Connecting Shropshire

News

Connecting Shropshire announces £11.2m broadband contract

July 11, 2017 / 3 comments / Permalink

On Monday 10 July 2017, Connecting Shropshire announced that Airband Community Internet Ltd will be the delivery partner for the next phase of Shropshire Council’s superfast broadband programme.

Since 2002, Airband has been providing high-speed wireless broadband access to rural areas. The Worcester-based company will be responsible for delivering superfast broadband to over 14,000 homes and businesses in the Shropshire Council area over the next three years.

Airband will be deploying wireless broadband, which works by sending a signal from a transmitter on a mast, to a receiver attached to the property. A cable is then run into the building allowing the end-user to access the Internet in the same way as any other broadband connection.

Nic Laurens, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for broadband, said: “I am delighted that we have secured a technology partner that can deliver superfast broadband to some of the most rural parts of the county. When this contract is completed, we expect 98% of premises in the council area to have access to superfast broadband. This means that even more people living, working and visiting Shropshire will be able to benefit from access to faster Internet connection speeds, enhancing their quality of life. The Connecting Shropshire programme runs until 2020 and will continue to work towards providing superfast broadband to all premises without access to it, and we remain confident in being able to achieve this aspiration.”

Graham Wynn OBE, Chairman of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “Slow Internet speeds are a significant barrier to business growth, which is why we secured just over £5m in our Growth Deal with the Government to help us address the issue working with our partner, Shropshire Council. As well as connecting up thousands of businesses with superfast broadband, this investment is also expected to boost our regional economy by around £220m.”

Redmond Peel, Managing Director of Airband, commented: “We are delighted to have won the contract to deploy our fixed wireless network in Shropshire. Knowing how essential high-speed broadband is, we are looking forward to working with local residents and businesses to provide fast and reliable Internet connections.

“Our experience of building masts to deploy wireless broadband services in the Midlands, Wales, Dartmoor and Exmoor has given us extensive insight into dealing with the geographical challenges that we will come across in Shropshire. Our solution uses state-of-the-art radio technology, ensuring high-speed connections where fibre broadband is not available. Using wireless overcomes many of the speed and reliability issues that are experienced with long copper cable lengths, meaning that many who have long suffered from poor broadband due to their locality will soon be able to access speeds comparable to those of their urban counterparts.”

For more information, please go to: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/contract-3-airband/

July 2017 update

July 10, 2017 / 2 comments / Permalink

The latest update providing details of the outcome of the phase 2b procurement is now on the website. To view, please click on the hyperlink title of this post or paste this link into your web browser: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/20170710-Monthly-update-July-2017.pdf

March 2017 newsletter

March 3, 2017 / Leave a comment / Permalink

The latest newsletter has just been uploaded to the website. To read about what’s been going on in the programme recently, click on the hyperlink title of this post or paste this link into your web browser: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/20170301-Monthly-update-March-2017.pdf.

November 2016 newsletter

January 6, 2017 / Leave a comment / Permalink

The latest newsletter has just been uploaded to the website, follow this link http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/20161121-Monthly-update-November-2016.pdf to read about what’s been going on in the programme recently.

Bids invited for Phase 2b of the Connecting Shropshire broadband programme

November 15, 2016 / 26 comments / Permalink

Moves to bring superfast broadband to even more people in the county have been announced by Shropshire Council.

The authority is inviting bids from telecoms suppliers for the third phase of a major project to boost connectivity for residents and businesses.

Known as Phase 2b of the Connecting Shropshire broadband programme, the initiative is designed to bring fast connections in areas where no commercial provision is currently in place or planned.

Phase 2b aims to extend superfast broadband coverage to a further 16,015 premises in the Shropshire Council area using £11.7m public funding secured through funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Broadband Delivery UK) and the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership. Shropshire Council has already invested £9m through two separate contracts (Phases 1 and 2a).

Whilst Phase 1 is completing this winter, Phase 2a has already commenced with planning work which will deliver to an additional 4,000 premises by winter 2017.

