The worst served broadband area in the Parish is currently the area around Oxen Park with frequent down time and speeds very little better than dial up. This is causing increasingly severe problems for the 17+ businesses and voluntary organisations and has been a source of frequent complaints.
There was considerable dismay when the final phase 1 maps were produced when it became obvious that, contrary to what we were led to believe, the area would be untouched by phase 1 and would have to struggle on with what it had.
Since then, the Parish Council has thrown its weight behind a detailed report, which was then submitted to Connecting Cumbria, showing the effects of the phase 1 decision (thanks to those who replied to the survey) and making suggestions as to how the area might be cost effectively connected.
There’s been quite a bit of correspondence as a result of this and the news is now looking more hopeful. We’ve had confirmation that the area is part of the phase 2 intervention area and that the area looks a ‘good candidate’ for phase 2.
No timescale yet although it is probable that we will hear something before the end of the year. Meantime we keep the dialogue going making sure we engage with Connecting Cumbria on a regular basis.
Connecting Cumbria have just published maps of the phase 2 intervention areas, which have now been approved by BDUK.
The map of particular interest is the intervention area for superfast broadband which can be found via this link: phase 2 intervention area SFBB. Those in the white areas are within the intervention area. Those in the shaded areas either already are covered under phase 1 or – more contentiously – are deemed to be covered in the future by commercial providers.
More details and additional maps are on CC’s site at www.connectingcumbria.org.uk/latest-news
Before getting too excited (!!) a reminder that this defines the areas where phase 2 monies (now £9.6m) may (not will) be spent. The original £5.7m phase 2 money was going to take the County from 93% coverage (phase 1) to 95% coverage by the end of phase 2 (end 2017). The extra money should push the fibre out further.
So what now? BT – which has the contract for phase 2 - are undertaking a detailed modelling exercise, to be followed up with on the ground surveys before coming up with a preliminary list of which areas will actually get fibre connections. My guess is that these will centre on the more compact communities where many premises can be served by a single cabinet and those communities where the cabinet can readily be connected into the existing fibre network. New technology being trialled and the selective use of fibre to the premises will, I’m sure, make the money go further.
The Newby Bridge cabinet which serves the Lakeside and Finsthwaite part of our Parish has just been fibre enabled.
If you live in the area in the central part of the map – which covers the part of the Parish from Newby Bridge Hotel up to Lakeside hotel – you should expect to get 24 Mb/s or more. Looking at the map, most people in Finsthwaite, although not likely to get this sort of speed, should be getting a considerable improvement over what’s been on offer hitherto.
Check it out on www.connectingcumbria.org.uk/when-and-where (Remember to accept the conditions on their web site or you will not be able to find the map. Note also that they have not updated the map and changed the colour of this circle of the map from pink to blue)
Important: you will not receive the SFBB service automatically: you have to check with your internet service provider (ISP) that the service is available through them. If not, you may have to change your ISP.
Would be good to have feedback as to how things work out for you when you do get connected. What speeds are you actually getting? What’s the benefit to you?
An extra £3.9m has been found to push fibre out futher into rural areas of Cumbria. This has been found from monies saved by not further improving BT’s copper network (a BDUK national decision) and by BT bringing forward money because of good take up of SFBB in Cumbria. Let’s hope we can get a share of this…….
New technology (going by the name of G.Fast) is currently being trialled nationally which can be expected to make SFBB more cost effective to bring to remote areas. This technology gives much higher speeds from the fibre enabled cabinet (120Mb/s instead of current 80 Mb/s) and so gives a greater range from the cabinet before the signal degrades to less than SFBB.
Apologies for rubbing salt into the wounds of those left behind by phase 1 (that includes me!) but good progress, albeit behind the original schedules, is being made in connecting cabinets which impact on our Parish. The current situation is:
Newby Bridge 2 live cabinets (350 premises – most outside Colton Parish). Phase 1 Work in progress: Newby Bridge 3 cabinets (200 premises); Greenodd 4 cabinets (500 premises); Satterthwaite 1 cabinet (60 premises). Lowick Bridge 1 cabinet (70 premises).
Planned for phase 1: Additional cabinets attached to Lowick Bridge, Newby Bridge.
The (vigorous!) feedback I have so far from the Oxen Park area (the worst part of the current ‘broadband desert’) is that we should try to get something done about the situation as quickly as possible. Download speeds of 0.35 Mb/s – not atypical for the area were unacceptable several years ago but in 2015 they are causing real hardship for the everyone relying on the internet for business and personal use.
If you live in Oxen Park, Bandrake Head or the northern end of Colton village, then you should have received a short questionnaire the answers from which will be important when compiling a report next week for Connecting Cumbria and BT.
I’d be grateful for returns by this coming Saturday (19th Sept) either by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by dropping the questionnaire off at the Manor (Thanks Lorraine and Terry for providing a drop off point). If you can encourage your neighbours to fill in the questionnaire, that would be helpful and allow an accurate picture of current connectivity to be obtained.
The Parish council at their last meeting were clearly very unhappy about the gaps in provision of SFBB which have been left after phase 1 and are keen to help markedly improve the situation as quickly as possible. Keeping your councillors (Parish and County) informed about how living with last century’s connectivity is impacting on you can only be helpful.
The Newby Bridge area will be well served by cabinets and the maps are showing SFBB will become available northwards through Lakeside and Finsthwaite. The area centred on the Bouth cabinet will be well served, so too the area east of the Spark Bridge cabinet.
So where are the losers? Nibthwaite itself is looking as if it may (just) get some benefit from being at the far range of the Spark Bridge cabinet but east of here (Bandrake Head, Oxen Park, Crosslands & Rusland) is a broadband desert. Colton itself is at the far range of the Spark Bridge cabinet and may or may not get much benefit – certainly SFBB will be unattainable.
What’s to be done? We can wait for phase 2 and hope that the plans – due to be sketched out by June 2016 - for this phase - include our ‘not spots’. We may though decide to be more active to give ourselves the best chance of obtaining something which is rapidly becoming a standard service for most of the UK. Have a word with your councillors and let them know what you think. Could be a good time in the Autumn to have another meeting – what’s your view?
There are a couple of cabinets already live in the Newby Bridge area on the southern flank of our Parish. All the others serving our Parish are officially due to go live sometime in Spring 2016 – so some more slippage here. The big driver of schedules at the moment is the need to draw down as much EU funding as possible by September and so projects which can be funded in this way are currently being prioritised.
Looking around for good news……. During this time, there may be some additional work done beyond that currently planned for phase 1 as there is an underspend in the budget and additional money has been brought forward because of the projected take-up of SFBB in Cumbria.
The map shows a series of concentric (sometimes overlapping) circles centred on those cabinets which are connected by fibre to the enabled exchanges. The signal is then carried from the cabinet to homes and businesses through the old copper wire system – and this is where the signal (and hence speeds) degrades.
Those of you within the inner circles (roughly a mile radius from the cabinet) can expect to get superfast broadband (above 24 Mb/s). The speed will then fall off from there so that at the boundaries of the second circles, there will be no improvement over what you have now.
I’ll be commenting on the implications for our Parish in what will probably be a spate of blogs coming up………….