FIBRE Optic Broadband will be introduced to more rural areas in Gloucestershire with over 35,000 homes and businesses expected to benefit.
Elmstone Hardwicke, Stoke Orchard, Deerhurst, Portway and Brookthorpe have been announced as the first communities in Gloucestershire that will benefit from the next phase of the faster broadband rollout being delivered by Gigaclear through the Fastershire project. Gigaclear specialises in connecting rural communities by installing its pure fibre network straight into the property which offers a future-proof solution and broadband speeds of up to 1000Mbps. This enables some of the hardest to reach homes and businesses across the county to have access to ultrafast broadband.
Gigaclear has already enabled around 5,000 additional homes and business in the Cotswolds under a separate contract awarded to them last year by the Fastershire project, and once completed later this summer this will see ultrafast fibre broadband made available to over 6,500 premises deep in the Cotswolds. Phase one of the project, delivered by BT, has already seen over 78,000 homes and businesses in the county able to access superfast broadband speeds of 30Mbps or more. This next phase of rollout will see ultrafast broadband being installed in areas that did not benefit from phase one.
“I’m delighted that the Fastershire project, in partnership with Gigaclear, will be taking faster broadband to even more homes and businesses in some of the most rural areas of the county where larger suppliers were not prepared to go without public investment.”
Joe Frost, Business Development Director at Gigaclear said: “We are delighted to be providing a futureproof network to local people, which will improve the quality of their lives for work, entertainment, communications and play!
“Thousands of properties in the Cotswolds have already been connected to our ultrafast broadband service on time and in budget thanks to the Fastershire project.
“We are delighted to be continuing our partnership with Gloucestershire County Council through phase two and look forward to welcoming these new communities to our network.
“There is no doubt that this will continue to be socially and economically transformative for these rural areas.”
Over 35,000 homes and businesses across the county are expected to benefit from this next phase which is due to start later in the summer.
The news that 8,000 premises in Herefordshire are set to see Gigaclear pass them giving businesses and residents the option of Gigabit broadband will be welcomed by those who are yet to see any improvements via the Fastershire scheme. Gigaclear has already delivered some 3,000 premises of full fibre via the Fastershire project mainly in Gloucestershire (Fastershire is a joint project between Gloucestershire and Herefordshire). Herefordshire with 9.63% coverage of Openreach GEA-FTTP will likely see the full fibre coverage double to around 20% with this additional roll-out.
“This is a major step forward, not only will more communities and businesses have access to fast and reliable internet, but Fastershire is starting to lead the UK in rollout of full fibre.
We’re committed to ensuring that Herefordshire has a broadband network that will benefit the county for many years to come.”
Leader for Herefordshire Council, Cllr Tony Johnson
Until Gigaclear release the detail of the footprint it is impossible to know the full impact on Herefordshire, but it is possible this could almost eliminate the 10% of the county that cannot get speeds above 10 Mbps currently.
|County of Herefordshire||93.1%||80.8%||9.90%||9.63%||9.90%||2.9%||10.6%|
|Hereford and South Herefordshire||93.7%||86.8%||8.0%||7.49%||8.01%||1.8%||6.3%|
|County of Gloucestershire||92.4%||88.7%||42.3%||1.71%||5.22%||0.6%||4.5%|
|Forest of Dean||87.5%||77.1%||8.7%||8.67%||8.67%||1.8%||11.5%|
When the government recently pledged “gold standard full fibre” broadband, a collective cheer went up – at least for a short while, until we reflected upon the fate of most such announcements, the realities of stuttering broadband, and the prospect of dealing with one of the big providers.
The history of this industry says the “gold standard” will not happen without four major reforms. Just how much of the pledged ?1bn will end up in fibre to the premises and how much in waste or corporate profit? How many of the “up to two million homes and businesses” will actually experience merely another politician’s promise?
