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Bold funding approach is fantastic news for Staffordshire community

Wednesday 5th October, 2016

 

Pictured above  (L to R) Paul Chatwin, Brian Scott & Kasam Hussain

Exploring the possibilities

Fed up with slow broadband speeds, residents of the tiny village of Cotwalton near Stone teamed up with Openreach and Superfast Staffordshire to secure an ingenious co-funding agreement.
The partnership has paved the way for Cotwalton to benefit from access to ultrafast FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) broadband.
 
Brian Scott, a resident of Cotwalton, takes up the story...
 
“Cotwalton is a lovely place to live but we’re a long way from the nearest exchange and we were getting just three and a half megabit download speeds on average. The village was advised to apply for funding through Openreach's Community Fire Partnerships initiative whereby Openreach would contribute half the cost and the villagers would pay the remaining fifty per cent.”
“The trouble was, with just 13 properties in the village, sharing out the cost burden would have meant each household investing anything between two and four thousand pounds. And that wasn’t really on the cards.”
 

Future-proofed fibre

But then Brian had conversations with BT Group and Superfast Staffordshire. The outcome was that Superfast Staffordshire agreed to bring some money to the party – after clearing the proposal for a three-way partnership with BDUK. (Broadband Delivery UK is part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, helping to deliver superfast broadband to the nation.)
 
Speaking about the approach, Kasam Hussain from Openreach said: “We wanted to run a pilot scheme in Staffordshire, and if the villagers of Cotwalton could be persuaded to raise up to £15,000, Superfast Staffordshire would work to match that contribution. This would effectively halve the village contribution against the initial quote.”
Kasam adds: “This was music to Brian’s ears. Because it meant households would only need to find a more affordable £1100 each.
After becoming community fibre champion, Brian discussed the scheme with his neighbours. Meanwhile, BT Group ran a couple of workshops with Staffordshire County Council to discuss the opportunity with villagers in more detail.
 
Brian said: “We were delighted when Openreach then got in touch and told us that the installation would be fibre-to-the-premises broadband – meaning Cotwalton would receive future-proofed download speeds of up to 330Mbps. That’s equal to the best in the whole country which is astonishing for a tiny village like ours!”
 
Paul Chatwin from Superfast Staffordshire commented that Cotwalton is a great example of a strong cohesive community in action: “I couldn’t believe how quickly everything happened – it was a matter of weeks. Brian has been a true community champion. I’ve really enjoyed collaborating with both Openreach and the community on this. There’s been a real feeling of excitement as we develop this new approach.”
 
The smart thinking behind the Cotwalton co-funding arrangement is ready to be applied across the country in a bid to help other communities – those that are not included in the national or BDUK fibre rollout – get access to superfast broadband.

 

Bold funding approach is fantastic news for Staffordshire community

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