Wednesday 3rd August, 2016
Households and businesses in two picturesque Gloucestershire villages are celebrating joining the information superhighway - after fearing they might lose out on the benefits of superfast fibre broadband.
Around 400 premises in Bussage and Chalford now have access to some of the fastest broadband speeds in the country thanks to an innovative partnership with Openreach.
After finding out they weren't included in any fibre broadband upgrades being carried out by the public or private sectors, some villagers worked with Openreach to come up with an alternative solution.
They shared the costs of installing the new road-side fibre broadband cabinets and fibre optic cabling with Openreach, as part of a Community Fibre Partnership programme. Openreach made a significant contribution to the project, with local residents raising the funds required to make up the shortfall in the commercial case for bringing fibre to these hard-to-reach communities.
Paul Severs, chairman of the Bussage and Chalford Broadband Action Group company (BCBAG Ltd), said: Faster fibre broadband is so important these days to businesses as well as residents because it enables us all to do everything online so much easier and more quickly.
Our group believes that fibre broadband promotes social inclusion by improving access to health, education and commercial services and supports sustainable employment by encouraging flexible approaches to working from home and the growth of small businesses.
When we realised we weren't part of any scheduled upgrade, we were naturally very disappointed. Senior managers at BT were instrumental in introducing us to the Community Fibre Partnerships programme, which appeared to be our only way forward.
After three years' campaigning including the last year planning with Openreach the benefits to the local community, who dug deep in their pockets to fund this, are already clear, and there's no doubt that making fibre broadband available will encourage some businesses to stay, who might have otherwise relocated.
May I take this opportunity to thank those in the community who have supported BCBAG for the benefits now available to all of our community.
Anthony Pilkington, managing director of Chalford-based BookCheck Limited, whose business is book-keeping with management accounts, said: We've placed our order to upgrade to fibre and expect our broadband download speeds to soar to up to 80Mbps which, considering we've been struggling with 1.5Mbps, that's going to be life-changing! There are four people in the office here and each of them loses about half an hour a day due to slow broadband speeds and I've calculated the cost savings to my business will be £6,000 per year with superfast, as we'll be able to work more efficiently.
Kim Mears, Openreach's managing director for infrastructure delivery, said: We're committed to working with hard-to-reach communities like Bussage and Chalford to help them achieve their goal of a fast fibre connection. Rural areas often present the most difficult and complex challenges, but working together gives us the best chance possible of finding a suitable and affordable way forward, and, as a result we've actually been able to complete this work slightly earlier than originally expected.
Bill Murphy, BT's former managing director of next generation access, said: A community fibre partnership like this one is an excellent solution for villages like Bussage and Chalford which fall outside any private or public sector fibre broadband roll-out plans. Our strong ambition is to never say no' and rather to work together with local households to find a suitable and affordable option for communities in a similar situation. Indeed, we're already working with around 130 UK communities where local people have got together and pooled their funds alongside Openreach's substantial investment.
Superfast broadband opens up so many opportunities and enables people to do so much more online. For example, seamless online banking, being able to download films, TV or music in next to no time. But there's more to fibre broadband than faster download or upload speeds families can connect more than one device to the internet at the same time without delays or buffering, whether it's for online shopping, web-based school work or gaming.
Unlike other companies, Openreach offers fibre broadband access to all service providers on an open, wholesale basis, which underpins a competitive market and delivers real customer choice.