Bids are now being invited from specialist telecoms suppliers to plan, design, build, operate and maintain high-performance broadband networks, referred to as Next Generation Access (NGA). All solutions must be capable of supporting download speeds of over 30mbps and must offer competition and choice to broadband customers.

Steve Charmley, Deputy Leader of Shropshire Council and member responsible for broadband, said: “As we near the end of Phase 1, we’ve already provided over 55,000 homes and businesses with access to better broadband. At the same time as gearing up to deliver our Phase 2, I’m thrilled to be starting the procurement for the next phase of work. We’re eager to close all of our gaps and particularly want solutions that prioritise coverage for premises on the slowest speeds.”

Graham Wynn, Chairman of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Fast data connections are crucial for residents and businesses now, whoever and wherever they are. It’s important to note that, as part of this procurement, bidders are asked to offer network solutions that prioritise premises registered for business rates. Superfast broadband enables businesses to function more efficiently, increases their profitability and provides access to new markets. Our businesses have identified lack of connectivity as a barrier to growth so we are very pleased to be able to contribute Local Growth Funding to this latest push for better broadband speeds. We look forward to work getting under way.”

Telecoms suppliers have until 30 January 2017 to prepare and submit their bids. Shropshire Council expects to award contract(s) in March 2017.

The procurement excludes additional funding that Shropshire Council is expecting to receive as part of its Phase 1 contract. Where customers choose to take-up fibre broadband once it is available, the Council receives ‘clawback’ that is estimated at £2.2m to date. This money will remain ring-fenced for further broadband investment.

Public consultation outcome

November 7, 2016 / Leave a comment / Permalink

Shropshire Council’s Public Consultation to determine the State Aid classifications for its Phase 2b procurement closed on 5th September 2016.

To find out more about the outcome of the consultation, go to: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/public-consultation-outcome/

Connecting Shropshire endorses alternate solutions for faster broadband

September 21, 2016 / Leave a comment / Permalink

Eligible homes and businesses in Shropshire have access to a subsidised broadband installation. The Scheme is part of Shropshire Council’s Connecting Shropshire programme and is supported by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).

The Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme subsidises by up to £400 the cost of installing a better broadband connection using alternative technologies such as fixed wireless, mobile 4G or satellite.

Shropshire residents are eligible if their home or business does not have access to a basic broadband service with a download speed of more than 2Mbps.

Recipient of alternative broadband solution in rural Shropshire in front of green trees on a sunny day with their wireless broadband service.

This dish provides access to fixed wireless broadband with download speeds of up to 30Mbps

Since January 2016 Connecting Shropshire have issued 313 Subsidy Codes to Shropshire Council residents whose premises receive less than 2Mbps.

Successful applicants use their Subsidy Code to order a subsidised connection from an approved supplier, but they still need to pay the monthly cost, which starts at around £25 per month.

Steve Charmley, Deputy Leader of Shropshire Council and member responsible for broadband, said:  “While Connecting Shropshire have already delivered fibre broadband to over 54,000 premises, we recognise that there are those who are still receiving less than 2Mbps who need better broadband now, ahead of us undertaking our next procurement which is imminent.
The main aim for Connecting Shropshire is to bring faster broadband speeds to as many Shropshire Council residents and businesses as possible whether it be through fibre broadband or alternative solutions.
There are many alternative broadband services available and the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme makes them more accessible to more Shropshire residents.”

Successful applicant to the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme, John Duffus said: “We’ve had our new broadband connected and it’s absolutely brilliant. 15Mbps download speed now compared to 2.5Mbps at best before. We can stream and surf to our hearts content! Many, many thanks for your help and identifying this for us.”

Chris Taylor, of Connecting Shropshire, said: “Connecting Shropshire is committed to providing superfast broadband across Shropshire but due to the rural nature of the county this is not a solution that can be achieved overnight. The Subsidy Scheme offers a realistic solution for some hard-to-reach homes and businesses and could make a real difference to their connectivity.”

