.” Continued Sam: “I live in Sovereign Grange. Lots of families, young people and professionals live here – all of us are keen internet users. So, we were thrilled that the Sovereign Grange community was to be included in the Kings Cliffe superfast upgrade. But then, after eighteen months of discussion with the proprietary fibre broadband provider we discovered that we were suddenly excluded from their plans. The rest of the village would be ok – but we were going to be left high and dry.”
Sovereign Grange community finally received some good news when Sam Schofield met with Paul Bimson, a regional partnership director with BT. Paul told Sam about BT’s Community Fibre Partnerships initiative and how it could potentially unlock a viable solution for the battle-weary community.
“Paul came along and he was a real saviour to us when we were at a low point. He was a continual presence and worked closely with our community to help us get to grips with the Community Fibre concept. He helped us to understand how we could jointly fund a cabinet upgrade with Openreach,” said Sam.
Sam Schofield then spearheaded a communications campaign to galvanise fellow Sovereign Grange residents into contributing to a fund.
“We needed to raise around £10,000 which would match the contribution from Openreach and get the project done,” said Sam. “We decided to go for online crowdfunding the money. We felt it was open, transparent and people could put in what they could afford”
Paul Bimson said: “The Sovereign Grange community made incredibly rapid progress and crowdfunding really delivered for them. Astonishingly, they hit their £10,000 target in just six weeks.”
This meant that Openreach could begin carrying out all the engineering work required including installation of a new fibre broadband cabinet and underground cables. Fibre broadband went live in Sovereign Grange in October 2016 making superfast speeds of up to 80 Mbps available to around 350 homes for the first time.
“There’s a good feeling in the community right now. What’s more, unlike the rest of Kings Cliffe who are stuck with a proprietary supplier, we are all free to choose who we go with as a service provider,” said Sam Schofield. “The Sovereign Grange community has shown real determination and vision to bounce back from earlier disappointment. I am thrilled that the Community Fibre Partnerships initiative has been able to step in and rescue the situation,” Said Paul Bimson.
Households and businesses in two picturesque Gloucestershire villages are celebrating joining the information superhighway - after fearing they might lose out on the benefits of superfast fibre broadband.
Around 400 premises in Bussage and Chalford now have access to some of the fastest broadband speeds in the country thanks to an innovative partnership with BT.
After finding out they were not included in any fibre broadband upgrades being carried out by the public or private sectors, some villagers worked with Openreach Ð BT's local network business - to come up with an alternative solution.
They have shared the costs of installing the new road-side fibre broadband cabinets and fibre optic cabling with Openreach, as part of a Community Fibre Partnership programme. Openreach has made a significant contribution to the project, with local residents raising the funds required to make up the shortfall in the commercial case for bringing fibre to these hard-to-reach communities.
Paul Severs, chairman of the Bussage and Chalford Broadband Action Group company (BCBAG Ltd), said: Faster fibre broadband is so important these days Ð to businesses as well as residents Ð because it enables us all to do everything online so much easier and more quickly.
Our group believes that fibre broadband promotes social inclusion by improving access to health, education and commercial services and supports sustainable employment by encouraging flexible approaches to working from home and the growth of small businesses.
When we realised we weren't part of any scheduled upgrade, we were naturally very disappointed. Senior managers at BT were instrumental in introducing us to the Community Fibre Partnership programme, which appeared to be our only way forward.
After three years' campaigning Ð including the last year planning with Openreach Ð the benefits to the local community, who dug deep in their pockets to fund this, are already clear, and there's no doubt that making fibre broadband available will encourage some businesses to stay, who might have otherwise relocated.
May I take this opportunity to thank those in the community who have supported BCBAG for the benefits now available to all of our community.
Anthony Pilkington, managing director of Chalford-based BookCheck Limited, whose business is book-keeping with management accounts, said: We've placed our order to upgrade to fibre and expect our broadband download speeds to soar to up to 80 megabits per second (Mbps) which, considering we've been struggling with 1.5Mbps, that's going to be life-changing! There are four people in the office here and each of them loses about half an hour a day due to slow broadband speeds and I've calculated the cost savings to my business will be £6,000 per year with superfast, as we'll be able to work more efficiently.
