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Connected Counties Newsletter 23

Thursday 26th November, 2020

Progress Update

Despite the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in currently, the Connected Counties programme has still managed to carry on working hard with Openreach to rollout superfast broadband to residents of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. The partnership has now managed to make more than 105,000 superfast connections available across the first two contracts of the programme.

Bucks and Herts still rank first nationally in terms of take-up of superfast services provided by Contract 1 of the Connected Counties programme for the third quarter in a row, with over 79% of available services being taken up. With regards to Contract 2, this is slightly lower, but it is still in the top third of contracts and following the same trajectory as Contract 1 at just over 60%. Please note that this contract commenced later than some of the other contracts across the United Kingdom which see a higher take-up.

Covid-19 has led to some minor delays with a handful of structures however delivery is still progressing and at this current moment in time, orders are still being taken by providers for both FTTP and FTTC connections from residents and businesses, but we will keep you updated if this changes. 

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

The Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme continues to be an excellent source of funding to help rural premises to improve their connectivity.

The vouchers can be used by small businesses and 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 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/ 

Buckinghamshire Gigabit Voucher Scheme Top-up Funding

Buckinghamshire Council have received funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to top-up the government run Gigabit Voucher scheme. Through this scheme, rural residential premises will be able to claim an additional £2,000 taking the total funding to £3,500 per premise and rural business premises an additional £3,500 taking the total to £7,000 per premise. This will help to rollout to the most rural areas in Buckinghamshire, so we recommend getting the community together to improve broadband in your area before the funding runs out. 

The same terms and conditions apply as the standard voucher scheme and no separate application is required for the top-up funding as eligible premises will receive the top-up funding when benefitting from a voucher through a registered supplier. 

For more information, please see the Buckinghamshire Council press release here and the Buckinghamshire part of the Gigabit Voucher scheme website here.

Buckinghamshire Rural Business Broadband Project

More than 750 rural homes and businesses will receive gigabit capable broadband by December 2021 through a partnership between Buckinghamshire Council, Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and telecoms provider Openreach. The majority of funding will come through a £1.8 million grant from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) utilising the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. This will help extend the fibre-optic network to some of the most rural areas in Buckinghamshire.

Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire Council, said "While we're building a gigabit Britain, many of our rural residents and businesses are still struggling to operate with broadband at a snail's pace, and I'm pleased this project brings many more out from a digital backwater and on to the superfast highway."

Richard Harrington, CEO of Buckinghamshire LEP, said: “We are thrilled to be able to support this project in its aim to provide better connectivity to our poorest served businesses.

Laura Whelan, Openreach Regional Partnerships Director South and East, said: "The last five months have proved the vital importance of being connected. We know there is more to do, particularly in the most remote areas, and that’s why we’re delighted to be working with Buckinghamshire Council on extending that reach even further.

For more information please see the Buckinghamshire Council press release here.

GP surgeries in East Hertfordshire and Essex set to benefit from Full Fibre Upgrade

A ‘full fibre’ broadband network will be created to provide ultrafast digital connectivity, capable of speeds up to 1Gbps – up to 30 times faster than superfast broadband - to GP surgery sites in Broxbourne, East Herts, Epping Forest, Harlow and Uttlesford districts, helping to put them at the forefront of digital health care.

The £1.7m investment from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme will enable GP services to potentially deliver more care health care remotely, online and through digital applications.

The project, which is led by Essex + Herts Digital Innovation Zone (DIZ) and has already commenced its detailed planning and delivery stage, was developed by Epping Forest District Council and Essex County Council with support from Hertfordshire County Council and Broxbourne, East Herts, Harlow and Uttlesford district councils. It will be delivered on behalf of local health partners by Openreach in partnership with Capita Updata and Redcentric and is due to complete by March 2021. 

In addition, the new broadband network built to the surgeries will also support future demand for fibre broadband from the thousands of residential and business properties located in the local areas around the surgeries. This will support local people to make greater use of digital technology to access the health and care services they need as well as the wider benefits of enhanced high-speed connectivity. 

This is one of a number of projects to be awarded funding under the LFFN programme and the first project of its kind to focus the network build specifically around local GP surgeries. The project has been developed in conjunction with Essex County Council’s Superfast Essex programme, Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT), West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (WECCG) and Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Luton ICT Shared Services (HBLICT).

Please see a link to the original Press Release here: https://diz.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/DIZ-Press-Release-Sept-20-LFFN.pdf

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. 

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.

Useful links

BT Broadband Availability Checker

Virgin Media Post Code Checker

Gigaclear Post Code Checker

Thinkbroadband Post Code Checker




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