The Government has committed to giving access to 2Mbps download speed (a basic broadband service) to every premise in the UK. To date, Connecting Shropshire have brought fibre broadband to over 54,000 homes and businesses across the Shropshire Council area.

Shropshire Council recognise the opportunity for digital communities and remain committed to its broadband aspiration to provide all premises with access to superfast broadband by 2020.

Additional information

The public consultation is now closed

August 5, 2016 / Leave a comment / Permalink

The Connecting Shropshire programme is striving to extend the availability of NGA (Next Generation Access) broadband infrastructure to meet the Government’s target for 95% of the UK to have access to superfast broadband speeds by the end of 2017.

To achieve this, Shropshire Council intends to procure further coverage of NGA broadband infrastructure (capable of delivering download speeds of at least 30 Mbps) in the Council area where such broadband is currently unavailable. The key objective of the Connecting Shropshire Local Broadband Plan is to provide 100% coverage with NGA broadband infrastructure and for as many premises as possible to be able to have access to superfast broadband speeds.

Shropshire Council now intends to conduct a further open procurement for the remaining premises without NGA broadband infrastructure (known as “white NGA”), which comprises around 15,754 premises.

In July 2016, Shropshire Council conducted an Open Market review (OMR), consulting with prospective or current broadband infrastructure providers in the area, to establish any current and planned (next 3 years) commercial coverage of NGA services. The data gathered, in addition to the areas expected to be served through the Connecting Shropshire Phase 1 and Phase 2 deployment, have been used to redefine the scope of the eligible Intervention Area for the next stage of the programme.

The static maps show the areas with existing, planned or no coverage (of NGA broadband infrastructure capable of delivering download speeds of at least 30 Mbps), classed as black, grey or white for State Aid purposes. In addition, Connecting Shropshire has developed a dynamic map layer that attempts to show a more granular and accurate level of detail, see: Public Consultation NGA Dynamic Map 2016.

Any gaps in Next Generation Access (NGA) and Basic Broadband are shown on as yellow on the maps. In addition, some premises have been labelled as ‘Under Review’ and are shown on the NGA map as blue. These are in planned commercial coverage areas which will be subject to continued monitoring and verification of supplier plans over the 3 year period. In the event that these commercial plans fall away these premises will be mapped as white NGA and form part of the proposed intervention area and eligible for intervention via this aid measure.

The link below goes to a spreadsheet containing a list of postcodes where at least one premises is without Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband infrastructure (capable of delivering download speeds of at least 30 Mbps). These are defined as “white NGA” but are shown as yellow dots on the interactive and static maps.

The postcode list has been provided to reflect the most appropriate mapping methodology applied following supplier responses to the Open Market Review.

Shropshire Council is now conducting a one month State Aid Public Consultation on the proposed Intervention areas. This is an opportunity for the public, telecommunications providers, businesses and other stakeholders to comment on the Intervention Areas, ensuring that the Council’s representation of their commercial plans is correct.

Shropshire Council is requesting information and supporting evidence in relation to basic and NGA broadband infrastructure within the Shropshire Council area and wishes to hear from all relevant stakeholders (including residents and businesses as well as broadband infrastructure operators), particularly in relation to premises to be targeted as part of the NGA intervention area.

For the avoidance of doubt, there is no need to respond to this public consultation if you have no comment to make.

For residents and businesses, where this relates to the ability to receive an NGA service, any information provided in response to this State Aid public consultation should as a minimum include (but need not be limited to) the address of the property or locality that the submission relates to and the nature of the concern.

If the response is from an infrastructure provider and comments on the white, grey and/or black or ‘under review’ classifications within the attached maps or data, or on the wholesale products to be offered via the subsidised network, then the submission should also include the specific information set out in Section 8 and should be emailed to connecting.shropshire@shropshire.gov.uk

For all other submissions, please use the response form, which can be accessed via the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/connecting-shropshire-public-consultation

The public consultation will run up to 5 September 2016.

