Things are moving forward albeit a little slower than hoped with the Community Fibre Partnership Scheme process. It has been slowed over January by OpenReach being snowed under with new applications partly due to the demand created by the lockdowns and partly because of the Chancellor pulling back on broadband rollout plans. Also, BT are being very unhelpful in refusing to provide details of any plans they have for Universal Service Obligation (USO) schemes in the area.
I had an update call with OpenReach today. They are now working on a proposal for an enlarged list of 125 homes in the village with a potential cost around £189,000, but are currently cross-referencing two different sets of addresses of those who have expressed an interest. They hope to have resolved this and the BT issue by the end of next week, at which time they should be providing a formal quote for the scheme. Assuming it is at the level indicated above, and assuming we can get all of those properties to pledge their residential and business Gigabit vouchers (of £1500 and £3,500 per property/business), we would get close to achieving the scheme with no financial contribution required from the community. OpenReach seek to have an additional 30 per cent financial buffer (from voucher pledges) on their schemes before they go ahead – if we don’t manage to raise that number of pledges we will have to set up a short-term community limited company to sign the contract with OpenReach for the scheme, that guarantees to them that we will cover any shortfall. However, this should not be too complicated or costly, and would be dissolved once the scheme is finished. Hopefully it won’t be necessary at all.
To manage expectations on timing, once the scheme is contracted, hopefully within the next couple of months, the build time is normally and disappointingly 12 months, although there are some beneficial circumstances on the Fitzhead proposal that might make it sooner. I know that this will be frustrating to all those who are tearing their hair out with slow downloads, buffered streaming of Bridgerton and impossible Zoom calls…but hopefully we will have brand, new sparkly fast broadband service at the end of it.
I’ll report back soon.