Kim Mears, Openreach's managing director for infrastructure delivery, said: We're committed to working with hard-to-reach communities like Bussage and Chalford to help them achieve their goal of a fast fibre connection. Rural areas often present the most difficult and complex challenges, but working together gives us the best chance possible of finding a suitable and affordable way forward, and, as a result we've actually been able to complete this work slightly earlier than originally expected.
Over the past nine months, engineers from Openreach have laid fibre optic cable and installed two new fibre broadband cabinets, which are needed to connect premises in the two villages to the main communications network.
Residents and businesses choosing to upgrade will be able to get download speeds of up to 80 megabits per second (80Mbps) and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps*. Because the Openreach network is Ôopen,' local people can choose from a wide range of fibre broadband providers.
Bill Murphy, BT's managing director of next generation access, said: A community fibre partnership like this one is an excellent solution for villages like Bussage and Chalford which fall outside any private or public sector fibre broadband roll-out plans. Our strong ambition is to Ônever say no' and rather to work together with local households to find a suitable and affordable option for communities in a similar situation. Indeed, we're already working with around 130 UK communities where local people have got together and pooled their funds alongside Openreach's substantial investment.
Superfast broadband opens up so many opportunities and enables people to do so much more online. For example, seamless online banking, being able to download films, TV or music in next to no time. But there's more to fibre broadband than faster download or upload speeds Ð families can connect more than one device to the internet at the same time without delays or buffering, whether it's for online shopping, web-based school work or gaming.
A partnership between local residents and Openreach, BT's local network division, is to make high-speed fibre broadband available to around 40 houses in Beaulieu's Dock Lane community.
Openreach will install new fibre optic cabling and upgrade the green road-side cabinet equipped with the latest Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology. High-speed fibre broadband speeds will be available for the first time from a wide range of broadband service providers. The co-funded deal, in which every Dock Lane household contributed, has just been signed and is expected to see the first residents get the high-speed service next year.
Jim Rowland, chairman of a local residents association called Hummicks Residents Ltd, who was part of the community project team leading the campaign, said: Broadband speeds are more important now than ever before. When we knew that we were not included in any current fibre broadband rollout plans, we felt that a community fibre partnership with Openreach was the best way forward. Fibre broadband can't come quickly enough for us all.
Fortunately, we have an established residents association so we were able to quickly coordinate matters such as detailed financial planning with Openreach, through the four people on the community project team.
Kim Mears, Openreach's managing director for infrastructure delivery, said: It is great to be able to work with proactive communities like Beaulieu to find a fibre broadband solution. We are working on hundreds of similar community fibre partnership programmes across the UK, which are bringing faster internet access to even more homes and businesses. Openreach is committed to making fibre broadband as widely available as possible.
Unlike other companies, Openreach offers fibre broadband access to all service providers on an open, wholesale basis, which underpins a competitive market and delivers real customer choice.
Broadband speeds are becoming increasingly important, so the residents of the Dock Lane area of picturesque Beaulieu in Hampshire were less than content with their super slow internet speeds.
When national news that came out confirming that Government funding to support BT and other suppliers to extend the UK fibre footprint to 95% of premises (i.e. not going to 100%) the community knew there would be no further plans to include their area in the rollout. The residents weren’t prepared to live with the consequences of not having superfast broadband so, working together, formed a small project team. After initial discussions with BT the community and Openreach agreed to jointly fund the fibre build – with Openreach contributing the standard amount for a fibre upgrade in line with their commercial model. There are around 40 premises in the Dock Lane community and all are set to benefit, so the cost has been split across them, thus making it an affordable option.
Jim Rowland, Chairman of the Hummicks Residents Ltd who was part of the community project team leading the campaign, said: “Good communication with the community by the project team involving detailed financial planning meant it was quite straightforward to engage with the community when the time came to raise the funds.
Fortunately we had an established residents association so we were able to coordinate everything by email through the four people on the community project team.”
Kim Mears, Openreach’s managing director for infrastructure delivery, said: “It is great to be able to work with proactive communities like Beaulieu to find a fibre broadband solution. We are working on hundreds of similar community fibre partnership programmes across the UK, which are bringing faster internet access to even more homes and businesses.”
