The good news is that in May, the Government announced a £200m Rural Gigabit Broadband Connectivity (RGC) scheme which offers vouchers which are considerably more generous than the previous voucher scheme (£3,500 for businesses, £1,500 for residents, no requirement to have a fixed ratio of business to residential vouchers, requirement to take only 30 Mbps service). More details on https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2019/05/200m-uk-rural-gigabit-broadband-connectivity-programme-starts.html
Couple this with the Community Fibre Partnership (CFP) Scheme and this may well open up possibilities - although not without some hard work in the community. It’s this David Hoyle & I are looking at for connections in the north of the Parish. Given the level of demand, the £200m pot is not expected to last long so those thinking of going down this route need to get a move on!
4G is becoming a real cost effective alternative to a fibre connection with costs coming down all the time. Failing that, if you really do live in an isolated spot then satellite is probably the only way of getting a reasonably fast connection and may well continue to be your only option.
On the National Scene, the only game in town now is Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) with a Government target to cover 10 million UK premises by the end of 2022 and ‘an ambition’ to see a nationwide full fibre network by 2033. Openreach is increasingly being subject to greater competition by a number of companies providing fibre networks – although competition is not a significant factor in providing a service in rural areas such as ours where public subsidy is still needed.
Closer to home, Connecting Cumbria has had its plans for connecting 2,300 premises approved for the final tranche of funding it has at its disposal, which will bring superfast coverage up to 94% of premises in Cumbria. Exactly which premises will be included will be determined solely by cost considerations. It’s expected that which premises will benefit will change as detailed surveys are conducted. We don’t have any influence over this process but it’s very unlikely that any more premises in Colton parish will benefit from Connecting Cumbria money.
The major centres of population (!!) now have access to fast broadband either Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) or, in the case of Lakeside/Finsthwaite fibre to the premises (FTTP). This leaves three not spots: The area around Rusland connected to the Satterthwaite exchange, most of Colton hamlet [ !] and Nibthwaite.
At the moment, I’m working with the Community Fibre Partnership scheme and the Parish council to see how we could progress the first two areas using CFPs in combination with the Gigabit Voucher Scheme. When all the information is to hand, we’ll consult all of you who may be affected to see if the schemes are feasible. Nibthwaite may solve itself with new connections planned in the Blawith area. In the meantime, if you want further information on CFPs or going down the 4G route for an immediate fast connection, drop me an e-mail.
With mobile data prices coming down and increasing coverage, 4G home broadband is a realistic and immediate possibility for many rural areas. Coverage in Cumbria is better than most people realise and can be checked on the Ofcom site: https://checker.ofcom.org.uk/mobile-coverage In our parish most of our fibre broadband not spots can be reached by a mobile signal from either EE or Three.
You will need a 4G router and probably an antenna installed on the outside of the house. At the moment only EE offers a bespoke 4G home broadband package – see https://business.ee.co.uk/mobile-broadband/4g-home-broadband/ otherwise it’s a relatively easy DIY job – which will offer more flexibility and the equipment could be purchased for less than £200. Do this and your speeds will be comparable with those areas getting fibre to the cabinet. This is an immediately available option.
The second option is to consider a Community Fibre Partnership (CFP) where the community gets together and approach a provider about the cost of delivering better broadband. Much of the cost of this can be covered by the Gigabit Voucher Scheme provided certain conditions are met, notably that it must be a full fibre scheme (FTTP) and everyone in it has to take a service which delivers at least 100 mb/s for a year (min).
A third option – using satellite Broadband – has been around a while now. There are disadvantages of cost, data caps and time delays but this may the only way to go for very isolated areas with no 4G signal.
If you get less than 2 Mb/s currently, you can still apply for a voucher under the better Broadband Scheme for up to £350 to improve your speed BUT you’ll have to be quick as the scheme will close at the end of the year. See http://www.connectingcumbria.org/BDUK-Better-Broadband.asp
I haven’t added to this blog for a while simply because I haven’t had much definitive news to communicate. However, the situation is becoming clearer now and, like the proverbial number 10 busses, several will come along at the same time now. So here goes:
We are at about 93% superfast (95% above 10 mb/s) coverage in the County compared to the national average of 96% superfast (97% above 10 mb/s) . Some districts are much less than this and, unsurprisingly it’s the outlying rural areas which are missing out. However, the take up in Cumbria is nearly 52% currently: much higher than the less than 40% national average. Take up is important as the County gets a share of the profits (‘Gain Share’) from Openreach as we hit certain thresholds.
Connecting Cumbria is well into delivering contract 2 and the monies for projects are allocated now. There is an additional sum of £3.9m from Gain Share etc for future projects. The bad news is that the plan submitted to BDUK (the national Body responsible) has been rejected as a consequence of the Government’s push towards full fibre to the premises. Back to the drawing board – Connecting Cumbria is reviewing what it can do with the money in the light of the changing rules. It is therefore unlikely that any of this money will start to be spent on projects until 2020 at the earliest.
So - If you haven’t got an upgraded connection by now, you are very unlikely to get one via Connecting Cumbria until 2020 at the earliest.
In my next post I’ll outline some ideas on what can be done if you have missed out.