If you have any questions about any of the above, please contact Connecting Shropshire by email at: connecting.shropshire@shropshire.gov.uk.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/536767/2016_NBS_-State_Aid_Guidance_-NGA_Technology.pdf

July 2016 newsletter

July 18, 2016 / Leave a comment / Permalink

The latest newsletter has just been uploaded to the website, follow this link http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/20160714-Monthly-update-July-2016.pdf to read about what’s been going on in the programme recently.

Supplier engagement event, 15-07-16

June 13, 2016 / Leave a comment / Permalink

Connecting Shropshire is having a formal supplier engagement event as a precursor to our next procurement (defined as Phase 2b).

If you are a broadband infrastructure provider with an interest in submitting a bid for our phase 2 procurement and would like to attend this event, register your interest by emailing: connecting.shropshire@shropshire.gov.uk  

The event will take place at Shirehall, Shrewsbury, SY2 6ND on 15 July 2016 from 11am

NB if you’ve already responded to an email about this event you do not need to respond again.

May 2016 newsletter

June 6, 2016 / 4 comments / Permalink

The latest newsletter has just been uploaded to the website, follow this link http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/201605119-Monthly-update-May-2016.pdf to read about what’s been going on in the programme recently.

Digital Infrastructure Roadshow – The Rural Masterclass on 25 May, 2016

May 4, 2016 / Leave a comment / Permalink

The Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) has approached Shropshire Council about holding one of its roadshow events at Shirehall in Shrewsbury. These events are designed to inform and educate local government about the work of the independent sector and what it can offer to local authorities and stakeholder groups seeking value-for-money solutions in digital infrastructure.

Steve Charmley, Deputy Leader of Shropshire Council with responsibility for broadband and host of the event, said:

“As a rural county, Shropshire Council, is more than happy to provide a venue for this event, which is being organised and run by INCA, indeed we did something similar in July last year. This event is not specifically about Shropshire and is expected to be of interest to local government officers and stakeholder groups from across the country.

“I recently announced that Shropshire Council intends to carry out an open market review (OMR) of broadband provision in the early summer. An OMR is a formal precursor to the planned procurement of superfast broadband coverage, which I’m sure will be of interest to many of the INCA members at the workshop”.

The roadshow will showcase alternative providers delivering superfast and ultrafast broadband in communities around the country. Policy makers increasingly recognise the importance of these ‘alternative networks’ working alongside BT to deliver new, high capacity digital infrastructure.

Working together with Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), the roadshow will feature case studies of how FTTP (fibre to the premises), wireless and satellite networks are being deployed, delivering fantastic services, often in very hard to reach communities.

The INCA Roadshows are free to attend for local government officers. If you are a local government officer and would like to attend this event, but don’t have a discount code, please contact Gill Williams at INCA via email on gill.williams@inca.coop

To see a copy of the draft agenda, go to: http://www.inca.coop/sites/default/files/civicrm/persist/contribute/files/INCA-Roadshow-Shropshire-Draft-03052016.pdf

Case Study: Hundred House Hotel, Norton

April 6, 2016 / Leave a comment / Permalink

On what was a cold, wet and windy morning, we pulled up at the Hundred House Hotel in Norton eager to get inside for shelter from the elements. We were greeted by warmth and comfort before meeting with co-owner David Phillips, who has recently overseen the hotel’s upgrade from standard to fibre broadband.

The Hundred House Hotel in Norton basking in the sun

David said: “We upgraded to fibre broadband as soon as it became available to us mid-February and we have already noticed improvements in our connectivity. Prior to upgrading, we were getting download speeds ranging from 2mbps to 4mbps, but now we’re regularly getting download speeds of 70mbps.”

David continued: “We have ten bedrooms and a very busy office. We run all of our credit card transactions over the internet, and our previous speeds did cause us problems. For example, we’d have guests visiting from London complaining they couldn’t connect to the internet because we simply didn’t have the bandwidth. With fibre we no longer have these issues and we expect to be able to target business people in the future with the knowledge we can provide them with a strong and reliable internet connection, along with a comfortable stay.”

