6st June 2021
On the 17th February, through our project partner BT Openreach, we submitted on behalf of all residents our proposal for the Community fibre upgrade project to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport ( DCMS). The proposal funded through the Gigabit Voucher Scheme is for Openreach to transform our broadband services to a dedicated fibre network.
Our goal was to get the proposal in before the 19th February, after which the Gigabit Voucher Scheme closed to all new projects. For the forth coming year the DCMS are running the £5 billion Gigabit Programme with greater emphasis on identified problematics cities and regions - which typically means the smaller communities such as ours are left to one side. We felt it was important to maintain momentum and beat the cut-off date so we can retain access to the closing Voucher Scheme.
On the 6th April BT Openreach advised that our Community Fibre Project has been approved by DCMS. This year our project is expected to proceed based on the funding arrangements of the legacy Voucher Scheme. Which is good news for us.
The frustration is that we are now waiting for DCMS to update its Suppliers Gigabit portal, which partners like Openreach need access to gain approvals as well as access to the voucher funding. We cannot get started until the portal is re-opened and BT Openreach believe this will not be until August. Until then we don’t have a definitive timeline on activities.
In the meantime we are continuing to prepare the way. A Community Interest Company (CIC) has been set-up for the benefit of the community. It is the CIC which will contract with BT Openreach for the delivery of the upgrade project, with the associated social benefits, The CIC Directors are Liz Parnell, Hugh Dickerson and Richard Randall.
Please do not hesitate to contact the members of the CIC if you have any questions regarding this fibre upgrade, especially during this extended lull in the project.
A fast, reliable, Internet service is important to us.
(first published 11th November 2020)
Our need for a reliable Internet service has never been more apparent than during the current pandemic. Within our villages many of us are trying to work and live our lives through online services… our children are attending virtual classrooms, we stay in touch with our families, friends and colleagues, we shop online. The Internet has become central to how we live today.
With lockdown implemented, the increase in service demand across the village clearly demonstrated that our underlying Broadband infrastructure was no longer fit for purpose. We struggle today and have no capacity for the future. We are being told by our service providers that we have access to a ‘high speed’ service, but the reality for many this is not our experience.
Life becomes extremely frustrating without access to a fast Broadband service. We experience stuttering video, frozen pages, slow access to business systems, slow email, and our children struggle with their education.
Future Proof the value of your home: read this - Daily Mail article 11/12/20
How do we address this frustration?
The Government recognise the need for all communities to improve their Broadband gigabit infrastructure across the UK – a 100x times faster than where we are today. This is typically described as ‘Superfast Broadband and is built on ‘Full Fibre’ infrastructure (another term used by the internet providers).
To support this initiative The Government are offering communities, like ours, a voucher per household that commits to a Fibre service. Each voucher is worth £1500 per household and up to £3500 for a business. These vouchers are to fund the technology upgrade to replace the legacy copper wires that severely bottleneck our service today.
These Vouchers enable communities, like ours, to fund our own upgrade with the infrastructure partner we choose. If every household in Overthorpe and Warkworth (80+) claimed their voucher we would have an available budget of over £220,000 for this project.
How do we deliver the upgrade?
We have approached BT Openreach to understand how we can implement a ‘Full Fibre’ service. They have advised an initial project budget of just over £210,000 to deliver fibre cable all the way from the local telecoms exchange in Middleton up to your property. This includes digging all the trenches and the Fibre connection to each house.
if we all commit to a Full fibre service then this project is well within our financial grasp to deliver a digital future for our community. We need act as a community to make this happen.
What happens next? – The Parish Council is seeking your support to commit your voucher to enable this project to move forward.
To register your commitment to upgrading to 'Full Fibre' broadband, click HERE.
Frequently asked questions:
Superfast Broadband benefits
What difference will Superfast Broadband make to my Internet service?
Full fibre has the potential to deliver up to 1 Gbps – 100x the performance of the service many of you receive today. Today many of us struggle with the online services we now consider essential to our lives. Increasingly retail and entertainment will be delivered online. The future is digital, and the services we use today will surely disappear in time.
