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Rural Broadband in the UK: What is it?

What is Rural Broadband? 

​Latest news stories about Rural BroadbandRural Broadband is a term applied to any method of broadband delivery for rural residents of the UK. 

Due to the nature of the UK’s comms infrastructure, there are isolated pockets of the UK – most of them rural – where broadband internet services aren’t accessible over BT’s old phone lines. 

This is the UK’s so-called ‘Digital Divide’ which for years has seen those in the sticks languish on sub-1Mbps speeds while some in the big cities enjoy fibre broadband up to 1Gbps in speed

Rural Broadband service providers and projects have had enough and are stepping in to bridge the divide. 

Rural Broadband: What is it?

Rural Broadband can refer to virtually any method that sees broadband being brought into remote parts of the UK or rural regions where only dial-up levels of speed were before possible. Rural Broadband solutions range from projects like B4RN – Broadband For the Rural North – which uses point-to-point FTTP fibre broadband – to WiSpire, which uses parish church spires to beam wireless broadband to villages.

Rural Broadband: How is it funded?

The Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) and BDUK

One of the most highly publicised ways in which rural broadband is being funded is through the Rural Community Broadband Fund or RCBF.

The RCBF, jointly funded by Defra and BDUK, is aimed at the 10 per cent hardest to reach areas, with the intent of bringing “enhanced or superfast broadband solutions” beyond the minimum 2Mbps standard which the Government hopes to have delivered by 2015.

This £20 million fund is open to social and community enterprises; local community groups and trusts, charities and companies aimed at serving a rural community with super-fast broadband. The RCBF will provide up to 50 per cent of total ‘eligible’ costs to communities located in hard-to-reach locations who can demonstrate a local need and a demand for superfast broadband, and the ability to make it happen at a reasonable cost.

As well as this, money from the £530 million BDUK pot has been set aside for regional broadband projects like those seen in North Yorkshire and Wales. Though not strictly Rural Broadband solutions in the sense that these contracts will see money spent on upgrading towns and cities, these contracts will also see faster fixed-line broadband extending into some rural areas too.

In both cases these regional contracts, awarded to BT, will see 90 per cent of homes and businesses getting broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps by the end of 2014, with faster speeds of up to 330Mbps available in some areas.

The remaining 10 per cent of premises will get broadband speeds of at least 2Mbps. By applying for money from RCBF, community projects and companies can look at increasing coverage of faster broadband in these areas.

For more information on how rollout of fibre broadband in the UK is funded, read our Fibre Broadband and BDUK feature.

Rural Broadband: What technologies are used to deliver it?

What are Altnets? What is Rural Fibre Broadband?

One of the more highly publicised ways in which the Digital Divide can be narrowed is by independent rural fibre projects that exist outside of the BDUK/BT rollout process.

Altnets (alternative networks) include projects such as B4RN and Gigaclear which have begun rolling out 1Gbps fibre in Lancashire and Rutland respectively.

Cotswolds Broadband aims to connect 90 per cent of rural homes and businesses to FTTP fibre broadband in Chipping Norton.

CityFibre Holdings and Digital Region are other examples of altnets though their remits are less rural. CityFibre Holdings operates an FTTP fibre network connecting 24,000 homes in Bournemouth. Digital Region provides FTTC broadband to a number of homes in Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield.

Funding for altnets either comes from local communities themselves (as is the case with B4RN), from BDUK and the Rural Broadband Development Fund (Cotswold Broadband) the European Regional Development Fund/EDRF (as is the case with Digital Region) or a combination of public and government money.

What is Satellite Broadband?

Satellite broadband is a popular rural broadband solution. As it beams broadband signals to and from your house, distance to your local exchange doesn’t matter – you don’t have to have a phone line at all to use satellite broadband. You can even use satellite broadband dishes to pick up Sky or Freesat TV. This makes satellite broadband doubly useful if you live in an area where you can’t get cable or Freeview reception isn’t great. Though you’re guaranteed coverage virtually anywhere, downsides of satellite broadband include strict usage caps and expensive initial set up.

There are three main types of satellite broadband available in the UK, Tooway, SES Broadband and Avanti Broadband.