Residents are now looking forward to having a superfast service on the network, which will offer access to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis, enabling them to choose from a number of suppliers so they can choose the best deal for their own needs.
Superfast broadband opens up many opportunities, enabling people to do so much more online. For example being able to download films, TV shows or music in next to no time, seamless online banking and the ability for some residents to work from home. But there’s a lot more to fibre broadband than faster upload and download speeds. Everyone at home can do their own thing online, simultaneously. Whether it’s web-based school or college work, live video chats, online multi-player gaming or doing the weekly shop.
Preston, a small Hertfordshire village 30 miles north of London, was the first in the UK to co-fund its very own superfast broadband network with BT. Residents are now reaping all kinds of rewards from the internet, and the community-funded partnership has become a blueprint for similar schemes throughout the country.
With only 300 residents in 130 properties, many households in the village of Preston were experiencing slow broadband speeds of just 0.5 Mbps.
The small size of the population, coupled with the rural location of the village meant that it wasn't commercially viable for Openreach – the part of BT that provides the vital infrastructure which is the foundation of the UK's vibrant internet economy – to install fibre broadband there.
At the time, the government's BDUK scheme was years away, and a wireless option had been discounted due to the high cost involved. So local residents decided to intervene to get Preston into the digital fast lane.
Working in partnership with Openreach a 'Community Fibre Partnership' approach was developed, using a solution costing £38,000. This cost was the actual funding gap between the cost of the Openreach commercial case and the actual deployment cost. The Preston village got together and community funded the difference, which covered extending the fibre network from the telephone exchange, installing a new fibre cabinet on the village green and connecting it to the existing copper cabinet.
Most residents of Preston now enjoy between 40Mbps and 60Mbps, with some properties getting blistering speeds of up to 80Mbps. What's more, this community-funded partnership became the blueprint for similar partnership schemes with other rural and isolated UK communities.
As a result of superfast broadband, two small businesses in Preston were able to remain viable, which was looking highly unlikely with the previous super-slow broadband speeds. Not to mention the local children too are now benefiting from superfast broadband; an infant school, a junior school and a private girls' college are all benefiting from online learning. Even the road traffic was noted to have reduced as more people have been able to work, study and shop from home due to their improved internet service.
Fed up of their internet speeds of around 1-2Mbps, a small group of residents in the Leicestershire village of Coleorton partnered with Openreach, BT's local network business, to bring superfast broadband to their village. People living in Coleorton Hall, a Grade II listed building converted into 22 residential apartments, weren't included in any fibre broadband plans so approached Openreach to find a solution. Working together, the community and Openreach agreed to jointly fund the fibre build – with Openreach contributing the standard amount for a fibre upgrade in line with their commercial model. The community worked together so as to gap fund the additional costs to serve their area.
This partnership represented a major milestone nationwide, as Coleorton became the 50th community in the UK to be connected to the fibre broadband network after taking positive community action and working directly with Openreach.
A new roadside fibre broadband cabinet was installed just outside the entrance to the Hall, as previously each property was connected by ‘exchange only' telephone lines.
"We're committed to working with communities like Coleorton to help them achieve their goal of a fast fibre connection. Rural areas often present the most difficult and complex challenges but working together gives us the best chance possible of finding a suitable and affordable way forward." Said Kim Mears, Openreach's managing director for infrastructure delivery.
It's not just those living in Coleorton Hall who benefit. Around 120 homes and businesses across the wider village can also sign-up to fibre broadband thanks to the newly installed network.
Broadband speeds are more important now than ever before, particularly in rural areas. Having access to superfast broadband opens up many opportunities, enabling people to do so much more online now than before.
Residents are now enjoying a superfast service on the network, which is open to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis, enabling them to choose from a number of internet suppliers. They're enjoying download speeds of up to 80 Mbps.
Bill Murphy, BT's Managing Director for Next Generation Access, said: "We've been very clear that we'll never say no to any community wanting to work with us. The residents of Coleorton Hall have shown great vision in joining together with Openreach to secure access to the fibre broadband network. It's a major step forward for the village and fibre opens up endless opportunities for people living and working locally."