David Phillips, Co-owner of the Hundred House Hotel

Located in the village of Norton in between the iconic Ironbridge Gorge and Bridgnorth, the Hundred House is ideally situated. David said: “Although we are in a great location, we still need to have the facility to advertise and promote the business. Fibre broadband has made this significantly easier allowing us to increase our online presence through better website management and more effective social media activity. David went on to say: “We also store all of our bookings in the cloud now. While we still take bookings over the phone, many people now book online so a cloud-based system helps speed up the process and makes it much easier and simpler for ourselves and our customers.”

The Hundred House is not just a hotel and restaurant. It is also a great venue for weddings, conferences and events all year round and enjoys an excellent reputation. David adds: “We completely refurbished the barn in 2001 to make it a suitable venue for events. Since then, we’ve played host to many successful occasions – weddings, conferences, birthdays etc. However, while these have been undoubted successes, the poor broadband speeds and connectivity were noted. Now we have fibre broadband, all of the previous connection issues are removed allowing us to further improve our offer and make us more competitive. For example, little things like DJ’s in the barn now being able to download songs on request can make a big difference to customer experiences whether it be individuals at weddings or businesses at conferences.”

David Phillips, Co-owner of the Hundred House Hotel

Throughout our conversation, David painted a picture of enhanced potential in the future for an already thriving business. David said: Having a reliable and fast fibre broadband connection has certainly given us peace of mind. It’s encouraging for us that we can now plan for a future that better utilises modern technology; not just for the running of the business, but to improve the customer experience, whether that be staying in one of rooms, holding a wedding or conference or simply joining us for a drink or food. On a personal note, it’s nice to be able to catch-up with The Archers via the iPlayer radio app while posting invoices!”

Asked if upgrading to fibre broadband is something he’d recommend, David replied: “It can only be a good thing, so for me it was an obvious decision. It’s not costing us any more than standard broadband and we’re getting a much better service for our money. Add this to the opportunity fibre broadband brings, it’s a no-brainer!”

Boost for thousands more homes and businesses as Connecting Shropshire passes major milestone

February 24, 2016 / 3 comments / Permalink

More than 50,000 households and businesses across Shropshire now have access to faster fibre broadband as a result of Connecting Shropshire, partners Shropshire Council and BT announced today (Tuesday 23 February 2016).

Among the latest communities to benefit are Atcham, Burlton, Childs Ercall, Norton, Wistanstow and Worthen, where households and firms are now able to access high-speed fibre broadband for the first time.

One of many local businesses already reaping the benefits of upgrading to faster fibre broadband is Brompton Cookery School and Brompton Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast, located between Cross Houses and Wroxeter.

Celebrity chef, Marcus Bean, and his wife, Jenny, who run the business, said the quality and reliability of their broadband had improved greatly since upgrading to a fibre service.

Marcus said: “Both the download and upload speeds are much faster than before, even though we’re about a kilometre from the new fibre cabinet in Cross Houses.

“Because of our remote location it’s essential for us to have an online presence, which serves as our shop window to the world. A reliable broadband connection allows us to maintain our two websites (www.bromptoncookeryschool.co.uk and www.bromptonfarmhouse.co.uk) more quickly and easily, making us more competitive and appealing to our customers.

Jenny said: “We weren’t sure about making the switch to fibre broadband to start with and had concerns about the possible impact on business continuity of a change in service. However, when we looked into it, we realised it was going to be significantly cheaper than our previous business broadband service so we just bit the bullet – and have never looked back.”

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member responsible for broadband, said: “It’s great to see how faster fibre broadband is benefitting more local businesses and households across the county, as well as important sectors like tourism.

“However, while this milestone marks a great achievement, we are fully aware that there is still work to be done to bring fibre broadband to the most hard-to-reach parts of Shropshire, and we are absolutely committed to achieving this.”

Colin Bannon, BT’s regional director for the West Midlands, said: “The Connecting Shropshire rollout is progressing well and our project teams are working hard to bring the benefits of the new technology to more communities as quickly as possible.

