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Gloucestershire and Herefordshire’s £14m Broadband Plan for 2022

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019 (11:56 am) - Score 847

The Gloucestershire and Herefordshire UK councils appear to be on the verge of agreeing a new £14m Broadband Strategy for their joint Fastershire project, which will run until the end of 2022 and aims to extend the reach of “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) ISP networks into some of the most poorly served parts of both counties.

At present the Fastershire project, which harnesses various different contracts with Openreach (BT), Gigaclear, Airband, Full Fibre Limited and Glide among others, expects to bring “superfast broadband” to over 97% of properties in both counties by 2022 (currently c.90% in Herefordshire and c.95% in Gloucestershire). The most recent contracts have largely focused upon extending Gigabit-capable full fibre FTTP networks.

NOTE: The £30m publicly funded Fastershire project has so far helped to cover an additional 96,516 premises, mostly with FTTC (VDSL2) and a little FTTP.

Sadly this will still leave quite a big gap left to fill and the councils have now begun to consider the potential for future contracts, which would focus on the final 3% of premises that have yet to benefit come 2022. Such areas tend to be disproportionately more expensive to serve, not least due to many of them being in small and sparse rural communities.

In response a new Fastershire Broadband Strategy 2019 – 2022 has been proposed, which would continue to increase superfast broadband coverage across both counties through a mixture of contracts and grants, opting for Gigabit-capable or full fibre (FTTP) broadband “where value for money allows” (i.e. determined largely by the market competition with grant beneficiaries required to accept the most economically advantageous offer).

The plan includes a new Phase 5 deployment process, which would complement their existing and on-going contracts. The aim of this will be to find a “more bespoke solution” for those premises in the final 3%, such as by offering a Fastershire Community Broadband Grant to aggregated groups of related premises (the talk is of individual grants with a value of up to £5,000). But the funding won’t be enough for every property.

Gloucestershire Council’s Funding Statement

The total amount of capital investment available for broadband delivery across the two counties is £14m of which £5.42m relates to Gloucestershire County Council, which is substantial funding. However, it is worth noting that, given the c.13,500 premises that will remain unserved at the conclusion of the existing contracts, it equates to a little over £1k per property and therefore is unlikely to be enough to resolve the residual coverage gap in its entirety.

[ISPr Editor: We think the 13.5k just refers to the Gloucestershire side]

Just to give a better idea of where this money is coming from, we can breakdown the figures for Gloucestershire alone (£5.42m) as follows: £1.96m from residual funds, £267K from ERDF and related match funding by the councils, £500k from the Cotswold District Council and £2.7m in clawback due to high take-up under existing broadband contracts.

Cllr Patrick Molyneux said:

“The Fastershire project has been incredibly successful so far and the vast majority of homes and businesses are already benefiting from the project’s investment.

We are determined to ensure residents in Gloucestershire have access to superfast broadband and want to transform broadband access, making Gloucestershire one of the best connected areas in the country. The new Fastershire strategy outlines how we aim to extend this further to ensure even our hardest to reach properties benefit.”

The proposal is almost certain to be voted through at a meeting on Friday this week. The document warns that no agreement would risk creating a “policy vacuum in a high profile area which remains of critical importance to many residents and businesses.”

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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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5 Responses
  1. Avatar NGA for all

    BDUK report the >24Mbps as 129,000 premises fr both Counties- June 2019 and further 22k contracted yet to be delivered. It is good there is residual funds.
    The combined contracted amount was £58m for Fastershire and BT was promising £20m at one point or £10m towards allowable costs, none of which is reported upon.

  2. Avatar 1pF

    Fastershire have been woeful in providing information updating residents – except where a photo opportunity is concerned with the local councillor – Gigaclear were supposed to be with us in Q1 2019 but guess what delay, delay, delay even after contacting them for an update a basic (non)response came back. The stretch between Huntley and Longhope has been left out again (A40) and nobody is able to say when and where.

    The galling thing is 3-4 years ago BT (as part of the Fastershire project) took fibre from the Longhope exchange down the A40 to Huntley and missed everyone else along the route out. Most residents could have had the speed a long time ago. Gigaclear (as part of Fastershire) have also (seems to have) over built by the BT Longhope exchange. Really hope they get their fingers out and stop dithering for those areas that have been missed yet again.

  3. Avatar AnotherTim

    From the draft Strategy 2019-2022 document, one Gloucestershire’s Key Performance Indicators is that 50% of rural properties will be able to connect to Full Fibre Broadband. I assume that the remainder will still be using ADSL.
    With the BDUK Inside Out schemes not expected to be delivering until 2023 or so, a lot of people are still going to have a very long wait. But Fastershire still think that they are ahead of urban areas.
    It does state that “Fastershire will continue to communicate its progress” so I look forward to their next update in 3 years time.

  4. Avatar Mark

    What happens if your already in a fastershire enabled area and all they supply is sub 30 mbps? VDSL is all they do no FTTP. Gigaclear in remote areas provided FTTP. But urban areas got a cabinet 100s of metres away.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Full fibre extensions were catered for in the budget, as you can see and they are happening in many many places, 487,000 passed in rural so far, another 300k contracted and owed and monies available to do another 500-600k.

      I was hoping at this point this effort ought to be joined to Shropshire, Worcesetershire etc to try and finish the job with the monies owed.

      The challenge the projects are getting fatigued so you have to keep nagging.

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