Tooway uses Eutelsat’s satellite footprint which covers all of the UK and Europe delivering speeds of up to 18Mbps downstream and 6Mbps upstream. In the UK five ISPs sell Tooway satellite broadband; Avonline, Tooway Direct, Bentley Walker, Broadband Wherever and Onwave Limited.

SES Broadband is supplied exclusively in the UK by BeyonDSL. Nationwide coverage is guaranteed and top download speeds are 10Mbps with top uploads peaking at 256Kbps. Though slower than Tooway, BeyonDSL gives you the option to buy additional data once you’ve exceeded your monthly quota and make use of unlimited data between 11pm and 5am.

Avanti Broadband provides nationwide coverage and download speeds of up to 10Mbps and upload speeds of up to 2.5Mbps. Individual services, packages and prices aren’t listed on Avanti’s site, meaning you have to enquire directly to get a quote.

What is Wireless Broadband/Wi-Fi Broadband/Radio Broadband?

Wireless Broadband (also known as Wi-Fi Broadband or Radio Broadband) is another popular way of getting broadband into homes where ADSL isn’t available/good enough or fibre won’t reach.

Wireless broadband can be delivered by retransmitting signals from a radio mast fixed at a high location, like a church spire or water tower, or via a network of radio masts or a combination of masts.

Receiving antennas on homes can then pick up the wireless signal, running down an Ethernet cable into the house where it’s connected to a wireless router. Your rooftop antenna basically replaces the traditional BT master socket.

Notable providers of wireless broadband in the UK include Allpay, exWavia, FibreWiFi, Vispa and WiSpire.

  Rural Broadband: What is it?  

What is 4G/fixed-location cellular broadband?

Rural Broadband: What is it?4G still isn’t live in the UK and won’t be until the lengthy spectrum auction process is over. Ofcom intends to get going by the end of this year, with an anticipated rollout of services taking place in spring 2013 by the earliest.

As well as allowing for faster web browsing on mobile phones and tablets, 4G will allow for broadband services in the home.

This will be of interest to those who aren’t due to be connected to a rural broadband network from BT or an altnet for some time and can’t, for structural or contractual reasons, fix a satellite dish to their house. 4G antennas are also much smaller than a satellite dish, so they’re less affected by planning rules.

Live 4G trials undertaken by Everything Everywhere (which runs Orange and T-Mobile) have shown that speeds of 20Mbps can be achieved in fixed locations. Threkfeld in Cumbria (pictured) was specifically chosen by Everything Everything to see how viable 4G would be as a rural broadband solution.

4G fixed-location broadband won’t be available as an option until next year the way things are going. However Everything Everywhere’s invested a lot in 4G and is pretty much ready to go once the green light is given; we understand that it intends to launch fixed-location 4G broadband products as soon as possible.

What is Sub Loop Unbundling (SLU) Broadband?

Sub Loop Unbundling (SLU) is a way in which broadband speeds can be boosted by installing extra cabinets on a BT line. This essentially extends the reach of the network and increases the speeds available in sub-2Mbps areas.

CallFlow promises speeds of up to 20Mbps once its SLU equipment has been installed. Again, as with ADSL broadband, the actual speed you’ll get is dependent on distance, except that speed is then determined by the distance you are from the street cabinet rather than the distance from the exchange.

As a rule of thumb, CallFlow says to expect 17Mbps if you’re 1km away from the cabinet area, 12Mbps if you’re 1-2km away and 6Mbps from 2-3km away. Outside of this you’re not likely to see a significant uplift in speed.

Which ISPs provide rural broadband?

