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Prince of Wales Charity Identifies Broadband as a UK Rural Weak Spot

Monday, July 30th, 2018 (8:17 am) - Score 785
rural british village uk broadband

The Prince’s Countryside Fund is currently said to be working on a new ‘Village Survival Guide‘, which comes after the charity surveyed 3,000 people in rural parts of the United Kingdom and found that better broadband and mobile (4G) coverage was one of three changes that such communities desperately need.

At present it’s estimated that the Broadband Delivery UK programme has already helped to extend “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) class connectivity to cover 95% of premises and this could reach around 98% by 2020. Meanwhile the Government have said that they want Mobile operators to deliver 95% geographic coverage by 2022 (EE hopes to achieve this with 4G by December 2020 and is currently at 91%, although others are further behind).

Avid readers will also know that last week saw Ofcom and the Government outline their plans for ensuring that every home and business in the UK could access a Gigabit capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP/H) style “full fibre” broadband ISP network by 2033 (here and here), which will focus on delivering to rural areas at the same time as urban ones.

Nevertheless there will always be those who end up stuck at the back of the pack, where they can be left to wait for years before local connectivity improves. Needless to say that the broadband and mobile problem in remote rural areas isn’t going to be completely resolved overnight and until some solid funding, as well as cross party support, is put behind the 2033 aspirations then we will continue to have doubts about deliverability.

The other two key changes that rural communities say they want to see is a reduction in the closured of key services (e.g. banks, post offices, pubs etc.) and fairer funding in order to compensate for the higher costs of rural improvements.

In response the charity told The Times (paywall) that they planned to produce a Village Survival Guide, which will highlight examples of how such rural communities can go about “building their resilience“.

A Spokesperson for the Prince’s Countryside Fund said:

“We are planning on producing the guide, with feedback from other stakeholders; it will include practical guidance on how to set up a community business, information on who can offer specific advice and a ‘top ten resilience checklist’ which will break down, based on the research, the key assets that make rural communities sustainable.”

The guide itself isn’t available yet, although it’s expected to suggest measures such as community hubs with free WiFi (ideally needs a good broadband services to be present first) and more travelling “pop-up” services (e.g. mobile banks and chemists).

Sadly it will take more than a guide to solve some of the fundamental economic and infrastructure problems that exist in rural communities, although those with the money or time to invest could always consider the social approach to broadband installation by joining forces with community ISPs like B4RN.

In other cases it’s often possible to make use of certain government grants or local voucher schemes, such as the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme (here) or Openreach’s Community Fibre Partnerships, in order to pro-actively pool investment and improve local connectivity. In all cases another good piece of advice is to pressure your local MP and get them involved in the battle.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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13 Responses
  1. Avatar chris conder

    I wouldn’t touch the community partnerships with a barge pole, all that happens is that BT take money from the community for a cabinet, which still won’t solve the problem of those too far from the cabinet. Now if they did fibre to every home in the parish that would be different, it is worth the money, but FTTC is so yesterday.

    • Just an FYI on that one Chris, the partnerships can also support FTTP, where viable. Sometimes it’s down to the community’s own choice.

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      I looked at CFP for my area, but due to the way BDUK left small pockets of homes out of the FTTC rollout, a single CFP can’t provide for more than half a dozen properties, which makes the cost prohibitive. Now we are in FTTP “plans” anyway, so are no longer eligible even if we could afford it – hopefully the FTTP build will start in a year or so…

  2. Avatar A_Builder

    @chris conder

    One of the strange things about the way this appears to work is that putting a connectorised fibre block on all of the relevant phone poles ready for the last drop doesn’t seem to attract funding.

    The only way funding is attracted is to actually connect loads of people. So the budget costs of the project are totally inflated as everyone with POTS ends up with a pure fibre line run in wether they need it or want it.

    Put a live connectorised block on every relevant phone pole with a drop would be quicker and cheaper and then the final fibre drop can be installed as the home/business requests it.

    Forget the present definition of ‘passed’ for FTTP purposes. With the connectorised block there on the pole the service is genuinely available.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @A_Builder: Could you explain in more detail what you mean by ‘connectorised block’ on a pole? How is that different on how BT does FTTP?

    • Avatar Joe

      Something like this: https://ibb.co/gMR0Cb

      That is the way OR are going as its far more efficient than the old system of DP/SpliterNode->Splice Point with mulitple different engineers.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      @Joe

      Exactly what I had in mind.

    • Avatar Joe

      Connectorised is really the way to go for multiple reasons. It cuts the # of engineers you need but far more crucially the skills needed for connectorised installs are more basic; so you save hugely on engineer training and you don’t need as much of the costly fibr kit. (There are combined copper/fib cables as well for much the same reasons.)

      Thats fine for most houses that are close by although it can cause a hastle as if you can’t use connectorised (still cable distance limits iirc) they probably send an engineer out who looks at the job and has to call for help from some old hand who has the full training.

  3. Avatar occasionally factual

    The cynic in me wonders exactly how much money the Prince of Wales (and Royal family), as large landowners, make out of way leaves and future ones?
    And how accommodating they are to requests currently?

    • Avatar Joe

      WLs generally amount to small beer. They are generally more hastle than they are worth which is why farmers were not fans of ‘easy money’ before and the new rules make that even less so.

  4. Avatar Paul

    Superfast Staffordshire have helped 9 communities undertake a Community Fibre Partnership, all of which are FTTP. The communities vary in size from 8 properties to 58 properties. This option can really help a community to take matters into their own hands, however it may not suit all situations.

  5. Avatar Steve

    It’s a shame that the Princes brand new development in Dorset (Poundbury) is lacking broadband in areas!

    • Avatar Paul

      So why do developers build new estates without specifying full fibre broadband, when commercial operators will install it for little or no cost. Sheer stupidity.

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