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UPDATE Public Funding Helps Fuel BT Community Fibre FTTP Broadband Upgrade

Monday, Sep 26th, 2016 (12:57 pm) - Score 3,029

The rural community of Cotwalton in Staffordshire (England) has become the latest to help pay for an “ultrafast” (330Mbps) FTTP broadband upgrade through BT’s existing Community Fibre Partnerships scheme, but the twist is that it’s also the first one to be combined with public funding.

At present such partnerships tend to be made available to those living in the final 5% of UK premises, which often reflects smaller rural communities that are not currently planned to benefit from the wider state aid supported roll-out of “superfast broadband” via the Broadband Delivery UK programme (e.g. Superfast Staffordshire).

Normally the funding will reflect a mix of investment raised by both the local community and BT itself. In addition, eligible communities with Schools in them can also apply to BT for a grant worth up to £20,000 towards the cost of a new local fibre upgrade (usually slower FTTC rather than FTTP) and then locals would fill in the remaining gap from their own pockets.

However the setup in Cotwalton is the first one to make use of public money, which comes via the Superfast Staffordshire scheme that is separately working with Openreach (BT) to ensure that 95% of local premises can access “superfast” Internet speeds of 24Mbps+ by 2017 (or 97% when looking at just the raw fibre footprint including sub-24Mbps speeds).

BT now hopes to see this approach being replicated for other small rural communities around the UK.

Mark Winnington, Staffordshire Council’s Economic Growth Leader, said:

“We’re pleased to partner with BT and the Cotwalton community to connect them to the national fibre infrastructure. The great contribution from these local residents at last made it viable to bring ultrafast broadband to this community, so this partnership approach is a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Piloting this arrangement with BT is a real way forward and we’re looking to work with more local communities to collaboratively fund similar projects. This means we can make the BDUK money go further as we’ve funded this based on our local arrangement.”

Bill Murphy, BT’s MD of Next Generation Access, said:

“This is a significant ‘first’ for our Community Fibre Partnership programme and for Staffordshire. We hope we’ll be able to replicate this approach elsewhere, and we’re keen to have discussions with other local bodies who might wish to consider a similar project.”

Apparently BT are currently working with around 140 UK communities to deliver similar upgrades, although it’s unclear how many of these involve the faster and more expensive Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) broadband technology instead of the usually slower but cheaper Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) solution.

The press release doesn’t explain why FTTP was chosen, but we will ask (in some rare causes it can be cheaper to deploy FTTP than FTTC for very small communities). Similarly we’re not told how much the roll-out itself is expected to cost or exactly how many premises will benefit. We’ll update once Openreach report back, if they report back.

In the meantime Openreach said that their engineers were expected to complete the extensive engineering work, which includes installing around 3 kilometres of fibre optic cabling, sometime next year (2017).

Mind you not everybody will be happy with the thought that a community felt as if it had no other option than to donate its own money in order to get better broadband, which many regard today as being nearly as important as water or electricity.

UPDATE 28th September 2016

Openreach has confirmed to us that they expect to “reach around a dozen premises” with the technology, but sadly they dodged our question about how much it actually cost. However we did learn that the deployment doesn’t exist outside of the usual Broadband Delivery UK contracts “as the local body money came out of unallocated budget from phase one of Superfast Staffordshire” (the standard gainshare mechanism will apply).

Mark-Jackson
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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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