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Hampshire UK Look to Boost Rural Gigabit Broadband Vouchers

Friday, February 21st, 2020 (9:22 am) - Score 1,047
rural broadband landscape uk

The Hampshire County Council (HCC) in England appears to have proposed a new scheme, which will help to improve broadband connectivity in the hardest to reach rural areas by committing £1m to “top up” funding under the Government’s rural voucher scheme (c.2-3% of premises are still without “superfast” speeds of 24Mbps+).

At present the Government’s £200m Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme can, among other things, provide vouchers worth up to £3,500 for small businesses and up to £1,500 for residents to help those in poorly connected areas to access an ultrafast or gigabit-capable broadband ISP connection.

However a recent council meeting suggests that local homes in Hampshire may soon see the value of such vouchers effectively double via a £1,500 “top up” per property (i.e. a total of up to £3,000 per home). In theory the level of funding available could help 700 additional homes to access ultrafast broadband than might have otherwise been possible.

Rural Broadband (Council Document)

The County Council has been an active supporter of the roll out of broadband across the County and has approved significant funding to support the overall roll out programme. As the main programme starts to wind down focus has turned to providing broadband in the more rural and harder to reach communities.

The Government is operating a voucher scheme that provides residents with up to £1,500 towards the cost of installing broadband infrastructure to their premises and the proposal is that the County Council provides funding to allow a further top up to this amount up to £1,500 per property.

Under the first contract with BT, the County Council is entitled to receive a gainshare if sign up to broadband exceeds a threshold level. Some of this funding has already been re-invested into the second contract of works but current predictions are that we will receive at least a further £2.5m over the next three years and the proposal is to use £1.0m of this to provide the top up voucher scheme.

It is therefore recommended that £1.0m is added to the Policy and Resources Capital Programme. If all applications were for the full value then this would provide infrastructure to nearly 700 additional homes, but it is expected that many more than this will be accommodated under the scheme.

The additional funding will of course help the economic case for deploying Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) infrastructure into some of the most challenging to reach rural communities, where the per premises build costs can easily reach several thousand pounds.

Leave a Comment
6 Responses
  1. Avatar annoyed

    It would actually be helpful for the remaining areas on HCC’s wave 2 extension to get a date for when the fttc/fttp upgrades will go live. So they can preclude themselves for this scheme.

    I got told two different dates, one by openreach and another by HCC.

  2. Avatar Mark

    Presumably this money is only available to those who claim it through a Community Fibre scheme? Now we allegedly have a national target (full coverage by 2025), wouldn’t it be better if all the available grant money was pooled together and central contracts awarded to the chosen supplier? That way, larger groups than would be viable for a CFP could all be upgraded together, with the associated economies of scale. While CFPs are great where they work, they do seem to encourage a rather piecemeal approach that benefits those most able to organise and lobby locally and those living in a more generous local authority area.

  3. Avatar Philip Cheeseman

    I live in Hampshire and reached out to hcc’s broadband to ask if there was any help for my 20mbps service I see in a small estate in a commuter town. I was told as I could get (according to openreach) up to 37mbps I was illegable for help. Are semi urban dwellings going to be the next have nots as crosstalk kills our fttc services and rural areas get fttp? And more importantly is there any way to force openreach to be more realistic with estimates so I can get help?

    • Avatar Mark

      Playing devil’s advocate, what kind of help did you have in mind? It sounds like the only technical option to bring about a significant improvement is FTTP, so are you saying that you have a stronger case for public subsidy than the very large number of people who have to make do with rather less than that….?

    • Avatar Philip Cheeseman

      No I’m saying that openreach can declare any speed they like and everyone says job done. Actual Vs real speed matter and it would be nice to know someone will do something eventually. I think we will get in a situation where USO will fix a lot of rural properties, city urban gets multiple fttp providers and properties like mine at the end of line for fttc will just be ignored. I use to get 30, it’s now down to 20 and it’s just getting worse as crosstalk kills fttc.

  4. Avatar Floosie

    I fully agree that it is the actaual speed which matters not some theoretical value. We have FFTC but are over a mile from the cabinet. We were told the estimated speed was 13.6 but initially got 11, BUT we are now down to 3 on a good day and more usually just above or below 2 which makes a mockery of the “estimated” speed. Whilst I understand the previous contributor’s annoyance at deceptive estimates I am obviously not very sympathetic to his plea for a public subsidy.

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