The Better Broadband for Oxfordshire project with Openreach (BT), which is currently working to roll-out “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) services to “at least” 95% of local premises by December 2017, has confirmed that a further 2,000 premises will benefit thanks to contract clawback. The original (first) contract had a total value of ?25 million (?10m from Oxfordshire County Council, ?4m from Broadband Delivery UK and ?11m from BT), which helped to extend “superfast broadband” via Openreach‘s network to reach 90% of local homes and businesses in the county via predominantly ‘up to’ 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) technology. Since then there have also been two extension contracts.
The first is worth ?5.1m (?1.2m from BT, ?1.95m from BDUK and the rest from local councils) and aims to reach an additional 6,500 premises (here). After that the second ?5.58m extension hopes to add another 4,600 premises (?2m from the Oxfordshire LEP, ?120k from the South East Midlands LEP and Cherwell District Council, ?168k from Oxford City Council, ?2.2m from BDUK and ?1.1 million from BT).
Coverage Ambitions of the 3 Contracts * Baseline commercial coverage 69%
* Phase 1 coverage 22.5%
* Phase 2 coverage 3.9%
* Phase 3 coverage 0.9%
* Total c 96.3% coverage
However the Oxfordshire County Council estimates that approximately 8,500 premises will not have access to such connectivity improvements, which are particularly tricky due to their high upgrade cost.
Like many other local authorities the Oxfordshire council has currently only agreed to fund deployment of “superfast broadband” up to the threshold of what contractually is described as a high cost structure (currently ?1,700 per premise). The good news is that ?2.55m of public investment clawback from the original contract, which was last year confirmed (here) as being returned by BT, plus a further ?4.2m will also come back via savings (total ?6.75m), has now been allocated to a fourth extension that should benefit an additional 2,000 premises.
Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “We expect at least 95 per cent of Oxfordshire premises to have access to superfast broadband by December, and I’m delighted to announce an ambition to improve on this.
In partnership with BT, we are finalising plans to make the technology available to a further 2,000 premises as a result of contract savings achieved in this successful programme to date. We’re also about to launch a co-funding scheme whereby Oxfordshire County Council will support those very rural or very small communities which are too expensive to upgrade using public funds alone.”
Hopefully by now we shouldn’t have to explain what clawback is again but in simple terms it requires BT to return part of the public investment once take-up of the newly deployed FTTC/P service in related areas goes above a certain level. More investment from clawback may also be returned in the future and all of this can be reinvested in order to further boost local broadband coverage.
The Oxfordshire project is making good progress and we’d expect them to complete the existing contracts as planned (they’re very already close to 95% coverage), although a precise timetable for the new phase 4 programme has yet to be confirmed.
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THE heir to Stonor Park has helped to offer up to 50 homes in the village access to high speed wireless broadband. Residents had been struggling with speeds of less than a megabyte per second but new fibre optic cable installed on the estate has increased this to 24mbs.
The Hon William Stonor already had the technology in a building on the estate, which was previously used as offices, so he invited campaigners to use this and to connect to a hilltop site which broadcasts a signal to the houses. Connect 8, which led the project, has been working to secure broadband for eight rural villages in the area, including Stonor and neighbouring Pishill. These are part of the five per cent of homes and businesses that won’t be covered by Better Broadband for Oxfordshire, a multi-million pound partnership between Oxfordshire County Council, BT and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK.
The work at Stonor Park, which was carried out by Village Networks, cost about ?10,000. Peter Richardson, of Connect 8, said the money had come from a “private source” but the group hoped to recoup it through grant funding. He said: “It’s an important step.
Stonor and Pishill were always going to be some of the hardest places to serve so discovering fibre here meant we could immediately benefit Stonor and then hopefully move on to Pishill. “Connect 8 is most grateful to Mr Stonor and his family for providing the starting point for our wireless broadband infrastructure backbone.” Mr Stonor said: “I got in touch with Connect 8 and said, ‘a very high-speed fibre cable has already been laid into the park and is there some way you could use this?’
“Very quickly they realised there was a great opportunity here. They got a huge digger, cut a slice in the grass and laid the fibre and electrics across the park to the point on the hill which they chose as the most suitable for broadcasting the wireless to Stonor. “As anyone who lives in these villages knows, the combination of both a lack of mobile and broadband internet is a great challenge for people for everyday use and for businesses.
“It’s great we have been able to use this very clever wireless technology. Village Networks have been great to work with and they have done it all very quickly.” Paul Firth, founder of Village Networks, which provides broadband for rural communities beyond the reach of copper and fibre networks, said: “We’re delighted to be able to serve the residents of Stonor and Pishill.
“The network here is brand new, built expressly to serve the area, using the very latest in wireless technology. “The network will be able to serve the community and its ever-growing broadband demands long into the future.” Connect 8 and Village Networks now plan to extend the coverage to Pishill and have been given permission by Thames Valley Police to use its masts on Britwell Hill to broadcast the signal further afield.
This will allow connections to be made to Cookley Green, Russells Water, Maidensgrove, Britwell Hill and Turville Heath.
There was a period of hope for residents and businesses in the West Oxfordshire District Council (WODC) area that many of those missed out from the commercial and existing BDUK roll-outs would benefit from universal coverage delivered by a mixture of Fibre to the Premises and fixed wireless broadband via Cotswold Broadband, alas it seems after a couple of false starts the project has closed down and the council is back to finding another solution. Cotswold Broadband has updated their website1 to add a simple note about ‘withdrawing from the project’ and the local press has some comments from councillors indicating that while this project has failed, procurement will be run again to see if another option exists.
“It is very disappointing that Cotswolds Broadband’s project failed after so much hard work. The delay for residents is really frustrating.
Taking on the procurement process ourselves demonstrates that we are absolutely committed to securing superfast broadband access for everyone in the district as soon as possible.”
Gigaclear last week issued a comment featured on ISPReview3 that their involvement in the project was on hold, and as Gigaclear had lined up ?3.2m of funding matching the ?1.6m loan from WODC and a ?1.6m government grant this was not small amounts of money.
The aim had been to ensure superfast broadband for some 6,000 premises and pictures of the bases for the first fibre cabinets had been posted back in 2016 by Cotswold Broadband.