“When combined with our commercial rollout, more than 164,000 households and businesses across the whole of Shropshire, including Telford and Wrekin, can now access faster fibre broadband.”

People wanting to find out if fibre broadband is available in their area should enter their phone number or postcode in the checker on the Connecting Shropshire website: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/when-and-where/

Residents and businesses wanting to upgrade should contact their chosen broadband service provider – the broadband speeds don’t increase automatically.

Invitation to Joint Supplier Engagement Briefing – Broadband Providers

February 12, 2016 / Leave a comment / Permalink

The Marches Broadband projects are committed to improving broadband connectivity across the Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin areas. The projects (Connecting Shropshire, Fastershire and Superfast Telford) are working together to secure European Funding in order to provide subsidies to SMEs across the Marches to enable them to access business grade broadband services. To this end, we invite you to attend a joint supplier engagement briefing in Shropshire Council’s Shirehall on March 4, 2016, starting at 11:30am.

The purpose of this high-level engagement is to check our current understanding of what the market has to offer to assist the Councils to deliver a project to address a number of specific broadband gaps in the Marches area. This initial meeting is intended as early market engagement only.

The broadband gaps will ultimately present a number of potential commercial opportunities for interested suppliers:

  • Across the Marches area we project that up to 6,000 SME premises may eventually fall into the final 5%. The premises are not expected to be served by superfast broadband from either an existing or planned commercial connection, or from a BDUK-funded contract.
  • The Marches Broadband Teams are assessing project opportunities that could potentially use available ERDF funding, to provide SMEs with access to grants. The grant would enable an SME to seek a competitive market solution for a Superfast Broadband (30mbps+) connection.
  • The grant will aim to replicate the key principles of the recently closed Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme (https://www.connectionvouchers.co.uk/). The Marches projects will use the event to help design the scope of such a scheme and therefore the views of potential suppliers will be very much welcomed.
  • Across the Marches, all three Councils are currently offering the Basic Broadband Subsidy Scheme. The Marches Broadband Teams would be interested to understand the market’s current commercial provision for alternative technologies that could address some of those premises that currently fall within the scope of the ‘infill’ (under 2mbps) scheme.

The Event will provide an opportunity to have an open dialogue about the specific requirements that the Councils have for scoping and delivering solutions for the above requirements.

If you would like to attend the event, please register the names and positions of your delegates with connecting.shropshire@shropshire.gov.uk. This is a supplier only event. A full agenda will be issued in due course. The event is expected to run from 11:30 – 14:00.

We request that you submit, in advance, a summary of your recent product/service information and experiences of the closed Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme. Please limit your submission to four sides of A4 and send by email attachment to: connecting.shropshire@shropshire.gov.uk.

Whilst we welcome open and frank discussions, the Marches Broadband team appreciate that potential suppliers may wish to discuss areas they deem as commercially sensitive. To help you with this we would like to offer you the opportunity for a private 30 minute discussion with members of the team in order to develop and clarify your understanding of our emerging requirements. We would ask that you set out this specific requirement in your email response. You can book a session now for immediately after the joint supplier engagement briefing at 14:00pm on the 4 March.

Disclaimer

For the avoidance of doubt, this is not the commencement of any formal procurement process and the Marches Councils are not committed to carrying out such a process. Any response to this notice does not guarantee any invitation to participate in any procurement processes that may be undertaken by the Marches Broadband projects.

This early market engagement exercise is intended to allow suppliers to outline their views and to provide information to the Marches Councils’ decision making process.

The Councils will consider the information received as a result of this exercise to help inform their options appraisal and subsequent Councils’ decision making process.

This information is solely for the purpose of the current early market engagement process and no representation, warranty, or undertaking is given by the Councils’ as to its accuracy or completeness, and the Councils’ accept no liability in relation to it.

You can boost your Broadband speeds with alternative options

December 4, 2015 / 7 comments / Permalink

There are several options available to people wanting to improve their broadband speeds whilst waiting to access fibre broadband.

