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Superfast fibre puts Classlochie Farm on the map

Wednesday 9th January, 2019

Superfast fibre puts Classlochie Farm on the map

As a rural new-build development, Classlochie Farm by Loch Leven suffered from unfortunate timing.

Only two properties existed when Digital Scotland - a project set up to help deliver the Scottish Government’s
aim to make Scotland a worldclass digital nation by 2020 - began planning for its Superfast Broadband programme. So when 12 new homes were built beside the two original properties, the new village found itself in the five per cent of Scotland with no solution planned or being explored.
 
But splendid isolation wasn’t an option for residents and, with community lead Andrew Mitchell, they began to look
into other ways to get connected.
 
Andrew explains: “Depending on usage and weather, broadband speeds ranged from a slightly useable 1.5Mbps
to, sometimes, a completely unusable 0.3Mbps.”
 
“At the time, we had at least 5km of copper between us and our cabinet. And although a new fibre-enabled cabinet
was just 900 metres away we were advised that it wasn’t technically or financially feasible to connect us.”
 
Undaunted, the residents looked into alternative solutions, including 4G mobile and leased lines. In his role as community leader, Andrew had to understand individual positions and effectively “sell” the proposition one-to-one and in group gatherings. He says: “Each resident had varying levels of interest and different motivations or no motivation at all. Even with just 14 properties, it was still very tricky to get a consensus.”

In the end, a community fibre partnership (CFP) approach through Openreach provided the best outcome, with private connections in to each individual home and freedom to choose from a range of suppliers. There would also be no ongoing maintenance of a local network with the CFP being “fund and forget”.
 
The benefits of faster fibre
With the new fibre network in place, everyone in Classlochie Farm has taken up a fibre connection – with half opting for ultrafast speeds of up to 330Mbps and half going for 76Mbps.
 
"Now we’ve been enjoying ultrafast broadband, it’s clear there have been tangible benefits for every single stakeholder – from increased productivity and sales for businesses run from home to enjoying ultra-high definition video content.
 
And it’s had an impact on every family." Said Andrew.
 
“We’re now able to work from home, when either we couldn’t at all before, or not very effectively. This has so many
positive tangible benefits, from reducing car journeys and carbon emissions to spending more precious time with the kids.”

Extending the benefits beyond the village
Gigabit capability puts the small rural community of Classlochie in the fastest 2-3 per cent of premises in the UK. The partnership with Openreach has also led to a significant investment in wireless broadband for others in the area, and the very exciting prospect of a £300k investment in a 5G mobile testbed at Loch Leven.
 
Andrew says: “With support from the Perth & Kinross Council Rural Broadband Fund, Classlochie Digital CIC expanded the benefits of our Community Fibre Partnership beyond the 14 houses directly connected with FTTP, and are connecting other broadband not spots with fixed wireless solutions.”
 
The point-to-multipoint solutions, means they can connect those within line-of-sight over 5 to 10 kilometres at superfast and ultrafast speeds.
 
On the back of this, a new Department of Culture, Media and Sport 5G testbed project is being planned for the area. The project will bring in key local stakeholders to the 5G consortium, including: Perth & Kinross Council, Historic Environment Scotland, Kinross Estate, Scottish Natural Heritage and the RSPB. They’re aiming to create an ultrafast (>100Mbps) free visitor wi-fi experience and service across a wide Loch Leven tourism and recreation area.
 
So from being an isolated not-spot, Classlochie is now an ultrafast hub – extending the benefits of high speed connections to the surrounding areas.
 

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Cumbrian primary school now learning at light speed

Wednesday 7th November, 2018

Cumbrian primary school now learning at light speed

Making the fibre dream a reality

When Stoneraise primary surveyed parents and teachers to find out what one thing would make the biggest difference to the school, the response was clear: better internet!
 
The problem was, getting a good connection wasn’t easy. The school sits in the tiny village of Durdar on the southern rural fringe of Carlisle – over five kilometres from the nearest exchange.
 
Head teacher Clem Coady and school governor Toby Clements had tried everything to boost the school’s broadband connection over the years, but nothing really worked as well as they’d hoped.
 
