West Wellow 3 (WW3)
Last autumn, Mark was offered a FTTP (fibre to the property – best possible solution) Community Fibre Partnership package by Openreach for his local West Wellow 3 area. This included about 50 properties – A27 from Mill Lane towards Romsey, Pound/Church Lane & The Frenches (plus the odd anomalous property….). The cost of this was estimated by Openreach to be about £88,000 BUT it was made more attractive by some new government grants avaible to businesses and nearby residential properties. In my view (if you accept the premise that we might have to pay for faster broadband to arrive in the foreseeable future…) it was a good offer, but only achievable with a really good uptake from the included properties.
Mark and I spent a couple of months last year contacting and getting the views of all those properties included in the offer, many of which receive the worst broadband speeds in our village area. Emails, individual letters and much door knocking, resulted in about 20 residential properties and 10 businesses showing an initial interest. However this is not enough to make the project financially viable given the strict terms of the voucher scheme and the on-going complications of trying to work with Openreach and their shifting goalposts. We did not choose the properties on this quote, but were ‘given’ them by Openreach and a little googling and research indicates to me that very few, if any, projects of this size have actually been completed….. The Openreach algorithms that calculate these costings do not seem to understand rural areas and despite our attempts to liaise with Openreach it has not been possible to work out how we can tweak the scheme to make it more affordable for the majority of properties.
Excited by the seemingly ‘good’ value of the WW3 project I tried again to ask for a FTTP for a section of the Lockerley 4 area (Doctors’ Hill/Newtown road) that had a relatively high density of housing and low broadband speed. However results were very disappointing and I got sent back at quote for £400,000 which was completely unviable, and failed to make use our local knowledge and the detailed information I had sent to them.
Some of the village now has superfast broadband (Whiteparish cabinet) and some will hopefully get a fast FTTC solution (West Wellow 5/Mill Lane properties, new FTTC cabinet outside The Hatchett) in the near future.
In theory, FTTP schemes should not be limited by the current telephone exchange of a property and we should be able to use our local knowledge to choose compact geographical areas that would have a good uptake and lower installation costs to tempt Openreach…..but the changing staff, shifting goalposts and computer algorithms are set to thwart us and I am afraid even my optimism/determination to challenge is increasingly tinged with the realisation that most of the offers are just a publicity exercise. However, I am now told that we can include properties across exchanges for FTTP and so I plan to submit a Lockerley 4 (small area of Doctor’s Hill/ Newtown Road) request for a quote for a much smaller number of properties that I know will have good uptake and are relatively densely packed, just to see if this approach might be slightly more achievable than village-wide projects.
We have looked at using radio transmitters with Gigabeam, who were lovely and innovative but our gently rolling landscape with lots of trees is not ideal. I understand from another technically minded local resident that smaller local 5G networks might give us a solution into the future and of course there are those ‘fibre enabled’ telegraph poles and planning notices that keep appearing round the area…..
Do keep nagging our local representatives in local and national government and get in touch if you have any questions or are inspired with an idea to move us forwards.