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Hampshire UK Commits £1m to Install Community Broadband Networks

Thursday, August 10th, 2017 (9:12 am) - Score 438
openreach engineer with drum of fibre optic cable

The Hampshire County Council in England has allocated £1 million to help fund and support local communities that will not benefit from the regional roll-out of “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) networks. Instead the communities can use the funding to help build an alternative, but there’s a catch.

At present the local Hampshire Superfast Broadband project is already working with Openreach (BT) to roll-out “superfast broadband” networks to reach 97.4% of local premises by 2019, although tacking the final 2.6% of homes and businesses (mostly those in remote rural areas) will be difficult due to the high costs involved.

Instead the council has setup a new Community Match Funding scheme. Under this approach the local authority will aim to provide “up to half of the funding” required to upgrade an area (e.g. a rural village), which must then be matched via money raised by communities or other services in order to deliver the new network.

Eligibility for Community Match Funding
Eligible communities are those not included in the current superfast broadband roll-out, where the community are willing and able to raise 50% of the cost of getting superfast broadband themselves.

Applications accepted into the scheme will benefit from County Council funding up to 50% of the total cost (ex VAT) with a ceiling of £1,650 per superfast premise passed.

If necessary, communities will be responsible for their own VAT contribution.

Examples:

a) £25,000 for 50 premises = £500 per premise – the County Council will commit match-funding of £250 per premise, requiring the community to add £250 per premise.

b) £25,000 for 5 premises = £5,000 per premise – the County Council will commit match-funding of £1,650 per premise, requiring the community to add £3,350 per premise.

Apparently a group of 17 properties in Silchester (near Tadley) have already taken advantage of the scheme, although no information has been provided about that deployment or the funding involved.

Roy Perry, Leader of Hampshire County Council, said:

“Good broadband access is fundamental – people rely on the internet everyday, whether it’s for banking and shopping, or learning and working from home. Not only is it vital for the economy of Hampshire, it is also an effective way of delivering modern and accessible public services. This money will allow more people to benefit from what is rapidly becoming an essential service.”

The catch is that due to EU State Aid rules the public money can only be spent with companies that already have a contract with a public sector body to deliver superfast services, which means that any communities looking to take advantage of this have no freedom to work with any other network operator than Openreach (BT).

This is somewhat disappointing, albeit not surprising and the council have said that their position “remains under review” (i.e. they might add more suppliers in the future).

Steve Haines, MD for Openreach, said:

“It is great to be able to work with Hampshire County Council and communities like Silchester to find a fibre broadband solution. Openreach is committed to making fibre broadband as widely available as possible for households and businesses. The technology really does have the ability to transform the way people interact online.”

Readers will note that the council’s fund can thus also be combined with BT’s similar Community Fibre Partnerships scheme, which is where BT offers to help fund part of the deployment (the community usually pays 50% of the cost). Communities can sometimes also make use of government grants (e.g. the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme, which is available until the end of 2017) in order to help further bring down the cost.

By combining all of these elements it’s often possible to upgrade an area that would previously have been considered too expensive to reach. As usual the most tedious part often stems from encouraging enough people in a community to put money on the table, which is especially difficult to achieve in sparse rural areas with only a very few homes.

The Government’s proposed 10Mbps USO has also added an additional dynamic to this by creating a degree of uncertainty about future connectivity provision. Some communities may well decide to wait and see whether they will be left with an inferior Satellite solution or not before considering a co-funded community approach.

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

    Openreach only? Not Gigaclear or Airband?

  2. Rob Broughall

    Unfortunately it’s a bit of a mess – I’m connected to one of the Hampshire cabinets which haven’t been fttc enabled, it’s a new cabinet which was fitted about 6 years ago providing service to several new build developments. The superfast Hampshire programme refuses to do anything with it instead saying the housing developers need to do it (who have all moved on & weren’t compelled to do it in the first place).

    Council minutes show Hampshire acknowledge this issue, we recently tried to use the matched funding route (at Hampshire’s suggestion) to then be told we’re not eligible for that either (after having started the process with residents).

    This saga has been going on for at least 3 years now with Hampshire seemingly looking to deflect the issue at every opportunity, we’re now getting local MP & councilors involved to try and make some progress on the issue.

  3. Rob Broughall

    @Fastman- Alton 33

  4. Fastman

    developer persimmon would be a small gap if community chose to fund it

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