Worcestershire County Council (WCC) has brought in two new initiatives in an attempt to aid fibre broadband coverage and speed in both residential and commercial properties in the last 4% of the county.
Included in these plans are a cooperative funding operation with BT subsidiary Openreach as well as a voucher programme for businesses in the areas.
Currently the Superfast Worcestershire project is already working with Openreach to help their current FTTC and FTTP “superfast broadband” reach 96% of the county by 2019. The project so far has been a success and coverage currently sits at around 94% which equates to approximately 69,121 premises although only 58,939 can get the superfast speeds of 24Mbps.
As is generally the case with these kind of regional rollouts, trying to reach the last few per cent of residents is disproportionately difficult and expensive. This is generally due to them being located in more remote locations making work to get them hooked up to fibre tricky.
For network coverage to extend to these more remote communities there have been two new schemes. The first of which is the Local Body Partnership (LBF) Fund & CFP, an initiative designed to help communities who want to support themselves to get fibre broadband by contributing to a ‘community fibre partnership’ scheme.
The CFP was set up by BT as a way to engage with a local group of residents and businesses to find a way to bring superfast internet into the community, often in places where there no schemes already in place. Generally, this will be a joint venture between BT and Openreach with BT paying for the price of the line installation and the local community stumping up the rest of the cost. The network infrastructure is then built by Openreach and local community then pick a service provider of their choice. WCC have put aside £500,000 to go towards helping such communities get fibre broadband.
The second initiative is the Worcestershire European Regional Development Find (ERDF) Business Voucher Sceme (WEBB Voucher Scheme). This plans to help local small to medium sized businesses obtain superfast internet by putting into a match funded business voucher. For this plan the council has set aside £73,500 for local businesses and this will also be given out a first come first serve basis.
Worcester are by no means the only area to put forward such plans and many other local councils have also set up similar voucher schemes to help alleviate the cost of Open reach’s current Community Fibre Partnerships. Sometimes these can be used in conjunction with added backing from the Governments Better Broadband scheme which further subsidises the cost of building new networks.