“The satellite broadband system was good when the weather was fine,” explains Toby, “but still had a big delay so it was a frustratingly patchy experience. We looked into a leased line but it was just too expensive.”
 
Then Clem and Toby read about the Community Fibre Partnership scheme and got in touch with Openreach.
 
Finding an alternative
An initial survey revealed that, although the current exchange was too far away to be financially viable, there was a newly enabled cabinet just a kilometre away that could provide a way to patch into the fibre network.
 
When Openreach engineers confirmed that it could work, it was all systems go. The school benefitted from a Community Fibre Partnership grant of £20,000 so could meet the rest of the bill from its budget.
 
“We were over the moon. This was a number we weren’t expecting. We knew that, thanks to the grant, the cost to the school would be approximately £12,500 – a figure that’s within our budget.”
As a pure fibre connection, the new connection provides speeds of up to 330Mbps. And it’s transformed every aspect of the school.

Accelerated learning
“It is phenomenal,” says Clem. “I can’t describe how much it has transformed the day-to-day running of the school.
 
“Before, if you had a class of 30 kids involved in some internet-based learning, the rest of the school ground to a halt. The office would struggle to send emails, teachers couldn’t complete assessments and videos were constantly buffering.
“Now, every class can use internet at the same time.”
 
Internet-based learning is a huge part of a successful modern school. Streaming video makes it easier to demonstrate complex concepts while online portals for assessment and homework bring a whole new level of insight or teachers.
 
“It’s amazing. We get live diagnostics on assessments so teachers can pinpoint areas where individual pupils need more help. Or where they’re excelling – and the lesson can move on at an appropriate pace.”
 
Superfast support
As well as making things more fun and interactive in the classroom, the high speed connection has had just as much of an impact behind the scenes too.
 
Admin and finance tasks can now be done online, helping things run more smoothly and efficiently. And being able to video call has saved time that would have been wasted travelling to meetings or having to work from home.
 
“I link up with other head teachers regularly and the new superfast connection has made it so much easier,” explains Clem. “I can save an hour a day by joining video calls from the office – instead of having to travel to meetings or work from home.
 
“At the same time, teachers can now do online training together, rather than having to stagger attendance on courses to avoid crashing the connection.”
 

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Faster broadband underpins UK Business Improvement Districts

Friday 28th September, 2018

Faster broadband underpins UK Business Improvement Districts

For more than a decade now, Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) have been working to achieve growth and prosperity for city centres and other commercial or industrial areas up and down the UK.
 
A BID is an arrangement where businesses operating in a defined area get together to fund and run projects that improve their environment.  The nature of these projects varies. However, many BIDs are recognising how a faster broadband connection can underpin their growth strategies.
 
A good example is the BID established for Sutton Coldfield in the Midlands. Parts the town centre weren’t covered in the national, commercially-driven rollout of fibre broadband, nor included in plans to benefit from the government’s BDUK programme.  However, the BID recognised that local businesses in parts of the town that had poor broadband needed to be able to access to fast fibre technology to stay competitive. Unless the BID took action, town centre businesses would be hampered by an inability to work
efficiently and effectively.
 
The action Sutton Coldfield took was to begin working closely with Openreach through its Community Fibre Partnerships programme. The partnership was successful in creating a superfast network to benefit the whole community. 
 
Jack Adkins of local firm Adkins Research Group was one of the first small businesses to upgrade to superfast. He said: “What has really helped boost my business is that the BID committee persuaded Openreach to install fibre. Our fast broadband connection has really helped with our day-to-day business.”
 
Recognising how vital it is to have high quality connectivity, Sutton Coldfield BID went on to work with Openreach to install fibre across the town centre.

Meanwhile Cardiff BID’s strategy of building a stronger profile for the city, attracting visitors, increasing footfall and directly supporting businesses, is being underpinned by superfast broadband.  Cardiff’s shopping centre, Castle Quarter, is in the heart of the Cardiff BID area. However, many Castle Quarter
businesses had been at the mercy of slow broadband speeds – a situation that was all at sea with the city centre’s plans to become a more vibrant and attractive place for shoppers.  Openreach, through its Community Fibre partnership programme worked with the Cardiff BID committee to create a business case to invest in fibre installation.  The committee quickly became clear about the benefits that fibre connectivity would bring to the shopping centre and how it would support the BID’s major ambitions for Cardiff.
 
