Best rural broadband locations identified

Harborough in Leicestershire has been named as the rural location with the best broadband penetration. Some 99 per cent of households in the area are able to receive speeds of 5Mbps or more, according to data from Halifax. Test Valley in Hampshire and Arun in West Sussex also performed strongly, with 98 per cent of homes in these locations having broadband speeds of at least 5Mbps.

Tendring in Essex was another strong performer, as figures showed 97 per cent of households have this level of connectivity. Halifax compiled the data as part of a wider effort to identify the best rural place to live, with broadband connectivity used as one of the measures, along with criteria such as crime, average earnings and the employment rate. The Orkney Islands came out on top overall, with Wychavon in Worcestershire being named as the second most desirable place to live.

Wychavon ranked highly partly because some 92 per cent of houses in the area have superfast broadband – a measure of how superfast connectivity can enhance a person’s quality of life.

Commenting on the broader trends flagged up by the data, Halifax Economist Martin Ellis said: “Rural areas in the south tend to receive higher ratings for weekly earnings, the weather, health, and life expectancy, while in the rural north areas score well on education in terms of grades and smaller class sizes, lower house prices in relation to earnings, and both lower traffic flows and population densities.”

Court clears way for AT&T and FirstNet but challenges remain


Court clears way for AT&T and FirstNet but challenges remain

  • By Mark Rockwell
  • Mar 20, 2017

EDITOR’s NOTE: This article was first published by The federal court ruling that leaves AT&T as the only bidder for the multi-billion-dollar contract for a nationwide public safety broadband network may have also have stiffened competition at the state level for network capability. U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Elaine Kaplan, on March 17, denied Rivada Network’s protest motion to compete with AT&T for the 25-year, $6.5 billion contract. The Rivada consortium’s protest filing last November forced FirstNet to miss1 its anticipated contract award date that month.

Judge Kaplan had been considering the protest’s fate since final oral arguments concluded in the case in early March. The March 17 decision was sealed by the court for competitive reasons. FirstNet had been anticipating a ruling last week, with officials saying they were prepared to move ahead on the award quickly after the court’s decision.

“We are pleased with the Court’s decision. This is a positive development for FirstNet and the public safety community,” said FirstNet CEO Mike Poth in a statement on the decision late on March 17. “FirstNet intends to move expeditiously to finalize the contract for the nationwide public safety broadband network.”

That contract will most likely go to AT&T, since communications industry insiders and AT&T’s own Securities and Exchange Commission filings have said the company is the sole bidder left standing in line for the nationwide contract. Barring any action by the Trump administration, industry insiders said the contract most likely now will go to AT&T.

Court Clears Way For AT&T And FirstNet But Challenges Remain

“We are pleased by the court’s ruling as it allows FirstNet to select its partner and jump-start the process of delivering America’s first nationwide broadband network dedicated to public safety,” said AT&T in a statement after the ruling. “We would be honored to be selected and help fulfill FirstNet’s important public safety mission.”

In the face of the ruling, however, Rivada Networks vowed something of a house-to-house competitive battle in the states for networking contracts. In the hours after the decision, the consortium — which includes Harris Corp, Intel, Fujitsu, Ericsson and Nokia — said it would work directly with states and territories developing their own interoperable Radio Access Network solution. Under FirstNet’s rules, states can opt-out and use RANs if they get federal approval for their plans. Rivada Networks is still considering its legal options following the federal court ruling, company spokesman Brian Carney told FCW in an email on March 20.

The company said it is currently working with the state of New Hampshire on an alternative plan for that state, if it decides to opt out, and working with other states on similar plans. The company’s leadership struck a combative tone in the immediate wake of the ruling.

“FirstNet has made its choice,” said Rivada Networks co-CEO Joe Euteneuer in a statement just after the ruling. “Now it is time for states to make theirs. Those that stand by idly will be forced into a federal solution that may or may not suit their needs or budgets. We look forward to working with the states to ensure that they receive a network equal to the promise made to public safety when FirstNet was created.”

“Rivada was founded on the conviction that first responders need and deserve access to a world-class, purpose-built high-speed wireless network,” said Declan Ganley, co-CEO and executive chairman of Rivada Networks, in the same March 17 statement. “We want America’s Governors to know that Rivada’s solution remains available to them even if FirstNet ultimately chooses a different approach.”