  • Airband: Airband is a provider of wireless broadband. Residential packages start from £17.50/month for a 4Mbps down and 1Mbps up service, to £22/month for 20Mbps and 1Mbps up. Airband is available in parts of Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire and Powys. Recent rollout in Powys has seen Airband coming to Arddleen, Crew Green, Guilsfield, Llandrino, Llanfechain and Pontrobert areas.
  • Allpay: based in and around Hereford on the Welsh-English border, Allpay supplies wireless broadband providing speeds of up to 35Mbps. Standard installation costs £100 (with the option to spread the cost over 12, 18 and 24 months) and you’ve got the option to sign up for packages with unlimited usage.
  • Alton Broadband: Wireless community ISP providing service to the Suffolk village of Tattingstone at 7Mbps, using a wireless relay from the church tower, with equipment supplied by Clannet.
  • B4RN: a rural community project that’s largely self-funded, but has also seen money coming in from a genius ‘sponsor a metre of fibre’ campaign.
  • Beeline Broadband: High speed wireless internet for Ryedale on the North Yorkshire Moors, part of the NYnet project to improve rural broadband in North Yorkshire.
  • Bentley Walker: Bentley Walker is a satellite broadband provider that sells Tooway broadband.
  • BeyonDSL: BeyonDSL is a satellite broadband provider that sells SBS Broadband.
  • CityFibre Holdings: CityFibre Holdings owns and runs a 1Gbps fibre network in Bournemouth and provides fibre infrastructure for a number of public bodies.
  • CallFlow: a provider of Sub Loop Unbundled (SLU) broadband based in the south east of England (Crockenhill, Kings Hill, Upper Dicker, West Peckham and Yalding).
  • Clannet: Wireless ISP which leases capacity to community broadband networks in North Yorkshire under the NYnet project, including the Vale of Mowbray, Nun and Moor Monkton, and Aylesby.
  • County Broadband: ISP for North Essex and South Suffolk, using wireless technology to reach areas of poor coverage through community partnerships. 
  • Digital Region: Digital Region provides FTTC fibre broadband to a number of homes in South Yorkshire in and around Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield.
  • Direct Save Telecom: Direct Save Telecom isn’t strictly a rural broadband provider. It is however one of the few ADSL broadband providers to launch contracts aimed at those ‘off network’
  • exWavia: exWavia is a wireless broadband provider serving locations in north and mid-Wales (Anglesey, Bodedern, Clwyd, Glamorgan, Gwynedd, Holyhead, Montgomeryshire, Powys).
  • FibreWiFi: FibreWiFi is a provider of wireless internet services based in and providing services to communities in Essex. Broadband speeds of 25Mbps and 50Mbps (downloads and uploads) are available to buy from FibreWiFi.
  • Fibre GarDen: Fibre GarDen is a community project aimed at bringing FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) fibre broadband to the Garsdale and Dentdale parishes. 40Mbps and 100Mbps speeds are expected by Christmas 2013.
  • Fibrewave Networks: Working in East Anglia and the East Midlands to provide rural broadband access via a variety of technologies including FTTP, wireless and TV white space.
  • Gigaclear: a provider of rural fibre broadband, Gigaclear provides 1Gbps internet to 400 homes and businesses in Appleton & Eaton in Oxfordshire and is a major stakeholder in Rutland Telecom (see below).
  • Gigabit Jersey/Jersey Telecom: Jersey Telecom is currently rolling out its ‘Gigabit Jersey’ initiative which will see 1Gbps down, 100Mbps up FTTP fibre broadband piped to everyone on the island by 2016.
  • Kijoma Broaband: Wireless ISP based in cental southern England. Offering top 40Mbps download speeds on a range of home and business packages, Kijoma has also launched wireless broadband services in Staffordshire, supplying communities in Tatenhill and Rangemore.
  • i love broadband: Wireless community ISP under the NYnet initiative in North Yorkshire, supplying up to 50Mbps connections, starting at £12.99/month.
  • Jibba Jabba: Sadly Jibba Jabba isn’t an ISP owned by Mr. T – it is however a provider of wireless broadband covering a number of towns and areas of the UK. Dinnington, Doncaster, Grimsby, Goole, Howden, Retford and Worksop are all covered. Jibba Jabba’s packages start at £17.99/month for 5Mbps down and 1Mbps up. Installation is £90 for all services but as no landline is required there’s no line rental cost. Jibba Jabba is planning to launch ‘ even faster speeds very shortly.’ We’ll update when they do.
  • LonsdaleNET: Owned by the Earl of Lonsdale (Lord Lonsdale), LonsdaleNET rose from the ashes of NextGenUs Cumbria in early 2012, and provides wireless broadband across the rural Eden Valley and surrounding areas at up-to-60Mbps each way.
  • NyNet: NyNet is a provider of broadband connectivity to the public and private sector throughout North Yorkshire. Committed to providing high speed broadband to all by 2017, NyNet’s efforts will run alongside those of BT’s in the region; BT recently won a contract which will see it providing 80Mbps broadband to 90 per cent of the county by 2015.
  • Quickline: Quickline is a wireless broadband provider serving areas in the Humberside region – Hull, Scunthorpe, Doncaster, Bridlington, Beverley and Grimsby are all covered by Quickline’s broadband footprint. Providing symmetrical 10Mbps (down and up) wireless broadband plus business packages with 20Mbps download speeds. 
  • Radnor Broadband: A community group working with eXwavia in Radnorshire, in Powys, mid-Wales, to provide wireless internet access.
  • Rutland Telecom: Rutland Telecom provides fast broadband up to 24Mbps (with the option of taking an extra line and getting 48Mbps) to parts of Rutland; Uppingham, Ridlington, Ayston, Glaston, Lyddington, Stoke Dry, Thorpe-by-Water, Stockerston, Oakham, Langham, Barleythorpe, Braunston, Burley, Brooke, Empingham, Whitwell & Essendine.
  • Superfast Cornwall: Superfast Cornwall is a venture co-funded by the EU, BT and Cornwall Council. The aim is to get fibre broadband (both FTTC and FTTP are being put in the ground), wireless and satellite broadband to every home and business in Cornwall and on the Scilly Isles by 2014.
  • Shetland Telecoms: Shetland Telecoms is a Shetland Islands Council initiative project aimed at getting 90 per cent of Shetland’s residents getting at least 25Mbps broadband by March 2016.
  • Tooway Direct: Tooways Direct is a satellite broadband ISP selling Tooway broadband providing top download speeds of 18Mbps.
  • Uppingham First: Uppingham First is a community venture that runs the Uppingham Broadband Mast Project. This aims to bring 30Mbps speeds to residents of Uppingham in Rutland and the surrounding areas.  
  • Vispa: Vispa is an ISP providing ADSL, FTTC fibre and wireless broadband. Its wireless broadband services are available to Winwick and Burtonwood, bringing up to 60Mbps speeds to residents.
  • WiSpire: WiSpire is a wireless broadband project servicing the Diocese of Norwich. A joint venture with business ISP FreeClix, WiSpire provides speeds of up to 8Mbps and unlimited downloads for £23 a month plus £60 installation. 