Will I personally benefit from Superfast Broadband?
The benefit to each household is wider than just overcoming the frustrations we experience today, it is about upgrading your service and your property for the future.
Broadband is no longer a luxury but an essential utility. Published research shows faster broadband can increase your house price by up to 3% and the second most asked question when viewing a house to buy or rent is ”what is the broadband speed”. You may not require faster broadband immediately but should you ever wish to sell or rent your house it makes a difference.
Does Superfast broadband fix WiFi problems?
This project is to deliver faster Internet to your home.
Your download speeds within your home are constrained by the location of your WiFi router and the distance to your phone/tablet/PC. Most routers are capable of handling much faster download speeds than you currently achieve from existing 'copper' cable to your house. To maximise your Broadband performance today you would connect your device to your router with a cable connection. Once you stray beyond the room and connect over your own WiFi you can expect your performance to drop – unless it is boosted along the way. Many of the properties in our community were constructed many years ago with thick stone walls.
'Boosting' your internal WiFi to overcome these dense barriers may still be needed, if your Internet service is patchy within your home.
Delivering your Superfast Broadband connection
Do you need to dig up my road?
BT Openreach usually deliver the new fibre via existing poles and ducts, very occasionally they may need to install new duct and poles.
For Overthorpe they have identified that they will need a ‘soft dig’ a trench from the Warkworth road and along the verge to the corner before the centre of the village to lay a new fibre connection. The remaining routing is planned to be through existing ducts.
There will be consultation prior to any works commencing to ensure all households maintain access through this project phase.
How can one know if a fibre cable would come into the house underground or overhead?
It follows the existing connection route.
Would normal voice line come through the same fibre cable or via a copper cable?
Customers can choose if they wish to have a Voice Over IP service or keep a copper line for their voice calls. Technically Openreach remove the existing copper line and replace it with a combined Copper/fibre line.
When will BT Openreach need to enter my home?
The project will deliver a full fibre solution from the exchange to your property; however Openreach will not enter your home when we are building the network. The final connection into your property will be done with your own Internet Service Provider when you place an order with for the new Fibre service.
What equipment will be provided at my house end of the fibre cable?
Just a box, a bit larger than your current Master Socket that you connect your telephone and Internet service provider router into today.
Will I need a new router and if so when do I get it?
When you order service this will be sent to you from your Internet Service Provider, e.g. BT, Sky, Plusnet, Vodafone, TalkTalk, etc..
How do I claim my voucher for the project budget?
There is a residential and a business voucher; how do I decide which one to claim if I run my business from home?
As long as you can prove that a business is operating from your home address then there is no issue. The business voucher is worth significantly more than residential so should always be claimed if valid.
To qualify you must be a small or medium business turning over less than 50million Euros per annum. It can be a limited company, sole trader or charity. It must operate from the premise in the scheme, however if a limited company can be registered elsewhere.
For clarification, small businesses can still use residential Internet service contracts.
How do the vouchers work?
We believe Overthorpe and Warkworth to be classified as rural villages by DEFRA. As such we would expect to qualify for the Rural Gigabit scheme as follows:
- Addresses must be classified as rural by DEFRA
- Business can claim a voucher worth £3500
- Residential customer can claim a voucher worth £1500
- The scheme only allows one voucher per property.
- Must be getting under 100 Mbps at the moment
- Must take a service of 30Mbps or more for 12 months from the provider of your choice
What is the commitment from each household required from the Government to claim the voucher?
As indicated in the scheme above for a household to claim its voucher it must commit to receiving a Broadband service of at least 30Mbps. For some households this may require an upgrade to their existing provider agreement for 12 months only, for other households it may be getting what they feel they have already paid for from their service provider. Obviously, once the full fibre is completed, you could select a much faster service from your Service Provider.
If you are concerned about incremental costs then please discuss these with your Parish Council representative, such that they can note your position on the commitment and explore options with you. In many cases a change of service provider may achieve the service upgrade at no cost.
Project team: Richard Randall, Aileen Powell, Clive Adkins, Liz Parnell, Richard Parnell