Connecting Devon and Somerset has issued an update on its Superfast Broadband deployment, confirming that it has provided access to more than 300,000 homes and businesses, often in sparely populated rural areas. A further 38,000 homes are claimed to have benefited from improved speeds.
Gigaclear in Trinity
The major hope for significant improvement in Trinity was through the Phase 2 contract, awarded in December 2016 to Gigaclear. Sadly, this contract has hit problems, partly related to the collapse of engineering giant Carillion. The current position remains uncertain, leaving us with abandoned reels of part completed work in Uplyme and areas around Rousdon, Rocombe, Raymonds Hill and Harcombe etc, appearing to have simply disappeared from work schedules.
Gigaclear is therefore significantly behind deployment schedules at best. CDS is working with them to try and resolve these difficulties but is also concurrently working with Central Government and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to look at alternative options for our and other areas.
The delay in delivery raises potential problems with ultimate funding, as this is typically awarded subject to a time limit for being spent. However, local authority partners and MP’s have been looking for an extension for the funding deadline. HM Treasury is reported to be finalising agreement for the funding deadline to be extended as part of the Government Spending Review process. If confirmed, this is good news and would allow CDS to agree an acceptable revised timetable with Gigaclear to complete a new ultrafast ‘full-fibre’ network, or for to procure an alternative ‘full-fibre’ network for homes and businesses.
A new voucher scheme, the ‘rib-tickling’ named Government Better Broadband Voucher Scheme is being launched this month.
Any home or business, with less than 2Mbps download speed and not part of a planned programme by another publicly funded scheme within the next 12 months, can request a voucher. There are several providers who can then be engaged to provide a new service using 4G (mobile phone) wireless or satellite-based solutions. If you are in this situation, then taking up this offer as a short-term solution will not preclude you from benefiting from a possible future superfast broadband project in our area.
An alternative voucher solution, by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) a government vehicle, is also offering a ‘Gigabit’ (referring to speed of the service, not to be confused with Gigaclear the company) Voucher programme. This offers businesses and residential properties vouchers of up to £2,500 and £500 respectively if areas work together to develop local partnerships to provide fibre connections capable of at least 100Mbps download speeds.
From experience, this will not be straightforward, but has one key difference in that vouchers can now be ‘pooled’ toward a solution for a community, rather than managed individually as had been the case with the previous voucher scheme.
Not a great situation and a big step back yet again from the rosy Christmas we shared in 2016 in expectation of a ‘full fibre’ network in Trinity by now.
Rod Boyce from Rousdon and I founded the Trinity Broadband Group back in 2010 but had disbanded at that point. However, with the failure of this contract and uncertain future we recently met with a representative of CDS and an alternate ‘full fibre’ provider. There may be a role for a reformed group, if others in Axmouth, Combpyne-Rousdon and Uplyme are interested?