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Connected Counties Newsletter 22

Tuesday 21st July, 2020

Programme Update

In April we updated you on the impact Covid-19 has had with regards to home visits and installations from Openreach engineers. We are pleased to say that Openreach engineers are conducting home installations again with special measures to ensure the safety of their engineers and yourself. Please note there may be a longer lead time than usual while Openreach catch up with delayed orders. Openreach ask that you do the following before their engineers arrive:

1.    Clear a path to the main telephone socket or fibre connection point, if you have one.
2.    With an antibacterial wipe, clean down any surfaces around the telephone socket which Openreach engineers may come into contact with.
3.    Open any windows or doors where the Openreach engineer will probably need to work.

Additionally, please ensure you maintain two metres social distancing and, wherever possible, move to a different room. Once the engineer has finished working, they will wipe down any surface they have touched before leaving. For more information please visit https://www.openreach.com/covid-19-coronavirus.

Covid-19 has not had any major impacts on the rollout of our programme, although it has led to some minor delays with a handful of structures due to various reasons. These are being resolved as the lockdown eases. The Openreach engineers continue to social distance and ensure they are safe while out building the network, and the back-office staff within Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, and Openreach continue to work from home.

We hope everyone is staying safe and if you have any questions or queries please contact info@connectedcounties.org.

Quarterly progress update

The Connected Counties Programme has continued to work hard with Openreach to rollout Superfast broadband to residents and businesses across both Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire despite the challenges being faced through the current climate. The partnership has made close to another 1,500 new superfast connections available since our last Newsletter, and we are pleased to announce that more than 98% of homes and businesses in Hertfordshire can now access Superfast speeds of 24mbps or more (compared to 97% nationally).

Bucks and Herts rank first nationally in terms of take-up of superfast services provided by Contract 1 of the Connected Counties programme for the second quarter in a row, with over 72% of available services being taken up. With regards to Contract 2, this is slightly lower, but it is still within the top third of contracts and is following the same trajectory as Contract 1. Please note that this contract commenced later than some of the other contracts across the United Kingdom which see a higher take-up.

To see if you can upgrade your home or business to superfast broadband, enter your landline or postcode in the checker at http://www.connectedcounties.org/

If you'd like an update on the position at your address, please drop us a line at info@connectedcounties.org.

Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme

Over the past 2 years, various voucher schemes have been in place to assist communities in gaining superfast and gigabit-capable connections. In this time, a total of £2.4 million has been committed across Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire to improving broadband infrastructure. Whilst some of these schemes have now closed, the Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme continues to help rural premises to improve their connectivity.

The vouchers can be used by small businesses and the local communities to contribute to the installation cost of a gigabit-capable connection. Rural businesses can claim up to £3,500 against the cost of connection either individually, or as part of a group project, whilst residents can receive a voucher worth £1,500 as part of a group project.

These vouchers offer a direct opportunity to access funding for gigabit-capable broadband upgrades for communities which are currently not planned to receive this upgrade. It should be noted that these schemes may still require further funding from the local community, but this would be made clear by the supplier before any contract was agreed.

For more information, please go to the central government webpage: https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/

The right to request a decent broadband service - The Universal Service Obligation

If you are unable to get a download speed of 10mbps and an upload speed of 1mbps then you now have the right to request an upgraded connection, with a subsidy of up to £3,400 available for eligible premises.

The scheme is being run by BT in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire and is being overseen by Ofcom.

Your home or business could be eligible if it:
•    Has no access to existing decent broadband; and
•    Will not be covered by a public broadband scheme offered by the UK and devolved governments in the next 12 months.

Details of how to access this service are available here: https://www.bt.com/broadband/USO

More detail of the Ofcom criteria is available here.

Digital Boost for businesses

Over the past few months, more and more businesses have looked to digital models to ensure that they continue operating in the current climate. Recently, Founders4Schools and BCG Digital Ventures created Digital Boost, a free volunteering platform, uniting leaders of small businesses and charities with digital experts.

With support from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Digital Boost aims to support the six million British small businesses and charities impacted by COVID-19 on their digitisation journey. Digital Boost does this by providing a community of digital expert volunteers to support charities and small businesses through “Boost Calls” (1-on-1 support calls), “Boost Workshops” (interactive webinars) and “Boost Skills” (curated resources on digitisation).


If you would like to hear more about the initiative, sign up for support, or offer your services as a digital business lead, please head to their website for further details: https://www.digitalboost.org.uk/


Useful links

BT Broadband Availability Checker
Virgin Media Post Code Checker
Gigaclear Post Code Checker
Thinkbroadband Post Code Checker

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Bringing BETTER broadband to homes
& businesses across Bucks and Herts