Colton Superfast Broadband Why it's important and how we can get it......Mike Postle (mike@postle.co)

Colton Hamlet

I should just add that those of us living in this part of the Parish are still waiting for our full fibre network following the successful CFP and voucher scheme approval. Openreach have informed us that all the planning has been done and contracts for the work are being finalised. Under the terms of the contact, they have until the end of the year to complete the work although we’re all hoping to join the fast set much sooner! 

So what about connecting the missing 6%?

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.

So where are we now?

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.

Missed this one!

Another few properties in the parish (8 by my reckoning) can now obtain a fast broadband connection. Actually as they can now get fibre to the premises (FTTP), they can get ultrafast speeds. So those lucky people in the Whitestock area (Postcode LA12 8LB) can now apply via an appropriate ISP to have their FTTP connection. This one seems to be have been done on the back of getting a fibre connection to the Hulleter mast so that EE can provide an improved public 4G service to the whole of the Rusland area. That’s not just good news of course for the properties able to obtain FTTP connections but also for anyone on the area who will shortly be able to improve their connection using a 4G broadband router. It may also have a bearing on the quotation Openreach comes up with for the Community Fibre Partnership bid that’s been made for the Rusland area: the more fibre there is, the cheaper it is to make a short extension (‘twiglet’?) from an existing ‘branch’. Well we can hope anyway!

Superfast for Colton - at last!

Well we seem to be on the way to filling in one of the not spots in our Parish with Openreach contracted to supply ultrafast speeds via fibre to the premises (FTTP). The route we’ve taken is via BT’s Community Fibre Programme (CFP). The quoted price is basically the additional cost to them for connecting up properties in a rural location. On its own, this would have been a challenge for us to raise the money but the Government’s Gigabit Voucher Scheme – designed to encourage businesses to adopt ultrafast connections – has come to the rescue. It’s great that everyone’s pulled together to make this happen. Timescales? within 12 months but I’m told that it will probably be much sooner for a small scheme such as this one. The wait was probably worth it given that we’ll then have blistering speeds and a future-proof network in this part of the Parish.
 
We’re still exploring options for the northern end of the Parish where properties are connected to the Satterthwaite exchange but too far away to get anything like decent speeds: options are another (and probably more complex) CFP or 4G broadband.
 
 

Implications for Colton Parish

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 [Crying face !] 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.

 

 

So - What’s to be done?

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

 

A Long Silence

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.

 

Oxen Park now Live

I received formal notification that cabinet 4 in Oxen Park is now live. Actually, it looks as if it has been connected for some time and the checker has indicated that superfast broadband has been available before now. If you want to check what’s available to you, use this link and enter your phone number.
 
It is to be hoped that as many people as possible will take advantage of the new facility as this helps finance further installations in the County through the ‘gain share’ programme whereby BT puts more money into the pot as take-up increases. Usual reminder that getting superfast is not automatic: you need to ask for it through an internet service provider. It’s worth shopping around, asking a number of ISPs as, even if you eventually stick with the same ISP, you will have something to bargain with. Experience up and down the County, shows that the cost of upgrading is usually very little more (on occasions less) than you are currently paying.
 
A useful leaflet on choosing a broadband supplier was made available at the February meeting in the Carthouse. Anyone wanting a copy, just e-mail me please.
 
The ADSL service in Oxen Park has been one of the worst in terms of speed and reliability in the Parish so switching to connections via this new cabinet should improve speeds dramatically. The reliability issues may or may not be solved by switching – but I’m optimistic that they will see some improvement. (Wires on poles over wet fields are never ideal!).

Digital Presentation and Workshop

Just organised – a (free!) digital event for the Oxen Park area to be run by Connecting Cumbria’s Phil Ruston. Phil ran a couple of very successful sessions about 16 months ago – one in Finsthwaite and one in Greenodd when those areas were fibre broadband enabled. Topics to be covered will include an update on what is happening in the area, how the internet is and will continue to change the way we do things and the benefits to business and to the home of a fast broadband connection.  Above all, it is an opportunity to ask Phil those questions which you’ve always wanted to ask!
 
The event is scheduled for Friday 2nd February 2018 and will take place in the Carthouse, Oxen Park. Kick off at 7 pm. If you want coffee/a drink beforehand there’s the Manor across the road... and Phil & I may end up there after the session for more informal discussion......
 
If you live elsewhere in the Parish and didn’t manage to get to either of the previous sessions, you’ll be welcome to participate in this one.
 
Meanwhile, the road works in Colton are all part of getting the fibre to Oxen Park – it’s creeping closer!!