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RCBF Approve Northmoor, Moreton and Bablockhythe Broadband Project

Friday, December 27th, 2013 (11:29 am) - Score 674
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The Northmoor, Moreton and Bablockhythe Community Broadband Project in West Oxfordshire (England) has reportedly had its requested state aid funding of £200,287 from the Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) approved, although a supplier has yet to be confirmed.

The £20m RCBF budget, which was established to help the UK’s final 5-10% of rural areas get superfast broadband, has been struggling to move forward because many local authorities and BT have refused to release vital postcode-based broadband speed and coverage (SCT) data due to it being deemed “commercially sensitive” (here).

The data is needed to help satisfy state aid rules and many RCBF projects have struggled to move forward without it, except of course those where BT has been chosen as the supplier. Another local West Oxfordshire scheme, Cotswolds Broadband, has recently been rejected by the RCBF (here) and some feared that the Northmoor, Moreton and Bablockhythe project might follow.

Happily the scheme now looks set to move forward after the Oxford Mail reported that its request for RCBF funding had gained full approval.

Graham Shelton, Chairman of Northmoor Parish Council, said:

This is a wonderful community achievement that has taken a truly enormous amount of effort from villagers, and from the leader of West Oxfordshire District Council right through to the Prime Minister himself. Importantly, we could not have got this far without the fantastic support of our district council, who are now handling the procurement process.”

The project, which is currently part of a public consultation until 3rd January 2014, aims to deliver download speeds of 24Mbps or more to 100% of premises (around 500 homes and businesses / 1,115 people) within its footprint by 2015. The schemes backers have also pledged to match the RCBF grant of £200,287 with their own funding.

The area is understood to have already been “de-scoped from the BT / Oxfordshire County Council [BDUK] project to roll out broadband to Oxfordshire“, although there’s still no word on a supplier and indeed we don’t expect to hear about a preferred bidder until towards the end of spring 2014. It will be interesting to see whether somebody other than BT is chosen to supply the service.

In related news we note that the West Oxfordshire District Council recently (11th December) recommended allocating £1.6m to extend high speed broadband coverage to reach “as many residential and business premises as possible across rural West Oxfordshire“. The council said it would be exploring all options to increase broadband coverage, including working with BT and alternatives like “high speed wireless networks and business models where the Council can generate a return on its investment will also be explored“.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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