Rural broadband – Next Generation Access
Members will be aware of the campaign by Rory Stewart MP to bring better
broadband to every community in the constituency. Community representatives
at the parish level will have a vital role to play and an inaugural meeting,
organised by Mr Stewart, was held at Great Asby on Saturday, 6 November.
Fraser Shaw and Clive Marshall attended, Fraser as representative of the
Council and Clive as an interested individual, on the mailing list because
he had responded to Mr Stewart’s earlier request for information regarding
present broadband speeds. (For comparison with the possible future speeds
discussed at the meeting, the present speeds are about 0.5 Mb/s in
Curthwaite via the Dalston exchange, about half of that in some areas of the
parish served by the Wigton exchange and a few properties cannot connect to
any broadband service.)
2. The 6 November meeting
Before attending the meeting, we had understood that the
Government’s target was for as many people as possible to have a broadband
speed of at least 2 Mb/s by 2015.
However, in his introductory remarks, Mr Stewart confirmed that
the target for this area is now much more ambitious. Cumbria has been
selected as one of four pilot areas for developing ‘Next Generation Access’
broadband (NGA) in rural areas, with a target speed of the order of 50 Mb/s
to as many properties as possible.
Improved broadband is essential for the economy of rural areas but, because
of the low population density, such areas have not been attractive to the
commercial providers of high speed services. Underlining the importance of
fast, reliable broadband, Mr Stewart explained that his constituency is
reported to have the highest percentage of self-employed people in the
country, and 20% of residents work from home.
Under the pilot scheme for Cumbria, government grants up to a
total of £10 m are available, but the initiative which will trigger the
necessary technical investigations in a particular area must come from the
Other speakers outlined the alternative ways in which NGA can be
provided. Fibre optic cables to individual properties would be technically
the best method but generally would be much too expensive (some £40 billion
nationally). However, most of the cost of this method is incurred in
installing the underground ducts to carry the fibre optic cables. The cost
of installing additional cable(s) in an existing duct is minimal and the
cost of providing a new duct can be greatly reduced if a community can
undertake the necessary excavation, arrange wayleaves etc. If a fibre optic
cable can be brought to a central node to serve a community, there are
various ways of connecting that node to individual properties including
cable or wireless links.
Two representatives of ‘Broadband Delivery UK’ (BDUK), a group
set up in Whitehall to promote broadband developments, explained their role,
working with communities over the next two years to develop this pilot area
as an inspiration to the rest of the country. Further information should be
available shortly but the general message from the meeting was that progress
will depend on communities demonstrating a demand for NGA and a willingness
to participate in the process.
3. E-mail from Rory Stewart 9 November 2010
Following drafting of the above, an e-mail from Rory Stewart
advises us that they are setting up a basic web-site which will provide a
forum for communication with, and between, parishes and groups of parishes.
Further information may be available by the date of the Parish Council
4. Suggested action
4.1 We suggest that, in the interests of all users of broadband, these
developments should be widely publicised throughout the parish and, ideally,
be discussed at a public meeting with a view to setting up an implementation
group of perhaps 4 or 5 people representing different types of user and, if
possible, different areas of the parish.
4.2 To assess the demand in the parish, we recommend a survey of
residents, perhaps combined with invitations to the suggested public
4.3 We suggest that liaison arrangements be set up with adjacent
parishes, to ensure pooling of knowledge regarding existing infrastructure
and maximum mutual benefit from potential developments.
suggestions are acceptable to the Council, we recommend that the timing of a
public meeting should have regard to the availability of further information
via the proposed web-site.
10 November 2010