Residents reap the rewards of ground-breaking fibre broadband subsidy scheme
Thursday 16th March, 2017
A determined community
Ollerton is a small, semi-rural village in Cheshire with a population of around 350 people and a history that goes all the way back to the Domesday Book. The village itself is a long way from the exchange that serves it. Consequently, hardly anybody in Ollerton receives speeds of more than 2Mbps.
David Malkinson, an IT consultant who moved into the village in 2011, says Ollerton is an attractive place to live: “We’re now seeing more and more young professionals moving into the area and changing the community dynamic. But too many of us have been frustrated with the slow broadband speeds. This frustration was amplified because Ollerton hasn’t been on any fibre rollout plans.”
David set up Connecting Ollerton – a local community campaign group aimed at getting faster broadband for the village. He produced fliers, knocked on doors and began collecting email addresses.
He also got in touch with the BT Community Fibre scheme to explore fibre funding options. David organised a meeting in the village hall and invited representatives from Connecting Cheshire, Openreach and the Community Fibre Partnership programme.
“That meeting was extremely positive,” says Glen Fendall from the Openreach Community Fibre Partnerships programme. “There was a strong sense of determination coming from the community. Connecting Cheshire was listening. We were listening.”
Soon after David Malkinson set up a website for Connecting Ollerton and started gathering financial pledges from residents.
“Initially we were quoted £50,000 for the upgrade work,” says David. “That’s £50,000 to be raised by the residents to go with a £50,000 contribution from Openreach. But then thanks to more modelling done by the local council and Openreach – and the fact that the Community Fibre team found a legitimate way for us to remove the VAT, our part of the bill came down to £20,000.”
Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme comes into play Things were beginning to look a lot rosier for the residents of Ollerton. But then came an even more welcome development, as David Malkinson explains:
“I pointed out to Connecting Cheshire that if we had gone for a satellite arrangement, each of the villagers would have been entitled to a £350 Better Broadband Subsidy thanks to a scheme developed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Residents were all eligible because everyone was getting less than 2Mbps connection speeds. All those three hundred and fifty pounds added together would have paid for everything.”
“So I asked the question: ‘Why can’t the Better Broadband Subsidy scheme be applied to Ollerton?’ They replied – ‘we think it can’…and I have to say, that was a tremendous moment.”
And, after consultation with the BDUK team in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Connecting Cheshire clarified that the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme was applicable and available to Ollerton.
“After that confirmation I wasted no time at all,” says David. ‘I sped round to just about every household in Ollerton to collect everyone’s £350 voucher codes and entered them into the scheme’s website.”
Ollerton will now be the first community in the UK to be provided with access to fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband as a result of the voucher scheme.
“Fibre is now on its way,” says David Malkinson. “I must say thanks to Connecting Cheshire for being so positive and the Openreach Community Fibre Partnership scheme for being so responsive to our needs.”