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Superfast Broadband Update

Valley Broadband Update
The intention of this article is to update valley residents as to the latest on “Valley Broadband Speeds”.

For those with little time, a short summary would be that there are 2 routes for the Borthwick Water Valley to faster internet.

One is British Telecom bringing superfast broadband into the Valley, the other is through a Community-based Broadband Solution. Neither is imminent, with the BT solution potentially coming sooner, and the Community-based Broadband solution taking years to achieve, although there is a chance we could piggy-back on a South Lanarkshire community-based solution that is much further down the line.

In more detail :-

BT Solution
BT recently announced that we are NOT on the next tranche of exchange areas to be superfast-enabled. But, that’s not to say that we won’t be on the list in 2016/7.

We are down as a “Planned” future superfast broadband, so in theory BT are planning to implement superfast broadband in the Valley.

Important Note – This will likely NOT include everyone in the valley, because of the technologies and distances involved, with those more distant from the exchange less likely to get the full benefit of “Superfast” Broadband (>24Mbps).

Community Broadband Solution
It is in our interest to join with the other 10 valleys under the “Ettrick and Beyond Initiative” Community Based Broadband solution whether BT come to our rescue or not as BT are more motivated to step-in and up their game if they know we are going down the community-broadband solution. 

The Scottish Government has a £40million fund to help communities implement their own solutions.

To get money from the government, the community-based solution project group have to follow a very specific path, shown in the attached image. (The items enclosed with a green rectangle show what has been achieved so far).    

For example, the questionnaire recently filled in by valley residents helped create the attached scoping document, which is another key step in the process.

Where are we now ?
One of the outcomes of the questionnaire was a set of postcodes that showed interest in Superfast Broadband.

The Scottish Government funding money is only available to areas where BT have no plans for implementing Superfast Broadband and so, BT HAVE to be given the opportunity to say which of the Postcodes they are going to be sorting.

They were given this list of postcodes 4 weeks ago, and are allowed 6 weeks to report back, so hopefully by the New Year, Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) (who help us along the process) will have this back from BT. They will then map this out so people can see easily if they will be in line for superfast broadband from BT and a rough estimate of how fast “superfast” will be for them.

The outcome will be 1 of 3 :-

You will find out that you are in a postcode where :-
•    BT is planning to “superfast” entirely.
•    BT has no plans to “superfast” at all (also known as a white postcode area)
•    Some properties in a Postcode will be “superfast”ed and others won’t.

This will be an interesting time for us all.

Those living in properties in the entirely “superfast”ed postcodes will be taken out of the scope of the community broadband solution.

Those living in a white postcode area (no BT superfast solution) will be included in the scope.

What happens to people whose postcodes are partially covered is not yet clear.
 
So, in the New Year, we will know more about the community-based solution’s progress.

Once we know the scope of the project (after BT has come back), the 11 valleys will need to constitute a team to take the project forward (a steering group). This will need to be a legal body and given the work involved, will need to employ a project manager (procurement specialist) to keep the project moving forward. This can be done by a volunteer, but the work involved is estimated to be 1000+ hours by Amanda Burgauer (www.b4gal.org.uk) who leads a team that is much further down the route than we currently are.

This can NOT be funded out of the Scottish Government’s £40million fund as that is only for the capital-based infrastructure for the broadband solution.

Other funding opportunities for this (wind farms, LEADER project etc…) are being looked into.

Another option
There are other communities who have been down the route we are travelling and come out the other end with superfast broadband (http://gigaplusargyll.co.uk/ being one).

Amanda Burgauer, Director of B4GAL (http://www.b4gal.org.uk) for South Lanarkshire started in 2012 and is just now reaching the procurement stage.

Their solution is a hybrid one (using fibre and wireless solutions) to provide a number of packages to their residents. (2mbps – Free, 25mbps for £25 per month, and 50mbps for £50 per month).

Summary
It’s a long process ahead, which may see BT step in and sort some valley residents out with superfast broadband.

But, the likelihood is that some of us will be going down the community-solution route which will likely take years, with the bonus that this may be shortened by piggy-backing on B4GAL (pronounced Bagel, and standing for “Broadband for Glencaple and Lowther”) who see benefits on making their project stronger by widening the area and increasing their user-base.

Better Broadband IS coming. The UK government has mandated that 10mbps is a right for all by 2020. But, patience is needed.

Watch this space…..