Adrian Field, Executive Director for Cardiff, said: “We have committed £42,000 to this project in order to help retain existing businesses as well as attract new ones to the Castle Quarter area. The feedback from businesses who have already taken advantage has been excellent. It was a project in our 5 year business plan that we were eager to deliver quickly and we are delighted that this has gone to schedule.”
 
Stephen Afia, general manager of Shop Rugby who are based opposite Cardiff Castle, said: “We’ve been waiting for superfast broadband to be available to us for years and it’s made such a massive difference already.”
 
“Now we have enough bandwidth to manage our website from the property, our upload speed is 20 times faster and it’s much easier for us to move things to the cloud to back up off site. We’re absolutely delighted with the results.”
 
 



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People power brings superfast fibre broadband to Putney

Tuesday 27th February, 2018

People power brings superfast fibre broadband to Putney

There are some things you have to accept when you live in London. Rush hour pandemonium, coffee shop confusion and eye-watering prices for a start. But it’s balanced by bucket loads of culture on the doorstep, global cuisine on every street and fantastic broadband coverage. So when residents on one Putney road discovered they’d been left behind in the superfast roll-out they couldn’t understand why – and decided to take action.

Local resident and broadband campaigner John Kingdon explains: “It was so frustrating. Nearby streets could get superfast fibre broadband. But not us. Apparently it wasn’t commercially viable to upgrade our cabinet so we weren’t part of the roll-out plans.” 
“There were some private companies who could have set up a dedicated network connection, but that was an expensive and restrictive route. It would have tied us into one supplier forever. It became pretty clear that if you want to talk about communications infrastructure, you talk to Openreach.”
John Kingdon, local resident and broadband campaigner.
 
Seeking professional help
With most of the information on extending fibre focused on rural communities in far-flung corners of the country, it seemed for a long time that this little pocket of Putney would fall between the cracks.
 
“I consider myself techy but how to get help is not well publicised or easy to understand. I filled in forms online but the stock responses didn’t really answer my specific questions or deal with our situation. The key was getting through to speak to someone directly. Then things became clear and really began to move.”
 
With an Openreach Community Fibre Partnership advisor on board, John was able to get the answers he needed. And then the hard work started. John had to find out who was affected, and how much it might cost to get fibre in. Initial estimates suggested a figure of about £30,000 as the average needed to get a fibre infrastructure installed. With just 44 homes in the street, that meant quite a big investment for each household – and no guarantee that everyone would be on board.
 
“The first thing I did was to knock on doors. After 20 years on the street, I was getting to know some of the neighbours for the first time! The response was positive – younger households in particular were very keen – but everyone had lots of questions.”
With support galvanised, Openreach arranged for an engineer to survey the current set up and provide more details on a proposed solution. This was when thing really started to look up.
 
“The engineers were able to devise a solution to get fibre to the street for just £7,300,” explains John, “so now it was all system go.”

Getting everyone on board
The biggest challenge has been organising the residents and getting a commitment. But a series of letters, meeting and online surveys confirmed that the vast majority – 39 out of 44 – were willing to contribute to get fibre in place.
 
Now, with the contract signed and planning in progress, John and his fellow residents are itching to get the work done. It takes a minimum of nine months from contract to connection but John is sure it’ll be worth the wait.
 
“It will be absolutely and completely life-changing to people on the street to have a direct fibre broadband connection. We’re going to see a massive increase in upload and download speeds. People will be able to shop around for the best deals from a whole host of suppliers – so we’ll be getting a vastly improved, more reliable service for the same price we pay now for a patchy slow connection.