My 35 years in and around government has led to a certain cynicism. Announcements are primarily designed to fend off the press, the opposition and campaign groups, and to buy the government time by throwing a new idea to the snapping packs. It’s a familiar story: fast-forward a few years and the policy has been scrapped, it turns out no ‘real’ money was allocated, and the minster and civil servants have now changed.
Meanwhile, BT’s answer to its failings, caused by its lack of investment in fibre and switches and its disorganised and costly installation and repair operation, is to invest in its customer service programme. One local government official leading the installation of rural broadband spoke at a recent Local Government Association (LGA) conference. Malcolm Corbett of the Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) was asked what it was like working with Altnet Gigaclear compared to BT.
He thought for a few seconds, then replied: “It’s like escaping from an abusive relationship.” Everyone giggled, smiled, and understood exactly what he meant.
Poor governance leads to failure
Long gone are the days when BT stood up internationally as world class. The charge sheet runs to several pages. Why all these tricks?
Why are they allowed? Why can’t broadband be a real market, like retail, with real choice, straight pricing and products that work? It is the hidden but broken hand of governance at the heart of this failure.
The industry performs as well as its poor governance. This is invariably true. Every institution fails: Ofcom, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), government, the National Audit Office (NAO), the Commons, the Lords.
And the reason they all fail is that they exist within a system of government that has never ever been designed for this purpose. It’s not their fault; it’s the system they inhabit. The reality is that this has allowed BT to become a national disgrace.
So what is to be done?
Short of a much reformed system of government – entirely needed but would take a while to produce – our only hope is Parliament. Setting the terms of governance is, or should be, a major part of its job. It has to drop its obsequious acceptance of its place as a debating chamber, cross those party lines and grip the system.
Hanging on to one’s seat, hoping for a ministerial job, or finding refuge in one’s constituency are insufficient excuse for ducking this issue.
Take action, get results
First, we need the facts of industry performance. Facts have to be produced independently: self-scoring ministers – or regulators – using rhetorically spun statistics conceal the truth. This is a job for a fully independent Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Then we will no longer spend years arguing over the scores. Instead, we can concentrate on how to improve. Second, the regulator has to be given strong objectives with all decision making in full view.
The Monetary Policy Committee has operated this way since 1997, with members’ views and votes recorded publicly. The discipline and learning this produces has resulted in an interest rate regime far superior to its previously politically set method. The industry should be able to express its preferences, but not behind closed doors.
All their submissions should be made public and subject to open discussion. No more lobbying in private. It should be rationed to give small companies equal air time.
Third, Ofcom and DCMS have to be staffed and led by specialists with the right experience. This should include tough enforcers. Lance Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army had it right: “They don’t like it up ’em!”
Fourth, Parliament should establish one select committee from both the Commons and the Lords, whose remit should be to ensure that all the above is happening and producing results. Its powers should include the appointment of the chief regulator and its board. Then we need a plan – one that is based on a thorough grasp of practice in other countries, and that sets clear objectives for the services we need, and the actions to get us there.
But certainly its broadband element will flounder without the reforms of government governance set out here. So it’s time to act; then all those flowery promises should actually occur and we can compete. High-quality broadband is not just about you or me watching The Crown in high-definition without a single whirring centipede interrupting our viewing pleasure.
This is nation critical, this is industrial strategy, this is post-Brexit essential. The new digital divide between mainly rural and mainly urban areas is locking industry into the south east and limiting growth even in somewhere as wealthy as Gloucestershire. Business enablement (communications, logistics, roads, rail, and a skilled national workforce) is vital to be successful outside the EU.
Wake up Parliament: your country needs you far more than your political party.
- ^ gold standard full fibre (www.computerweekly.com)
- ^ partners (www.techtarget.com)
- ^ installation and repair operation (www.computerweekly.com)
- ^ Altnet Gigaclear (www.computerweekly.com)
- ^ with the right experience (www.computerweekly.com)
- ^ greenpaper on industrial strategy (www.computerweekly.com)
- ^ this is post-Brexit essential (www.computerweekly.com)