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Government Offers GBP382K to Fibre GarDen Project in Cumbria UK

Friday, July 11th, 2014 (8:03 am) - Score 722
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After a period of uncertainty the community owned co-operative Digital Dales (Fibre GarDen) project, which hopes to build a new fibre optic (FTTP) based superfast broadband (50-100Mbps) network in rural parts of Garsdale and Dentdale (Cumbria, England), might finally be back on track thanks to an offer of £382,500 in public funding.

The project looked to be on thin ice earlier this year after Dent Parish Council released a positioning statement that appeared to attack the schemes funding and feasibility (here). Councils are notoriously risk-averse and being able to offer a clear outline of funding and expectations when asked can often be crucial to a decision, although it appears as if the project has now done enough to move forward.

The Government’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme has sent, through the £20m Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF), an official offer letter worth £382,500 to the scheme. This makes Fibre GarDen the only other non-BT RCBF linked project, other than Gigaclear, to receive public funding support.

Andrew Fleck, Chairman of Fibre GarDen, said:

We are absolutely delighted to have met all the requirements laid down by DEFRA. Their scrutiny has been relentless and this endorsement demonstrates their confidence in Fibre GarDen as a long term service provider for our communities. Along the way we have received enormous support and encouragement from our communities and YDNP.”

Tim Farron MP said:

This is brilliant news and a testament to the hard work and determination of the whole Fibre GarDen project. I have been proud to support and campaign with the team. Being able to deliver superfast broadband to Garsdale and Dentdale will make a massive difference to residents and businesses.”

Fibre GarDen has already signed a contract with ITS Technology Group to help build, deliver and manage the service (here), which will now start construction of the 64km long fibre optic network. It’s hoped that the build will be finished by August 2015, which will make their Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) connectivity available to several hundred premises. Local businesses can also expect Gigabit (1Gbps+) speeds.

Roy Shelton, CEO of ITS Networks (UK) Limited, said:

This is a massive step forward for rural broadband. This funding will mean that households and businesses in these hard to reach places will be able to benefit from broadband speeds that exceed many urban developments in the UK. This project only goes to show how the determination of a community can ensure it doesn’t get left behind and digitally disadvantaged. This network is all inclusive, as every household and business can connect if they wish.”

The not-for-profit co-operative network, which will additionally be offered on an open access basis to rival ISPs, will also be one of the first to harness Network Rail’s existing infrastructure in order to deliver its service. It’s an approach that others may be keen to emulate, although the national railways operator doesn’t always like to play ball (here).

The project still has a long way to go but it’s encouraging to see real progress being made.

Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar James Harrison

    Minor correction – the other RCBF project that didn’t give money BT wasn’t directly Gigaclear, but the Northmoor, Bablockhythe and Moreton broadband team.

    Great news for Fibre GarDen – knowing how horrendous that process can be it’s impressive they got through, especially given the existing contract as the process ostensibly requires a procurement to be held, and for the application to be completely technology neutral at all phases prior to the procurement.

    • Avatar James Harrison

      “money BT” should be “money to BT”* – I’m not doing well this morning, someone put the kettle on… 🙂

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