“We’ll be able to balance work and play, not fight each other for time online and going forward there’s a whole new world of opportunities; more remote working, more flexible working, new ways to stream media content and mirror all the network storage in the house.”
John Kingdon, Local resident and broadband campaigner
 
“More and more will be cloud-based in the future and soon we’ll be able to tap into things that are just not possible now. I may even get those family photos backed up at long last.”
 
 

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Ditcham digs for Ultrafast

Tuesday 30th January, 2018

Ditcham digs for Ultrafast

Making the fibre dream a reality

In 2016, the Hampshire rural Hamlet of Ditcham became the first UK community to benefit from a BT grant scheme aimed at bringing superfast fibre broadband to parts of the country, which are hard-to-reach. The Hamlet, and its local school - Ditcham Park - joined the superfast broadband revolution after taking advantage of a BT schools grant. More than £17,500 was awarded to help connect the school and the local houses along the route to the Openreach fibre network. Now, the community is enjoying ultrafast download speeds of up to 330Mbps - more than 50 times faster than its previous broadband service. Although the grant from BT was instrumental in making Ditcham’s fibre dream a reality, the community’s willingness to ‘get digging’ also made a massive difference, as Ditcham resident and broadband campaigner Chris Taee explains:

“We opted to self-dig after I explained that doing so would save us money and help speed up the fibre deployment process. So, once we started speaking with Openreach through its Community Fibre Partnership programme I stepped in and explained how we’d be able to take charge of all the digging needed to complete the infrastructure.”

Added Chris: “Openreach were incredibly supportive from the get-go. I told them we’d be happy to design the route, liaise with all the land-owners and organise the actual digging ourselves, but they would have to supply the necessary ducting and the chambers. And they did so no problem. In fact, they gave us lots of valuable advice as we were planning the dig. For example, they told us we’d need to put in a chamber every 300 yards and extra chambers where the route bended. They gave us confidence that we were doing everything correctly.”

Working hand-in-hand with Openreach

Chris, who works as an entrepreneurial property developer, determined that he would need to hire in two sub-contractors to do the digging - one to carry out open field digging and the other to dig roads and soft verges, using a small machine digger.

“Everything functioned flawlessly,” he said. “We completed 6.5 kilometres of trenching in less than six weeks. Once we were done, the Openreach engineering team arrived, to install the fibre in the ducts and connected us to the network - which I’m thrilled to say gives us access to some amazing speeds.”

Said Chris: “It all happened at lightening pace. I first contacted Openreach in May and, because we did the digging ourselves, and had great support from the local landowners, we were all switched on by late September. I doubt there is any other community scheme that has managed to complete the process that fast.”

As the project was co-funded by Ditcham Park School, they were understandably overjoyed to receive the BT Schools grant to partially fund the self-dig project. “Just like Openreach, Ditcham Park School was incredibly supportive of the proposal,” said Chris. The School had to find a way of getting better connected, and this proved to be by far the best and most affordable way to get it done.

“The school had been previously quoted a significant sum to get a leased line installed - which would have also incurred a substantial monthly cost. The self-digging and the Community Fibre Partnership programme has saved them circa £100k of capital cost, and another £1,350 or so per month in ongoing charges.”

Added Chris: “That’s why I’d urge other UK communities without fibre to explore the idea of self-digging. If you’ve got a can-do attitude, and don’t mind getting your hands a bit dirty then, with the right support, you really can make it happen.”

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New superfast connection gives Eshott residents the best of both worlds

Friday 24th November, 2017

New superfast connection gives Eshott residents the best of both worlds

When it comes to the perfect place to live, it used to be ‘location, location, location’.  Now it’s ‘connection, connection, connection’. And thanks to a great effort by the local community, Northumberland village Eshott has the best of both worlds – an idyllic country setting coupled with superfast fibre broadband. But that wasn’t always the case.

Eshott resident, Andy Godward, who led the campaign for better broadband, said: “It used to be so frustrating.  We had broadband at dial-up speeds and had to take it in turns to get online.”

In fact, with a growing family and business to run, Andy regularly drove to the nearest town just to get a connection. Unfortunately, the village’s isolated location made upgrading the local network a real challenge – and there were several false starts before things fell into place.
 