Main image credit: Flickr user Duncan~

Previous news stories on Rural Broadband 

Superfast 1Gbps broadband comes to the Cotswolds

Residents of the villages of Overbury and Conderton in the Cotswolds can plug into superfast broadband speeds of up to 1Gbps.

The Overbury Estate in Gloucestershire was able to roll out FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) to 48 locations between the villages, thanks to Calix’s E7-2 technology and fibre broadband installer Fibre Options.

Rural Broadband: Superfast 1Gbps broadband comes to the Cotswolds

Penelope Bossom, whose family has owned and managed the Estate for nearly 300 years, hopes to extend the network beyond this footprint to the local school, church and village hall. “We aim to create a rural quality of life that is as well-resourced as urban living, but with all the advantages of landscape and environment, relaxed lifestyle, and close community ties,” said Bossom.

Already, Overbury’s former village shop (pictured) has been transformed into a pop-up space for local businesses to rent and make use of the high speed connection.

Calix’s E7-2 Ethernet Service Access Platform is ‘environmentally hardedned’ and is designed to be easy to set up and upgrade as and when demand increases. “Overbury is a great example of the difference that high-speed broadband services can make in a rural community in a relatively short space of time,” said Andy Lockhart, senior vice president of international sales and marketing at Calix.

February 13, 2013

Cameron’s EU cuts will kill £7 billion of superfast broadband funding 

European budget cuts will cull 87 per cent of funds earmarked to build faster broadband networks – but it won’t affect existing UK programmes.

Neelie Kroes: “Broadband is essential for a digital single market, the rails on which all tomorrow’s digital services will run.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron and his German allies have pushed through an €80bn EU budget cut over the next seven years – with broadband funding a frontline casualty.

