Saturday, 25 September 2021

Fast broadband on way to rural areas... eventually

RESIDENTS in some rural areas near Watlington have finally been told when they are likely to

RESIDENTS in some rural areas near Watlington have finally been told when they are likely to have access to superfast broadband.

The news was revealed at a meeting organised by pressure group Connect 8 at Russell’s Water village hall attended by about 60 people.

The group was formed last year and includes residents of Howe Hill, Britwell Hill, Cookley Green, Greenfield, Park Corner, Pishill with Stonor, Russell’s Water and Swyncombe, who feared missing out on the superfast broadband programme being rolled out across Oxfordshire by BT and the county council.

Many have to put up with very slow broadband speeds at the moment and were frustrated at the lack of information about when they would see an improvement.

Last week’s meeting heard that the superfast broadband programme was to be rolled out to as much of Oxfordshire as possible. Cuxham is in the programme for the first quarter of 2016/17, Christmas Common the second quarter and Nuffield, Northend, Pyrton, Howe Hill and Greenfield the third quarter.

Park Corner, Swyncombe, Upperton, the Howe Farm area, Nuffield, Pishill and Brightwell Baldwin are due to be upgraded in the fourth quarter of 2016/17, or by March 2017.

Stonor and Maidensgrove are pencilled in for the first quarter of 2017/18, Newington the second and Nettlebed the third.

Craig Bower, project manager of the county council’s Better Broadband team, acknowleged that rate of progress was slow but said there were other rural communities in the same position.

Businessman David McLaren, who lives at Park Corner, near Nettlebed, said he’d lost an estimated £500,000 due to the lack of broadband. He said: “How can you come to a meeting like this with such patchy information?”

Mr Bower replied that most businesses would buy a lease line service rather than depending on the public network.

William Perrin, a member of Connect 8 who chaired the meeting, said that in many cases there wasn’t a service to buy.

He said he had received a quote of £56,000 from BT Openreach for broadband to serve his home.

Mr Bower said the delivery programme operated on a three-month “hopper” cycle and residents would only know if they were being upgraded within six months of the planned delivery.

He said there was £7million assigned to roll out more broadband and to help those in blackspots.

Stacey King, BT’s partnership director for the South-East, said there was also a possibility of designing bespoke solutions which would have to be funded by BT and Oxfordshire County Council but would also require a one-off contribution from the community.

“Make no mistake, from a BT perspective there’s no conspiracy here — we want to bring fibre to as many properties as we can,” she said.

Mark Rawlings, BT’s Oxfordshire contracts manager, explained that fibre to the cabinet provided the best value for money but relied on the quality of the existing copper.

Fibre to the property could be used for one or two properties in isolated rural areas and for filling in the gaps.

Mr Bower said that as BT got closer to the 100 per cent target, the cost of connecting premises was rising.

Initially it had cost an average of £100 per premises but as they reached the last five per cent, it was costing an average of £1,000.

This was a challenge when spending public money, he said.

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