“There were a number of red herrings,” explains Andy. “Eshott was dropped from the fibre rollout plans and, because there was no fibre line near the village, we had to look at all sorts of alternatives.”
 
These included trials of satellite broadband and bouncing microwave beams from relay stations. But nothing could provide the level of performance
needed. It seemed that fibre might never make its way to Eshott until Andy stumbled on a potential solution right on his doorstep. And the community decided to take things into their own hands.
 
“A local resident had been talking about building a server farm and, in preparation, had a fibre cable laid. So we knew it might be possible to tap into this. The foundation was there – we just had to take the principle and see if it would work for all of us.”
 
“Life-changing sounds a bit over the top, but it really has transformed how we live and work at home.” Andy Godward
 
With a fibre infrastructure tantalisingly close to the village, the residents approached Openreach, BT Group’s infrastructure arm, which sent engineers to survey the area and see if a community funded approach was viable.  After a period of surveying and planning, Openreach agreed to build new fibre optic cabling and Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology to the village under a joint funding arrangement. The upgrade gives more than 40 homes and businesses access to broadband speeds up to 50 times faster than previously available.
 
“We were in a lucky position of having a company in place to manage the village’s shared services, and a sinking fund that they could tap into, after the idea was overwhelmingly backed by local residents.”
 
Green for go
From getting the green light by Openreach and putting down the deposit to going live with fibre took about 18 months as issues with wayleaves and access were overcome.
                 
And has it all been worth it?
“Life-changing sounds a bit over the top,” says Andy, “but it really has transformed how we live and work at home. Broadband is an essential utility now. It’s
something people look for in a new property.  “Now, I can get on the company’s VPN instantly and work online, the kids can get on with their homework and we can all stream movies and download music – all at the same time.”
 
Almost total take-up
Within two weeks of becoming available, nearly 75 per cent of homes in the village had gone superfast. And nine months later that figure about 95 per cent.
One of those to take up superfast was fellow resident Oliver Clarke: “The initial delays and false starts were frustrating but we now have access to some of the fastest speeds in the country. We have a choice of providers and we can get all of this for the same price as we used to pay for a slow, intermittent service.
 
“I’d recommend any village in a similar situation to contact Openreach and find out what can be done. But make sure you have everyone onside. You need to speak with one voice, you need to pool resources and you need to move quickly – don’t wait.”
 
So it may have taken longer than they would have liked, but the residents of Eshott are delighted with the result.



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Superfast fibre coming to Scottish city school and rural communities

Saturday 1st July, 2017

Superfast fibre coming to Scottish city school and rural communities

Pictured above, Teachers, pupils – and engineers  are looking forward to celebrating an early Christmas present for Dunedin. 

Inverness village takes the high-speed road 

Residents of Moy, a small, scattered community south of Inverness near Tomatin, took matters into their own hands to secure superfast broadband after battling slow speeds for years.
 
James Macpherson, from Strathdearn Community Development Trust, said: “There were no plans to upgrade broadband in the area in the foreseeable future so we decided to investigate a number of different options.”
 
Residents agreed that the best solution was the Openreach proposal to bring superfast fibre to the community, which also means people can choose from a number of different service providers.
 
The community’s part of this project is being funded through community investment, local wind farm contributions, and funding from the government’s Better Broadband Voucher scheme.
 
One small business that will benefit directly is run by occupational psychologist Margaret Saunders. Margaret spends a lot of time travelling as she can’t currently work online or do video-conferencing.
She said: “I have the opportunity to work with Royal British Legion Industries, helping veterans and their families. The work involves a great deal of travelling but when I get fibre I will be able to do that work online, without leaving my home!”

 

Edinburgh school in superfast first

Dunedin secondary school in Edinburgh was the first in Scotland to use a new community grant from BT to connect to high-speed broadband.
 
The small south Edinburgh secondary school, which supports pupils who have difficulties with mainstream schooling, had contacted BT to help them find the best way to get a fast internet connection.
Teacher Paul Gardner said: “The internet plays an important role in our school today, from students researching projects, to developing new computing skills which are vital for their working lives ahead.”
 
