Partnership approach brings high-speed broadband to rural villages in the New Forest and Meon Valley
Posted on Thursday March 23 2017 by Sarah Haskew
Two separate community projects have seen residents part finance the cost of new broadband infrastructure, with funding from Government’s Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme, set up to help residents with broadband speeds slower than 2Mbps (megabits per second). The projects have been supported by Hampshire County Council and BT, via the Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme, which provided expert advice to find the best way to get faster broadband to these ‘hard to reach’ areas.
The community projects sit alongside the extended second wave of the Hampshire Superfast Broadband programme, funded by the County Council and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which will give access to speeds of 24Mbps to 97.4% of Hampshire properties by 2019.
Councillor Mel Kendal, the County Council’s Executive Member for Economic Development, said: “The vast majority of Hampshire residents will be able to access superfast speeds in the next two years. However, reaching the remaining dwellings, largely in the remoter rural areas, will be a significant challenge as the new infrastructure needed is proportionately more expensive. These two projects are excellent examples of rural communities coming together to raise funds to help themselves.”
Councillor Edward Heron, the County Council's Rural Affairs Champion, said: “The main responsibility to ensure increased access to superfast broadband rests with the Government. However, we recognise that faster broadband is vital for the future prosperity of rural areas in Hampshire, which is why we support communities as much as we can and continue to invest in this technology with our partners.”
Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director, next generation access, said: “It is great to be able to work with proactive communities like Lower Preshaw and Hyde to find a fibre broadband solution. We are working on hundreds of similar community fibre partnership programmes across the UK, which are bringing faster internet access to even more homes and businesses. Openreach is committed to making fibre broadband as widely available as possible. The UK superfast broadband coverage will rise to 95 per cent by the end of 2017. 200 communities across the country have already signed up to our co-funded Community Fibre Partnerships scheme, with around 100 already enjoying the benefits of superfast broadband.”
Stacey King, BT’s regional partnership director for the South East, said: “As the roll-out of high-speed fibre broadband continues, it is great to see so many communities like the New Forest and Meon Valley benefitting from this new technology. Fibre broadband is a major step forward for households businesses. The technology really does have the ability to transform the way people interact online.”
Hyde Community Broadband Project, New Forest
Around 345 properties will soon have access to superfast speeds after residents in South Gorley, Hyde, Frogham, Ogdens and Blissford, raised £134,000 to pay for the installation of five superfast broadband cabinets, with a significant contribution from the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme.
Peter Dowling, Chairman of the Hyde Community Broadband Project, said: “We’re delighted that our superfast broadband scheme is nearly complete. It will benefit residents, their families and several data reliant small businesses in our area. These range from a garden designer to a photographer, our pubs and shops, and other professionals who work from home.”
Classic car enthusiast and web publisher Charles Leith, one of the broadband champions, said: “We need to up and download data, so broadband speed both ways is vital to us. Any increase from today’s speeds will make our work a great deal easier.”
Peter Dowling praised the wonderful support from the community: “Nearly three-quarters of residents pledged funds thanks to the efforts of the project team and particularly our 25 broadband champions, who went round knocking on doors and raising interest. We’re also very grateful for the help from Hampshire County Council and BT throughout the project.”
Lower Preshaw Community Broadband Project, Meon Valley
With only seven properties, Lower Preshaw is one of the smallest and remotest communities in Hampshire. Neighbours raised around 90% of the £22,500 cost of installing one broadband cabinet near their homes, with 10% of the cost covered by the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme.
Resident Graham Croft said: “As a small community in the heart of the countryside it has been a challenge for us. However, as neighbours we’ve worked together to raise money for a new cabinet to make the most of the wide range of benefits offered by the internet, including helping our children with their coursework. It’s taken us many months to get to this stage and, with help from the County Council, we’re glad we’re finally here.”
Communities in Hampshire can find out if superfast broadband is already available or coming to their area in the future via the Broadband Programme website –www.hampshiresuperfastbroadband.com . They can also find details of alternative solutions and funding options including the scheme that Hyde, and Lower Preshaw have taken advantage of.