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UPDATE2 West Oxfordshire Council to Help Fund FTTP via Cotswolds Broadband

Thursday, May 8th, 2014 (9:34 am) - Score 661

Cotswolds Broadband (Broadway Partners), which aims to roll-out an open-access 100Mbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network to 90% of homes and businesses in the Chipping Norton area of west Oxfordshire (England), looks like it might soon be able to move forward after West Oxfordshire District Council committed new funding to the project.

The scheme suffered a blow last year after its efforts to secure additional public funding support of around £1.8 million through the Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) stalled because local councils decided to favour BT’s deployment (here). Since then we’ve heard very little in the way of new developments from the project but that could be about to change after it was given a new lease of life.

According to the Oxford Mail, the West Oxfordshire District Council had been debating whether or not to contribute £800,000 to support an expansion of the central Better Broadband for Oxfordshire project with BT, which currently aims to extend the telecom giants local superfast broadband access (25Mbps+) to 90% of the county by the end of 2015 (potentially rising to 95% by 2017 under BDUK’s extension programme).

But instead of doing that the WODC took the surprise decision to fund Cotsworlds Broadband and the council is apparently expecting to save £80,000 per year in the co-investment model.

Richard Langridge, Communities Cabinet Member, said:

We recognise the incredible importance of rural broadband to residents and businesses and we’re very focused on providing 100 per cent coverage. It’s an exciting and innovative approach to filling the gap. We owe it to our residents to do it. We weren’t satisfied with the 95 per cent coverage provided by the BT model.”

It’s rare to see councils taking risks on an alternative network (altnet) project (most tend to prefer the financial security of a big operator), although clearly WODC felt that there was more merit with the Cotsworlds project than BT’s slower but cheaper alternative.

Separately the Cotsworlds Broadband project has also been working to raise several £million in funding via an Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) prospectus, although their website hasn’t received a news update since September 2013. At the time of writing we could also find no further details about the new funding from WODC but we are currently contacting those involved to find out.

UPDATE 9th May 2014

Some official comments and a report have now been posted on the council’s website, which add a little more detail. Apparently council members agreed that they should work independently and invest, subject to appropriate safeguards, £1.6m as a loan to support Cotswolds Broadband in delivering the final 10% not covered by the county project

William Barton, WODC’s Economic Development Officer, said:

Our Members have been very clear in their aspiration to secure full coverage in West Oxfordshire and it was agreed that working with Cotswolds Broadband provides the best opportunity to do this.

Investing in the countywide scheme would still have left around 2,000 properties in West Oxfordshire without a high-speed service. Members felt that they owe it to the District and everyone who lives, works and visits here, to try to maximise the potential chance of achieving as close to 100% coverage.

Although things are still in the very early stages and there is a lot of work to be done to progress the project, this is exciting news for West Oxfordshire.”

A lot of detail concerning this scheme is still missing and this will hopefully be cleared up in the not too distant future. It should also be noted that the above PR focuses on 2,000 premises in the final 5% but the full project plans to reach 4,000 (Broadway Partners).

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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.
Leave a Comment
1 Response
  1. broadband terry says:

    http://goo.gl/IVVN6f

    This decision looks very political to me, read the councillor’s quote – all district councillors in West Oxfordshire are standing for election this month. The paper presumes the district council and BDUK can appoint Cotswolds Broadband which is unlikely without going through a proper procurement exercise. It’s also based on Cotswolds Broadband being re-awarded a grant that Defra turned it down for. Has BDUK been holding on to funds for all projects that reached the Expressions of Interest stage, as Cotswolds Broadband did, but were then turned down? There are many projects that were turned down by Defra as not in the final 10% but which could use funding for what is now identified as the final 10% in their area. The report also makes no mention of claw back in BT contract. Decision obviously made politically before the so called report was even published and vote taken.

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