The scheme gives communities not covered by any private or publicly funded fibre broadband rollout plans the chance to apply for a grant towards the cost of a new local fibre network, as long as the technology is capable of serving the local school.
 
The grant cuts the contribution needed from local communities and aims to encourage people of all ages to equip themselves with the essential digital skills needed to access online services.
With the funding in place, engineers will build a new street cabinet, giving the school access to superfast fibre broadband. With speeds of up to 80Mbps, staff and students will be able to stream videos seamlessly and download education materials in a flash.
 
Paul said: “We’re looking forward to seeing the benefits of the new high-speed link to our students and staff.”


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One year on: Leicestershire community is flourishing thanks to fibre partnership

Wednesday 21st June, 2017

One year on: Leicestershire community is flourishing thanks to fibre partnership

Residents of a small community in rural Leicestershire have been describing the ‘huge and positive’ impact that superfast broadband has had on their lives since they were connected to the Openreach fibre network just over a year ago.

It was back in March 2016 that the Coleorton Hall estate in Coleorton, and the nearby villages of Churchtown and Farmtown, were upgraded to fibre after striking a co-funding deal with Openreach through its Community Fibre Partnership programme. The story began when a group residents living in Coleorton Hall, a grade II listed building that’s been consisting of 12 apartments and 35 other properties, approached Openreach after discovering they weren’t included in any fibre rollout plans.

 

Benefits that more than compensate for cost

The community and Openreach worked together to reach a solution so that the estate, plus around 120 homes and businesses nearby, could be served by a brand new fibre-enabled cabinet giving speeds of up to 80Mbps.

Resident and broadband campaigner David Basten has been thrilled by the outcome.

“We were all incredibly frustrated with the pretty feeble download speeds we were getting. But now we’ve gone from being one of the most disadvantaged estates in the country to being in the top half. The benefits we as residents are getting from our superfast connection definitely outweigh the costs involved.”

 

Improved quality of life

“The quality of life has definitely improved for all of us who now have a superfast connection. It’s already had a significant impact on property prices and that that has to be good news.”

He adds: “Openreach’s Community Fibre partnerships programme came up trumps for us. Since we first got in touch, everything has just flowed.”

Residents of Churchtown, Farmtown and Coleorton Hall are now enjoying a superfast service on the network which is open to all communication providers on an equal wholesale basis, meaning they can choose from a number of internet service providers.

Jon Wohlters also lives in Coleorton. He says superfast has helped to improve many aspects of his whole family’s lives. 

“For example, we can access the fullest high quality media which means my young children can take advantage of a raft of educational resources.”

Jon recommends that other communities who are not part of any fibre rollout plans should certainly consider working with Openreach via its Community Fibre Partnership programme.

More choice for subscribers

“I would highly recommend using Openreach to provision a community as this removes much of the risk and liability of owning infrastructure and also keeps an open market for subscribers.”

“Reaching a solution through the Community Fibre Partnership was certainly worth it for our community as it is really helping to protect the housing market from any depreciation associated with poor broadband speeds.”

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Everyone’s a winner as fast and reliable broadband improves work-life balance

Thursday 20th April, 2017

Everyone’s a winner as fast and reliable broadband improves work-life balance

“Radical, completely radical. That’s the effect superfast broadband has had on our family. Now, all of us can do what we want when we want – simultaneously.” Said Claire Aindow, from Belmont in Lancashire

“What’s more, it actually costs less than our old regular broadband service.” 
 
“Our broadband connection used to be quite laughable,”  explains Claire, who lives in Belmont with her husband and two teenage children.  “If my husband or I were working from home and using the
internet, then the children’s iPads just wouldn’t function properly. Similarly, if I was watching a film on Netflix then my husband would get frustrated because he couldn’t get on with any work. Sometimes none of us could do anything because the connection was so poor. It’s fair to say that, as a family, we felt a great deal of irritation towards the internet,” adds Claire.
 