The cuts won’t hurt UK projects set up under current EU budgets – such as Broadband Delivery UK, the Rural Community Broadband Fund, and the Urban Broadband Fund.

But it could make life hard for superfast broadband projects set up by remote communities in the ‘final third’, which will be left with only basic 2Mbps connections by BDUK.

Neelie Kroes, the European Commission’s head of digital policy, said the cuts will make it harder to achieve the EU’s goal of universal superfast broadband by 2020.

“This funding will have to be exclusively for digital services: because such a smaller sum does not leave room for investing in broadband networks,” she blogged.

“I regret that: because broadband is essential for a digital single market, the rails on which all tomorrow’s digital services will run; and this could have been an innovative and highly-market oriented way to deliver it, almost budget-neutral in the long run.

“Member States have now taken on themselves the responsibility to invest, with their own funds or the EU’s structural funds, in areas where there is real market failure. 

“If they see better broadband as the task of the market, then they must help us improve that market: make it more integrated, coherent and efficient, with a better balance of risk and reward.”

The pan-European austerity package could yet be rejected by MEPs when it reaches the European Parliament, and Kroes suggests the European Investment Bank may be able to help.

February 12, 2013 (Image: YanniKouts/Flickr)

BT announces £94 million Devon and Somerset deal

BT announces £94 million Devon and Somerset deal​BT has announced that it’s been awarded a £94 million contract to deliver superfast broadband to 90 per cent of premises across Devon and Somerset by the end of 2016.

This will see a rollout of fibre-based broadband products including FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) and FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) to the majority of homes and businesses across the counties, as well as speeds of at least 2Mbps for everyone.

Connecting Devon and Somerset had always been in favour of awarding the BDUK contract to BT. Back in October last year we first heard of plans which would’ve seen BT rolling out fibre to 85 per cent of the region by 2015. This was dependent on the EU greenlighting State Aid, which it eventually did.

Now we’re hearing that the work won’t be done until the end of 2016, but fibre coverage has expanded to 90 per cent. Another year, another 5 per cent.

Initial surveying work is due to start immediately with the first locations due for an upgrade to be announced throughout the coming months. ‘Spring 2013’ is the only ETA given so far, nothing more concrete than that.

As always, we’ll mention any superfast rollout updates for Devon and Somerset we hear of in our weekly Rollout Roundup feature, as we have done in the past. More on this as and when we hear it.

January 31, 2013

Ofcom approves Sea Fibre Networks’ broadband plans for Wales and England 

Ofcom has given Sea Fibre Networks’ broadband plans the official go ahead, allowing the company to improve the CeltixConnect undersea cable link between Ireland and the UK. This will in turn improve infrastructure in Wales and England.

Ofcom approves Sea Fibre Networks’ broadband plans for Wales and England

Thanks to the new code powers granted by Ofcom, Sea Fibre Networks will now be able to extend and lease fibre lines more easily.

This will affect those in both rural and urban areas, with ISPs able to make use of leased lines from Holyhead in north Wales to Staffordshire in the midlands of England.

The CeltixConnect line uses Fibrespeed, the Welsh Government’s open access network, which in turn is used by ISPs including eXwavia.

January 17, 2013

Village raises £11,000 for BT fibre broadband cabinet

Village raises £11,000 for BT fibre broadband cabinetResidents of the Oxfordshire village of Islip, unhappy that their hometown wasn’t on BT’s £2.5 billion roadmap for fibre broadband, decided to take matters into their own hands.

Consulting with BT on how much it would cost to get a single fibre broadband cabinet installed and new piece of network connecting their village, residents came up with just over £11,000 between them and then BT agreed to put Islip on the superfast map.

Due to be completed by June 2013, the single cabinet will supply the majority of the 600-plus people who live in the village with broadband speeds ‘in excess’ of 30Mbps, with those homes closest to the cabinet enjoying speeds of up to 80Mbps.

This mirrors a story we heard last July, where three small villages in Essex previously not on the BT roll call, found themselves in line for some FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) action after Tendring District Council and BT went back to the drawing board.

Sadly, some residents of Whitchurch in rural Hampshire are still waiting for the last few homes to be connected, owing to the large backlog of work handed to Openreach by the wonderful British climate.