Binfield Heath had not been included in BT's commercial fibre roll-out plans because the economics of delivering fibre broadband to this small community were too challenging. However, residents were determined to find a way to enhance the network to serve their village so by contributing additional funding, they were able to help BT build a case for bringing fibre to the area. Villagers felt that the 'gap funded' model provided by BT as a solution was the one which best met their needs as it meant that they didn't need to fund the total cost of the new infrastructure required. Instead, they funded the difference between the commercial cost of deployment and the actual cost of enabling a fibre service in this remote community. This was 'the gap'.
Village residents got together to raise monies to contribute towards the cost of upgrading and rearranging the network serving the village, including the installation of two new cabinets and a fibre link back to the local exchange. In return, the majority of local households and businesses have access to superfast broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps.
Residents who live closest to the new fibre street cabinets can take advantage of download speeds of over 50Mbps. The majority of homes can get between 25Mbps and 40Mbps. Upload speeds are generally a quarter of download speeds and that's a real bonus, especially for people in the community who work from home.
"Openreach is rolling out superfast fibre broadband around the country" commented Paul Rollason, "so they should know what they're doing and they most certainly did."
The added advantage of the Openreach infrastructure to communities like Binfield Heath is it's available to all communications providers in the UK, including all the major High Street brands.
This 'open access' promotes healthy competition, keeps retail prices down and allows people to choose the deal that suits them best from any Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) provider.
Bill Murphy, BT's Managing Director for Next Generation Access, said: "Binfield Heath's residents recognised the importance of access to fibre broadband from a range of providers, which our open network delivers. They really engaged with us around the best solution for their community, and together we found a way to bring superfast speeds to almost the entire village; it's a fantastic result."
"We're keen for other communities to talk to us about their options; we want to provide faster speeds to as many people as possible and in many cases local residents can make a real difference in bringing fibre to their area."
Spearheaded by Ravenstonedale Parish Council, the Fell End Broadband project was set up as an innovative 'self-dig' scheme in remote Cumbria. Around 60 deeply rural homes – spread across a 15Km network – are now able to access ultrafast speeds of up to a blistering 330Mbps after residents helped to pay for and build the fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband network themselves. The groundbreaking project was launched to bring phenomenal internet speeds to Fell End by laying fibre optic cable from the internet backbone.
The completed community funded fibre broadband project is the culmination of four years of fundraising, planning and engineering work. BT covered half of the project costs, and the other half was co-funded by the Rural Community Broadband Fund, the Prince's Countryside Fund, The Holehird Trust, TalkTalk and Digital Heroes. BT also provided extensive network materials and manpower.
Residents are now enjoying a superfast service on the network, which is open to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis, enabling them to choose from a number of suppliers.
Delighted customer Paul Bonsall, who runs the Fat Lamb Country Inn and Restaurant, said: "We've gone from about 2Mbps to around 60Mbps which is fantastic. We could have gone much faster but we decided that would be OK for now. We are quite heavily reliant on a good broadband connection for our business. Our guests expect to have a good wi-fi connection, they want to be able to upload images of their holidays straight away on social media to show their friends and family what they have been doing. Now we have enough bandwidth to keep everyone happy all of the time."
Fellow resident Kathy Trimmer said: "Before superfast, you'd get half way through a banking transaction and the connection would crash so you didn't feel safe banking online, but it feels perfectly safe now. You no longer have to get in the car to do a 15 mile round trip to do a simple banking transaction." She went on to say: "We don't have digital radio and the FM signal here is poor so now we can listen to the radio on the internet and also use it to watch TV. Life's improved a lot."
Bill Murphy, managing director of next generation access for BT added: "The people of Fell End are true pioneers who have worked tirelessly with boundless enthusiasm and commitment to see this ambitious project to fruition. Fell End is a tiny remote community that now has the digital world right on its doorstep. Households and businesses can now exploit superfast broadband to its full potential, on a par with any town or city – supporting economic growth and strengthening community connectivity for social benefit.
"Elsewhere, we're continuing to work with other communities to make ultrafast broadband available to other challenging areas of the UK."