Claire and her husband run their own video production business. Working from home was often difficult because uploading videos for their clients was an exhausting process. “Uploading a single six minute HD video to a client’s Dropbox would be an overnight job using our old broadband connection” says Claire. “In fact, every so often we’d need to revert to old school methods of delivery like putting videos on DVD and sending them by post or courier. But clients don’t really expect that any more”.

Claire, her husband and children were excited when they spotted a ‘Superfast is here’ sticker on the street cabinet close to their house. They shopped around and then signed up for a competitive deal – one that was even cheaper than their previous broadband service.
 
Says Claire: “On the Monday and Tuesday my husband and I were still uploading videos at a snail’s pace. Then, on the Wednesday, our superfast connection was switched on.  Suddenly, a video which previously took all night to upload now took six minutes. Six minutes!”
 
“This was a real ‘way-hay’ moment for us. It was exhilarating.”
 
Now with a reliable superfast connection giving the household download speeds of around 27Mbps, the Aindow family are more than happy.
“It’s made such a difference,” says Claire. “My husband and I can enjoy a much better work-life balance, streaming or downloading movies is no problem whatsoever and my son, who is studying for an Open University degree, finds it really easy to download course materials. We are all winners thanks to superfast.”

Wishing you could get superfast broadband?
If you’re in a part of the UK that’s not included in any fibre broadband rollout plans, why not consider having a Community Fibre Partnership with us – so we can jointly fund faster internet for you.
 

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Community turns to crowdfunding for superfast solution

Thursday 9th February, 2017

Community turns to crowdfunding for superfast solution

High and dry

Although it would be accurate to describe Kings Cliffe in Northamptonshire as a small village, it’s been growing quickly in recent times. Evidence of this includes the shiny new Sovereign Grange development built on the edge of the village which features a range of homes designed to attract first time buyers as well as larger families.

Although many Kings Cliffe residents were unhappy with the broadband speeds they were getting, expectations rose when a potential solution emerged – as local broadband campaigner Sam Schofield explains: “Unfortunately Kings Cliffe wasn’t in any superfast fibre rollout plans which, of course, was frustrating for the community. But then a communications provider stepped in to say they could connect the village providing there was sufficient demand.”  Continued Sam: “I live in Sovereign Grange. Lots of families, young people and professionals live here – all of us are keen internet users. So, we were thrilled that the Sovereign Grange community was to be included in the Kings Cliffe superfast upgrade. But then, after eighteen months of discussion with the proprietary fibre broadband provider we discovered that we were suddenly excluded from their plans. The rest of the village would be ok – but we were going to be left high and dry.”

To the rescue

Sovereign Grange community finally received some good news when Sam Schofield met with Paul Bimson, a regional partnership director with BT. Paul told Sam about Openreach's Community Fibre Partnerships initiative and how it could potentially unlock a viable solution for the battle-weary community.

“Paul came along and he was a real saviour to us when we were at a low point. He was a continual presence and worked closely with our community to help us get to grips with the Community Fibre concept. He helped us to understand how we could jointly fund a cabinet upgrade with Openreach,” said Sam.

Sam Schofield then spearheaded a communications campaign to galvanise fellow Sovereign Grange residents into contributing to a fund.

“We needed to raise around £10,000 which would match the contribution from Openreach and get the project done,” said Sam. “We decided to go for online crowdfunding the money. We felt it was open, transparent and people could put in what they could afford”

Paul Bimson said: “The Sovereign Grange community made incredibly rapid progress and crowdfunding really delivered for them. Astonishingly, they hit their £10,000 target in just six weeks.”

This meant that Openreach could begin carrying out all the engineering work required including installation of a new fibre broadband cabinet and underground cables. Fibre broadband went live in Sovereign Grange in October 2016 making superfast speeds of up to 80 Mbps available to around 350 homes for the first time.

“There’s a good feeling in the community right now. What’s more, unlike the rest of Kings Cliffe who are stuck with a proprietary supplier, we are all free to choose who we go with as a service provider,” said Sam Schofield.  “The Sovereign Grange community has shown real determination and vision to bounce back from earlier disappointment. I am thrilled that the Community Fibre Partnerships initiative has been able to step in and rescue the situation,” Said Paul Bimson.

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