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Villagers want £30k to connect 300 homes to BT superfast fibre cabinets – Update

Two Gloucestershire communities are aiming to raise £30,000 for a superfast broadband lifeline. 

Residents in Bussage and Chalford currently make do with download speeds of less than 1Mbps and are clubbing together to pay for two BT superfast broadband cabinets. This will allow customers in over 300 homes to order services providing download speeds of up to 38Mbps and 76Mbps. 

Despite the local Fastershire project aiming to bring superfast broadband to 90 per cent of properties across Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, Chalford and Bussage are on the wrong side of the superfast map. 

Fastershire doesn't cover Chalford and Bussage

Resident Mike Kuklenko told local newspaper Stroud Life: “In comparison to upgraded cabinets, houses served by these two cabinets are only getting broadband speeds between 0.9Mbps and 2.5Mbps. It’s impacting some businesses and also impacting families’ ability to join the internet revolution.” 

“The only way that we can get fibre broadband on these two cabinets is to match fund with BT paying half the cost and local residents paying half.” 

Following successful campaigns by villagers of Dodsworth in Barnsley and Bradley Stoke in South Glocestershire, residents have been asked to stump up £30,000 – half the cost of installing the cabinets. BT will then match the cost and start digging once the target has been hit. 

The action group has so far raised just over £10,000 in donations, which only covers a third of what’s needed. 

FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) connections see BT’s network arm Openreach connecting exchanges to green street cabinets with fibre optic lines. The so-called ‘last mile’ of the connection, the bit between the cabinet and a customer’s house is a copper telephone wire. 

Because of the nature of FTTC, installing cabinets and digging fibre out to remote and widely dispersed rural populations calls for tricky feats of engineering. Under BT’s model it’s not always economically viable for cabinets to be installed in every village.  

A BT spokesperson said: “Due to the current network topography and the economics of deployment, it is likely that some premises within an upgraded exchange area will not initially be able to get fibre-based broadband. 

“Naturally, we want to make fibre broadband as widely available as possible and we welcome the opportunity to work with other organisations and local communities to find a viable solution.”

Recently BT connected the Devonshire village of Northlew to superfast broadband using a wireless broadband link. This ‘wireless to the cabinet’ solution sees residents able to order the exact same services that would be available to customers if FTTC was available. This was chosen over installing a fibre optic connection due to cost reasons. 

The same technology is also being slated to make superfast broadband available to the village of Hardwicke, Gloucestershire, which isn’t too far from Bussage and Chalford. 

It’s possible that the two cabinets could therefore be connected for less money, meaning the Bussage and Chalford Broadband action group could hit their target sooner. 

Update: Gigaclear, an ISP that specialises in connecting rural communities to FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) broadband, told Recombu that it could have connected Bussage and Chalford without the need for tens of thousands of pounds to be raised. 

A Gigaclear spokesperson said: “We would happily have pursued this opportunity and would likely have been able to install there had we reached 30 per cent order take-up. This would have meant the community not having to pay any money to get the service and the monthly subscription would have been about the same price as the unlimited BT Infinity service for our Home50 package.”  

BT Infinity 1 with unlimited downloads costs £38.99/month (£23 + £15.99 for line rental) plus a £30 one-off connection fee and provides top download speeds of 38Mbps and maximum uploads of 19Mbps. Gigaclear’s entry level service costs £37/month (no line rental) plus a £100 charge for connection. For your money you get 50Mbps download and upload speeds and unlimited downloads.

Gigaclear’s spokesperson emphasised the technical superiority of FTTP connections above the FTTC lines that BT would be setting up in the villages. 

“The two major differences would be that on our fibre the service is symmetric and there are no distance limitations so the service runs at the same speed regardless of how far residents are from the cabinet.”

The speeds you’ll actually get on an FTTC line depend on your proximity to the cabinet. The further away you are from the cabinet, the slower you speed will be. FTTP lines don’t suffer from this distance degradation issue. 

The Gigaclear business model is currently based on delivering fibre broadband to rural communities that aren’t due to get superfast broadband from projects like Fastershire or commercial network upgrades from the likes of BT and Virgin Media.

If a rural community expresses enough interest – which usually has to be roughly 30 per cent of an area’s population – and Gigaclear can connect those communities to a national fibre backbone link then it should be able to start digging. 

 

 

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