About the Author

Court Clears Way For AT&T And FirstNet But Challenges Remain Mark Rockwell is a staff writer at FCW.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week. Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here2 for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at


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Broadband OK’d on offshore islands

CRANBERRY ISLES — Residents at the annual town meeting on Saturday voted overwhelmingly to borrow up to £1.2 million to build a fiber optic network to provide broadband internet service to the town’s three inhabited islands: Great Cranberry, Little Cranberry (Islesford) and Sutton. The vote was 52-4. But town officials are applying for grants that they hope will cover much if not all of the cost of the project.

Voters at town meeting authorized the town to partner with Axiom Technologies, which specializes in delivering “customized rural broadband deployment solutions to remote communities,” to build the network infrastructure. Axiom, based in Machias, has offered to pay up to 15 percent of the capital costs. The town last year received a £10,000 grant from the Island Institute to cover part of the cost of hiring a consultant to help design the project and prepare grant applications.

The total cost of the project, including infrastructure, is estimated at just under £1.55 million. The town is applying for a £1.31 million grant from the Rural Development Community Facilities Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to cover most of the cost.

The town would pay £230,000. The USDA grant program was set up to finance “essential community facilities for public use in rural areas.” In 2010, it awarded a £398,000 grant to help with construction of the £915,000 Swans Island Library. Town officials also intend to apply for grants from ConnectME and the Northern Border Regional Commission.

ConnectME is the state agency created “to facilitate the universal availability of broadband to all Maine households and businesses.” The Northern Border Regional Commission is a federal-state partnership that provides federal funds for economic and community development projects in northern Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. Currently, RedZone Wireless provides internet service to residents of Islesford and some of the seasonal homes on Sutton Island, but RedZone service is to be discontinued in October. Some residents of Great Cranberry have RedZone service, but most are served by FairPoint Communications, which will continue to be an option on that island.

Jim Fortune, the Board of Selectmen’s administrative assistant, said that, with the new network, the Sutton Island residences will be served by a transmitter tower to be erected on Islesford. “It will take them from almost non-existent service to a level of wireless service with download and upload speeds that are way better than what they are now,” he said. The town’s Broadband Committee was formed last year to develop a long-term broadband solution for the three islands.

In a letter to all Cranberry Isles residents in February, the committee said the town’s survival as a year-round community depends on many factors, including the availability of broadband service. “In today’s culture, broadband is no longer discretionary,” the letter said. “We, as a town, must meet the demands of students to complete assignments at home and of adults to take online course … the demands of telecommuters for service fast enough to do their work … the need of small businesses, of town government, of services such as fire and rescue and telemedicine. “Our geographic remoteness does not mean we need broadband less than do our mainland neighbors,” the Broadband Committee letter continued. “We need it more, simply because we have reached a point at which people cannot live in this beautiful, remote location without it.”

School budget Voters at town meeting approved a school budget for next year of £649,919. That is £66,773 higher than current year’s budget.

About 84 percent of the increase is to pay tuition for four Cranberry Isles students who are currently in the eighth grade to attend Mount Desert Island High School next year. This year, two Cranberry Isles students are sophomores at the high school and one is a junior. Towns that are not on MDI do not pay taxes to support the high school, but pay tuition of £11,584 for each of their high school students.

Longfellow School on Great Cranberry Island has 11 elementary and middle school students this year. It expects an enrollment of 10 next year. Longfellow opened this year following extensive renovations.

It had been closed for 15 years. All Cranberry Isles students will attend classes there this year and next before switching back to Ashley Bryan School for two years. Town office

Voters at town meeting voted to authorize the town to borrow up to £150,000 for construction or purchase of a building for the town office. The town office is currently housed in a trailer next to the fire station on Islesford. The town’s website whimsically describes the temporary quarters as “plush but not overly ostentatious.”

To be continued… The town meeting ran so long on Saturday that there wasn’t time to discuss and vote on all of the warrant articles. The meeting will resume this Friday, March 17, at 8:45 a.m. at Longfellow School to take up the left-over items, including the municipal budget, which totals £4.13 million, and a proposal to borrow up to £672,000 to extend the Islesford Town Dock.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander

Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent’s office.

He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected][1]Dick Broom

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