Image credit: Facebook

January 15, 2013

Northumberland aims to bring broadband to 60 per cent of the county 

Northumberland County Council has announced plans to get 60 per cent of the county – which lives in hard to reach rural areas – connected thanks to a £1.3 million loan scheme.

The plan is to offer money to ISPs specialising in wireless, satellite and other broadband technologies to reach the so-called ‘last ten per cent’, those living in areas for which there may not be funding for fibre broadband.

 Northumberland aims to bring broadband to 60 per cent of the county

The loan will be divided between four communications providers, with the total amount of cash handed to each based on the number of customers connected. Over a three year period the loans will be repaid to the Council, with subscription fees going towards paying back the money.

The result is that customers in the last ten per cent should get connected to faster broadband speeds before other parts of Northumberland do.

Already 19 companies have expressed an interest in the project which the Council hopes to start rolling out from February onwards.

January 4, 2013

Fixed location 4G for last ten per cent in 2013

EE’s head of network development David Salam said that fixed-location 4G broadband will mainly be of benefit for those living in the ‘last ten per cent’.

4G broadband will come to those hard to reach locations “far quicker than fibre broadband,” and would be mainly aimed at those in areas not densely populated, where the mobile network could become quickly overloaded.

Referring to the EE 4G trial in Cumbria, Salam revealed that a farm five kilometres from a main cell site was getting download speeds of around 50Mbps and uploads of up to 20Mbps.

Rural Broadband: Fixed location 4G for last ten per cent in 2013

But this is an area with not a great deal of mobile traffic – there’s not hundreds of people checking Facebook on their 4G phones.

When asked if there would ever be a fixed-location 4G service from EE – similar to that of Now Broadband – we were told by an EE spokesperson that we should hear more “over the course of next year” and that services would probably be aimed at the so-called ‘last ten per cent’, those living in hard to reach areas.

In villages and towns, it’s expected that 4G wouldn’t be of much help, meaning you’ll need to wait and pray for fibre broadband (or dig your own), satellite broadband or bonded ADSL.

In short, only expect dedicated, fixed-location 4G broadband to come to the rescue if you’re really out in the sticks.

EE’s 4G mobile broadband packages are fairly restrictive in terms of data. Costing up to £25.99/month for 8GB right now, you don’t get the flexibility of an unlimited package. While ideal for when you’re on the move it’s perhaps not capable to act as a full replacement for fixed line broadband.

Image credit: Flickr user rockabilly_girl

December 6, 2012

CLA Wayleave Agreement to speed up fibre rollout

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has confirmed plans to finalise a national wayleave agreement this month.

Speaking to ISPreview, the CLA reveals that the agreement should be set in stone this month, though the date won’t be public as it’s “confidential between all the parties involved.”

The idea behind the national wayleave is to make it easier for community fibre projects and rural ISPs like B4RN to access privately owned land for the purposes of ducting and laying underground cables.

Under the proposals, any project or ISP could start digging on any land covered by the agreement while paying the owner of that land a set fee. Landowners who sign up to the agreement would therefore be compensated for disruption and the fibre can start flowing faster.

Not every landowner in the UK is obliged to sign up to the plan. Those who want to help out with rural broadband and be compensated for their time can sign up, those who can’t spare any more disruption won’t be obliged to. 

Image credit: Flickr user nicksarebi

November 2, 2012

BT picked to connect Devon and Somerset

Devon Cream Tea by heatheronhertravels/FlickrBT has been appointed to boost broadband connections across Devon and Somerset in a £51million project run by a group of local councils.

Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) plans to cover both counties with a minimum speed broadband service of 2Mbps, with get at least 24Mbps ‘superfast’ broadband to 85 per cent of the population by 2015.

Following the government’s Broadband Delivery UK targets, CDS ultimately aims to have superfast for all by 2020.

Now BT has been chosen to spend £51m of BDUK and local authority funds to reach the 18 per cent who get connections of less than 2Mbps today.

CDS told the Plymouth Herald: “Over the next fortnight, due diligence will be undertaken on the tender.

“Once this has been completed successfully, the offer will be formally confirmed enabling the final contract details to be agreed.”

