1. When BT Openreach and the government, in the form of BDUK, agreed their respective areas of engagement in 2012, we ended up in the BT "commercial area" with all well-known consequences. BT had offered us an FTTC (cabinet) upgrade but kept pushing us to the back of the queue. For now, they seem to have abandoned us altogether apart from some small areas directly next to Bristol, such as Broadoak Hill. In the long term, they promise to connect the whole country with FTTP (fibre to the premises) which means they are not completely out of the picture. But no doubt we will be at the back of the queue again.
2. In the meantime, Devon and Somerset decided to branch off from BDUK and use government funds to set up their own scheme (CDS) for rural broadband provision. They have a fibre installation programme which is meant to reach 90% of the designated area in phase 1 (currently undertaken). For all those properties that could be reached in phase 1, there was a broadband voucher scheme (now closed), offering up to £500 subsidy towards any individual solution home owners and/or communities might want to set up by using a list of participating private providers.
3. Phase 1 of the CDS installation programme is now nearing completion and from the end of 2017, a second phase will start to be implemented. In theory, CDS is supposed to upgrade any household that receives less than 24MB/s (we currently receive 1.5). But they already know that they will only have enough funding to deal with half of the remaining properties from phase 1. They are currently trying to work out which areas can be covered in phase 2 and which can't, i.e. Dundry may or may not benefit from phase 2. We will not know until the final plans are published in January 2017.
4. This is why the voucher scheme is currently closed. I was told that it may re-open in April for those properties not covered in phase 2 and our existing vouchers may be valid beyond the current deadline of 31 March. But no assurances can be given at this point.
5. Using our vouchers, by far the fastest, most reliable, future-proof and cheapest option would be FTTP. As you all know, we have been talking to Truespeed Communications in the past who can deliver such a solution - but by their own admission not before the end of March. Dundry is on their list of locations, but no timeline can be given at this moment.
6. From the information above, it seems our strategy should be as follows:
- - If we learn in January that we are covered by phase 2, all is well, but it may be at least another year before our installation can be carried out. So we could still benefit from an interim solution.
- - If not, we need to push CDS and Truespeed from both ends to meet in the middle. CDS should allow us an extension to our vouchers (especially given that we were at a disadvantage from the outset) and Truespeed should hurry up and come up the hill (They clearly sounded interested when I told them half the village has vouchers, but still no firm commitment).
- - If neither of the above can be achieved anytime soon, we need to go for an alternative technical solution, which I will explain in another post. But even here time limits get tight to meet the end of March deadline.
8. It appears that Dundry Primary School might be able to get a large subsidy for their own dedicated fibre connection. But sadly, under European State Aid Rules, they would not be allowed to share their installation with the community.
As promised, another post about various technical solutions will follow soon.
Holger on behalf of
Dundry Broadband Group