Alternative options include 4G, Wireless and Satellite broadband.

If your current broadband speeds aren’t fast enough, these alternative solutions offer a short term fix until fibre broadband become available.

A Shropshire business, Corve Barn Farm (http://www.corvebarnfarm.co.uk/) is now enjoying a boost in its broadband speeds having recently had wireless broadband installed.

Struggling with slow speeds, Margaret and Chris Davies, the business owners, applied for a grant through the business connection voucher scheme, funded by Broadband Delivery UK and administered by Digital Birmingham.

This dish provides access to wireless broadband with download speeds of up to 30mbps
This dish provides access to wireless broadband with download speeds of up to 30mbps

Margaret Davies, co-owner of Corve Barn Farm, said:

“The fitting of the system was all done in one morning and caused minimal disruption. It was very quick. We now get 30mbps (download) and 4mbps (upload), so it’s much faster. It will save us time on VAT online, bookings, banking, shopping, everything. This solution is fast enough to do the job quickly.

“It’s been fantastic for us, and it’s going to change our work life, home life, everything.”

To read the full case study, see:

http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/2015/12/case-study-wireless-broadband-in-the-corvedale/

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member responsible for broadband, said:

“Fibre broadband is available to many homes and businesses in the Shropshire Council area, but the Council know that there is still more to be done. Work to roll-out fibre broadband will continue to 2018, but I appreciate the frustration of those people not yet within reach of a fibre broadband service who are unable to access the internet.

Whilst not all properties have access to a fibre broadband service, some people may already be able to benefit from alternative broadband technologies such as wireless, 4G mobile and satellite. If your broadband speeds are not fast enough for your needs, I’d recommend looking at alternative broadband providers.”

Further Information

What are my options for Better Broadband?

FIBRE BROADBAND

You can check current and planned availability of fibre broadband services in the Shropshire Council area at:

http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/when-and-where/

4G MOBILE BROADBAND

You may be able to get a 4G mobile broadband connection, which can provide download speeds averaging 15+mbps (To find out more, go to: http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/phone/mobile-phones/4G/what-is-4g/).

You can check current availability of 4G mobile broadband services at the Ofcom mobile coverage checker: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/mobile-coverage.

WIRELESS BROADBAND

Some parts of the Shropshire Council area are covered by wireless broadband service providers. You can check whether they cover your area by visiting the following websites:

SATELLITE BROADBAND

(Shropshire Council is not responsible for the content of, nor do they endorse any company/service or the opinions of external internet sites.)

Shropshire Council will shortly be introducing a Basic Broadband Subsidy Scheme, which is a national initiative designed by Broadband Delivery UK to provide access to a satellite broadband service for the homes and businesses that are unable to receive broadband download speeds in excess of 2 megabits per second (mbps), and are not currently planned to benefit from the superfast broadband roll out. We’ll publish more details about this as soon as we can.

Case Study: Wireless broadband in the Corvedale

December 3, 2015 / Leave a comment / Permalink

We recently visited Corve Barn Farm (http://www.corvebarnfarm.co.uk/) in the Corvedale near Much Wenlock to hear how access to a wireless broadband service has transformed the lives of the Davies family:

We pulled up to Corve Barn Farm in glorious autumn sunshine one morning in October and were greeted by the owners, Margaret and Chris. We’d come to talk about their recent internet upgrade and the impact it was having on their business and their lives.  The kettle was already on…

The Farm, nestled deep in the Shropshire countryside between Wenlock Edge and Ditton Priors, is an idyllic place to enjoy the peace and majestic views over the Corvedale.

         Margaret Davies lives and works in the beautiful Corvedale

Corve Barn Farm is no longer a working farm. Chris and Margaret have been providing holiday accommodation since 2008. They have 5 barns and 8 caravans, which can accommodate up to 55 people at any one time.

“Our guests range from families on holiday, to businessmen and sub-contractors working in the area. We also have people stay on a longer term basis whilst moving or renovating at home.”

It’s clear that the location, surrounded by farming and wildlife, appeals to a wide audience.

