Sunday, 26 September 2021

Company promises villagers ‘fastest’ internet connection

RESIDENTS of Crazies Hill have been promised the “fastest broadband in the country” if they sign

RESIDENTS of Crazies Hill have been promised the “fastest broadband in the country” if they sign up to a deal with provider Gigaclear.

The company is willing to connect homes in the village and neighbouring Cockpole Green and Warren Row provided at least 40 per cent of locals sign up.

If they do, work could begin in October and be completed by May next year. But residents have been warned that they have just three weeks to reach the target figure or risk missing out on the deal.

Crazies Hill currently experiences speeds as slow as two megabits per second and is not yet covered by BT’s Superfast Berkshire programme, which has been installed in nearby Wargrave. Villagers were told BT broadband could take until 2018 to be installed in the village and enquiries with fellow provider Virgin Media would take a similar time.

Both BT and Virgin would also involve £100,000 to £200,000 of funding from the community to cover about 150 homes in Crazies Hill and Cockpole Green, meaning if every resident signed up then each household would have to pay between £660 and £1,320 for the service.

Gigaclear held a meeting at Crazies Hill village hall on Wednesday last week, which was organised by the Crazies Hill and Cockpole Green residents’ association and attended by more than 40 residents.

At the meeting, association chairman Dave Smith said both BT and Virgin were “extremely expensive and something that’s at least two years away.”

He added that Gigaclear, which is based in Abingdon, is interested in setting up a network in the area in the next year but needs a certain number of residents to commit as it is a commercial company.

Joe Frost, sales and marketing director at Gigaclear, told locals: “We deliver the fastest broadband service in the country. This technology will outsee all of us for sure.

He said the company is “about half-way” to the amount needed to begin the project, which could cost about £3.5 million.

He explained the technology used by the company, which uses fibre-optic cables which maintain signal levels better than copper wiring.

Mr Frost said this made the network “completely immune” to weather and other outside interference. “With a purely fibre network every connection to the cabinet regardless of how far they live away gets exactly the same level of service,” he said.

“They are phenomenally reliable, it’s extremely rare that these networks go wrong. These cables are not swinging around in wind, they don’t get trees falling on them. These things are designed to be in the ground for 50 years. It’s much faster than anything you could possibly get today using any other technology. It gives you pretty much any speed you need.”

Gigaclear offers speeds of up to 1,000Mb a second but other packages will be available for residents who don’t need that much.

Residents would not need to community fund the project but there is a £100 “activation fee” as well as a minimum £95 installation charge. Residents will be able to avoid the latter by installing the service themselves if they want.

Gigaclear has already connected more than 20,000 homes and businesses in the area, with plans for another 30,000 by the end of the year.

Peter Martin, community engagement manager, who also attended the meeting, said the company would like to hold a celebration if the village decided to go ahead with the deal.

He said: “We’d like to be back here and have a party and celebrate the community being on the network. It’s a community enterprise you’re starting here.”

Superfast Berkshire, which is backed by the government and started in 2011, is aiming to cover 97 per cent of properties in the county by the end of 2018.

Ten broadband boxes in Wargrave have been upgraded to fibre optic under the scheme so far but that does not include the one covering Crazies Hill.

A survey carried out by the residents’ association last year showed that 93 per cent of residents felt broadband in the village was “not good enough”.

Philip Davies, of the residents’ association, said the deal was a “golden opportunity” but warned that residents needed to act fast to get signed up to the programme.

He said: “Take-up with the residents has been much slower than we would expect. If we don’t get to 40 per cent of the households soon Gigaclear will move on to another village. We then won’t get another chance of faster broadband without raising substantial amounts of capital ourselves.

“We estimate we need a further 50 to 60 households to sign up in the next three weeks. We cannot emphasise enough that this is a golden opportunity and it would be a great shame for everyone living here if it is lost.”

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