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Yorkshire Dales rural broadband project Fibre GarDen inches closer to ignition

Rural broadband project Fibre GarDen is closer to take off as it begins to secure permission from landowners to start digging across the Yorkshire Dales. 

The project aims to deliver FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) broadband providing speeds of up to 100Mbps to every property in the Cumbrian villages of Garsdale and Dentdale. 

Discussions with landowners and members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park authority have begun which will help Fibre GarDen decide the eventual route it takes once it begins digging. 

While the project has received significant local support it’s recently run into something of a stumbling block. 

Yorkshire Dales rural broadband project Fibre GarDen inches closer to ignition
Let there be more light: Fibre GarDen is still in the dark over the Council’s broadband plans

Cumbria County Council has to rule whether or not the Connecting Cumbria BDUK project will roll out superfast fibre-based broadband in the villages or not. 

Connecting Cumbria is a joint venture between the local authority and BT. Using a combination of public and private funds, Connecting Cumbria will see 93 per cent of Cumbria able to get superfast broadband by the end of 2015. 

The majority of locations covered by Connecting Cumbria will get FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) connections, which currently provide top download speeds of 80Mbps. While only some properties in Connecting Cumbria stand to get faster FTTP lines from BT, providing top speeds of 330Mbps, Fibre GarDen aims to have every property in Garsdale and Dentdale connected to FTTP providing speeds between 40Mbps and 100Mbps. 

As well as promising a higher top speed, FTTP lines don’t suffer from the same distance difference that FTTC does. The longer the so-called ‘last mile’ of an FTTC line, usually made from copper, is the slower the speeds possible on the connection are. At distances of 2 kilometers or more, the speed difference between a VDSL fibre to the cabinet last mile and ADSL is negligible. 

The problem lies with funding, specifically the allocation of public funds. Fibre GarDen has secured £435,000 from the RCBF (Rural Community Broadband Fund), which is jointly funded by Defra and BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK). 

BDUK is funded by a mixture of UK and EU taxpayers money. The EU has imposed rules designed to prevent overlap, ensuring that public money isn’t spent twice on connecting communities to superfast broadband. 

As BDUK money has gone into both Connecting Cumbria and Fibre GarDen, Cumbria County Council needs to ‘de-scope’ any areas Fibre GarDen was hoping to cover from the Connecting Cumbria roadmap. 

Fibre GarDen stands to lose a significant chunk of its funding if this does not happen. Local residents recently met with Alan Cook, Senior Program Manager for Connecting Cumbria at a Parish Council meeting. 

According to a Fibre GarDen blog post, Cook said that Fibre GarDen is “doing a fantastic job” and is “very professional” but said that the Council wouldn’t announce any plans until June, with an impact assessment of any decision not announced until September. Until then, Fibre GarDen won’t know for sure exactly how the land lies. 

Image: Owen Byrne/Flickr

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