New fibre broadband possibilities have emerged for rural parishes, following the cancellation in September 2019 of Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) contracts with Gigaclear.
Gigaclear themselves are close to completing a fibre network around Croford, which extends from Langley Marsh along Grant Lane, Quaking House Lane to Spring Grove and Bindon Farm. They expect to start connecting customers by next March, and may then extend the network further if there is demand. In future, they plan to install fibre cables overhead on telegraph poles and in Openreach ducts where possible.
A new entrant to the local market is Technological Services, who are building a fibre network from Shillingford and up to Skilgate, where they are already signing up residents. Working with Parish Councils, they plan to extend to the Upton area in Spring 2020 and then on to Huish Champflower by Summer 2020.
Technological is a small company providing internet services for rural businesses, with residential broadband a new market for them. To avoid the cost of digging up roads, they are working with landowners to mostly lay their cable in fields (using a mole plough as shown in photo above). If there is demand, they could eventually cover all rural areas in the 10 Parishes.
A potential provider on a bigger scale is Openreach, who have a Community Fibre Partnership scheme, which involves working with a local community to build a customised solution where there is demand.
All these network providers rely on there being enough interest and funding from Government Gigabit Vouchers, which contribute £2,500 for small businesses and £500 for residents towards installation costs. Vouchers are paid to a registered supplier once connections are confirmed.
On behalf of Ashbrittle, Bathealton and Stawley parishes, Paul Musgrove (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Stawley Parish Council is collecting details (name, address, phone and email) to submit a list of interested properties, without obligation at this stage, to potential network providers.
While waiting for fibre broadband to reach rural areas, many people have signed up to satellite or mobile connections, with mixed results. EE’s 4G service is often recommended, but depends on the strength of the local mobile signal.
New opportunities may emerge from CDS plans for a Community Challenge Fund as well as new contracts for rural broadband provision next year. However, there are no details available yet and CDS will only cover areas without fibre broadband infrastructure or where none is planned in the next three years.
Whatever the solution, the keys for fibre broadband in rural areas are now a community partner, such as parish councils, and sufficient people registering interest. There is no obligation from registering and, as there are several potential providers, it would be best to sign up with all those currently in the running.
Find out more, including service package costs, and register at:
• Gigaclear – www.gigaclear.com (start by entering postcode)
• Technological – www.technological.co.uk/ex16 (scroll to bottom of page)
• Openreach – www.openreach.com/fibre-broadband/community-fibre-partnerships
UPDATE 1) 1 January 2020
Paul Musgrove has collected nearly 40 addresses wanting broadband in Ashbrittle, Bathealton and Stawley. He is now approaching Openreach to register this interest and should soon see how they respond.
Technological connected the first customers to their network in December. They are planning routes into Skilgate, awaiting approval for their project to cover the Upton and Huish Champflower areas, and have arranged a meeting at Waterrow village hall at 7:30pm on 5th February to look at further expansion.
UPDATE 2) 16 January 2020
Paul Musgrove has submitted over 50 addresses to Openreach and will pass to other potential suppliers too. Openreach have provided an initial estimate, which indicates they are likely to charge a significant initial connection fee on top of the Gigabit voucher and contract fees.
Gigaclear now look unlikely to extend their Croford area network, which is due to go live by April. Their future development plans are due to be announced soon, but are expected to focus on semi-urban areas.