On Friday, 3 February I held a Broadband Summit at the Fieldgate Centre, Kingsclere which was a follow-up to the summit I held in summer 2015.
In the digital age fast and reliable broadband is non-negotiable and although it’s improving, the incomplete coverage of the area is rightly an important issue for constituents. From the start of the meeting it was clear that the scale of the commercial and engineering challenge facing the Government, Hampshire County Council and BT is vast. It was also clear that they are facing this challenge with urgency and that resources and energies are concentrated on it.
Since the beginning of the project Hampshire County Council and BT have connected tens of thousands of premises, the majority of them to ‘superfast’ levels and are spending millions more over the next few years to connect the remaining areas across a number of different channels.
I do however realise that everything that has been achieved so far matters little to those who have not yet been reached. A show of hands at the meeting found that a majority of the room received speeds considerably short of the universal service obligation and a large cohort received only 2mbps.
So it was a good start to hear about how the Government has been working to meet its commitment on universal access. A satellite solution has been used so far, but at the meeting we heard from Patrick Blogg, Assistant Director for Transformation at HCC that the Better Broadband programme offers the chance to aggregate funding for those premises which cannot be connected within the current cost cap.
Promisingly, there is also provision for the County Council to match fund communities outside of current plans and who are willing to pay for their connection. This is particularly important as there is a large but limited pot of money already state-aid approved set aside by the Council for the whole of Hampshire. Residents and communities from North West Hampshire should move quickly so that our area is not overlooked in favour of others. Information on how you can proceed with these can be found on the links at the end of this note.
BT and BDUK’s presentations also bore promise. Particular attention should be paid to the Community Partnerships proposed by BT. These are designed for residents groups, parishes, developers, landlords and business improvement districts. Groups should approach BT, who will confirm that the area is outside their existing planned projects before offering a quote. The community would then pay 50%. These plans can also tap into the Better Broadband voucher scheme.
Here are some links to some websites that I think you could find useful.
If you still need to speak to BT or HCC about your own individual cases you should contact Grant Munn from BT at Grant.Munn@bt.com or Patrick Blogg from Hampshire County Council at Patrick.Blogg@hants.gov.uk.
The Broadband Delivery UK home page is: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/broadband-delivery-uk and from here you can link to most of the pages bellow.
Information on the Market Test Pilots will, shortly, be published here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/superfast-broadband-programme-phase-3
Information on the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme can be found here: http://basicbroadbandchecker.culture.gov.uk/
Information of the different options for Community-led schemes can be found here: http://gosuperfastchecker.culture.gov.uk/community-led-schemes/