The BT bid must also pass European Commission scrutiny on state aid as it remains the only company to win any government funding to improve UK broadband speeds.

The local authorities behind CDS are Somerset and Devon county councils, Plymouth City Council, North Somerset Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, and Torbay Council.

CDS has been awarded just over £31m from BDUK, while Somerset and Devon County Councils will provide £10m each, and BT Openreach will match their funding.

October 30, 2012 (image: heatheronhertravels/Flickr)

Ewelme residents net money for broadband boost

Residents of a small village in Chiltern Hill, South Oxfordshire will soon be able to enjoy a reliable broadband connection, if an approved application for funding is anything to go by. Money from the Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) is to be awarded to help bring speeds of at least 2Mbps to each of the 1,100 or so residents.

Plans to improve speeds in the area by stumping up the costs for three BT cabinets fell through when the incumbent telco pulled out of the plan last November, according to the Henley Standard.

Ewelme parish councillor Neil Blake said: “In November we achieved an agreement in principle with BT Openreach that if the marginal costs of installing three new cabinets could be found, the job would be done. Unfortunately, BT withdrew its offer.”

Once funding is approved, potential broadband infrastructure providers will be asked to submit bids for the work to the county council.

Given the recent track record of BT snaffling up all of the rural contracts, it may end up being BT that gets round to doing what it originally promised to do last year.

With there being some consternation about the prices BT is charging councils for cabinets and rollout, local MP John Howell said “The county council needs to put pressure on BT to come clean about what its charges are and what profit it is making.”

“As with water, you should just be able to turn on the tap and broadband comes out, it is as simple as that. I was getting concerned that a lot of the smaller villages which were not reachable by BT were having to find out what their own solutions would be.”

October 24, 2012


Lib Dem Councillor calls for Somerset Speed Boost

While BT’s enthusiastic rollout campaign has reaped some rather headline friendly figures, the fact that some parts of the UK aren’t flagged for rollout can’t be overlooked.

Opposition Liberal Democrat councillor at Somerset Adrian Dobson has criticised BT’s rollout in his home county, saying that large parts of the county are “off the radar” and that the telco’s plans have “killed rural broadband”.

Lib Dem Councillor calls for Somerset Speed Boost

Writing in the Somerset Standard, Dobson is calling on local residents to make themselves heard and get parts of the county besides Taunton noticed by BT and on the rollout map.

We can’t help but note that Dobson mentions that Taunton is “[the] Tory Somerset County Council’s hometown” so there’s some local point scoring going on here. But we’re all for better services getting rolled out to the sticks. Dobson is urging local people to get in contact with Defra, which runs the ERDF or himself at Adrian[at]Dobinson[dot]info.

After working with Essex County Council, BT agreed to re-draw the map and bring three villages into the fibre fold. So if there’s enough support then something similar could happen in Somerset.

That and the way things have been going with only BT bidding for rural contracts, we’d expect that Somerset will eventually go the way of North Yorkshire, Sussex, Wales and the rest…

October 19, 2012

Ofcom proposes to let Sea Fibre Networks bring fibre broadband to Wales and England

Ofcom is proposing to let fibre broadband infrastructure company Sea Fibre Networks dig up roads in Wales and parts of England and lease dark fibre to other ISPs and business customers.

Sea Fibre Networks has already installed a 7.7 kilometer fibre line running from Anglesey to a point near Stoke-on-Trent to another connection point in Staffordshire. While the main lugwork has already been done, Sea Fibre Networks currently does not have permission to maintain and extend its network, hence the application to Ofcom for ‘Code Powers.’

Ofcom proposes to let Sea Fibre Networks bring fibre broadband to Wales and England

These powers would make it easier for Sea Fibre Networks to work with local authorities and other ISPs, meaning that more local businesses and facilities can benefit from faster and more reliable broadband speeds.

Though big name consumer ISPs will probably not use Sea Fibre Network’s cable to provide broadband services, there’s nothing stopping an ISP like BT or TalkTalk from using it as backhaul.

As the line passes through north Wales on its way to Stoke-on-Trent there’s no reason why rural or community broadband ISPs and projects couldn’t plug in and use the network to deliver wireless broadband to areas untouched by fixed-line networks.

October 15, 2012


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