“There was a wedding nearby last Saturday, so we were fully booked with guests for the weekend. We get a real mixed bag of bookings and people come from all over. You have the regulars that come here frequently for work and holidays, but we also get lots of first-time bookings online. We meet people from all walks of life”.

It’s not hard to see why the couple enjoy running a business in such a beautiful spot, and it’s quickly apparent that Chris and Margaret provide a first rate service to their customers.

Despite the rural setting, guests to Corve Barn Farm needn’t exit the 21st Century when they stay, as all accommodation has recently been kitted out with innovative equipment to allow a strong, reliable Wi-Fi signal.

Struggling with slow speeds, Margaret and Chris applied for a grant through the business connection voucher scheme, funded by Broadband Delivery UK and administered by Digital Birmingham. Margaret told us about the experience:

“We were on holiday and my daughter rang me up to tell me there was a meeting at Shipton Village Hall on 23rd July. Secure Web Services (SWS) were due to attend and tell people about the scheme. I rang them up the next day, they sent me all the paperwork through and we arranged to go and see them once we were back. They came to the farm to work out what we were going to do, then helped us get the voucher sorted through Digital Birmingham.  Maxine and Chris (of SWS) are brilliant, they assisted with the paperwork to apply and the backup support since getting connected has been great.”

“I applied in August and it was about 3½ weeks from first enquiring to getting everything installed and up-and-running. It took 2 ½-3 hours on the day. Alex from Rapidity (a computer company from Cressage) and SWS worked well together.”

“I would say a solution of this kind is well worth considering for homes and businesses in rural areas. We’ve been connected since 20th September and the advantages have far outweighed the disadvantages of it. And it’s no more expensive than what I was paying before for an inadequate service.”

Margaret and Chris proceeded to tell us some of the early benefits for the business:

“People expect the internet. You go on holiday now and you take your laptop or an iPad.”

“Our customers have often come from towns/cities and they’re used to fast internet speeds at home. Most guests ask about connectivity when they book, including me! If I go away I’ll need to check for bookings or check my emails”.

“The classic example is businessmen stopping here for a week or a fortnight and needing to stay connected with their families. We have one guy from Northumberland who always stays with us when working in Bridgnorth; he Skypes his little girl on his iPad every evening and reads her a bedtime story.”

“In this valley, there’s a real issue with mobile phone signal. Now we have download speeds in excess of 5mbps, we can use the Wi-Fi to make our phone calls. All the networks are very poor here, we could go for months without having a phone signal; you’d have to literally get in your car to drive to the other side of the Wenlock Edge or Ditton to pick up a signal.”

“We keep a few Texal sheep and lambs in spring – our visitors love to pet the sheep! All farm-related forms and payment have to be done online”.

“If you’ve got no internet at home, you have to go into a coffee shop or library to get a service. I used to go to Bridgnorth, pay for parking, buy a drink in the coffee shop and then pay for surfing the internet when there.”

Running a business from their home, Chris and Margaret are also reaping the benefits of a faster connection in family life. They tell us how the upgrade has helped at home…

The couple have two children: Suzie is thirteen and attends Newport Girls High School; Timmy, who is twelve and has autism, is at Church Stretton School.

“The kids have got to email in their homework every night and it’s the responsibility of us as parents to see that it’s done. We get an email of what homework the children have got to do and when it’s got to be handed in. And then you get another email afterwards if it’s late.

They all need the internet daily to download stuff and look up information.”

“It’s been a great help and Timmy’s buying so much more stuff online now the pages don’t time out!”

About the technology and speeds

“We went for the highest speed available because we have it microwaved out to the caravans and cottages. All the accommodation has good Wi-Fi now as well as the house itself.”

“We did have broadband down the copper wire, but it was intermittent at best. The speeds were slow, often around 0.2mbps and the connection would drop out altogether.”

This dish provides access to wireless broadband with download speeds of up to 30mbps

“We now get 30mbps (download) and 4mbps (upload), so it’s much faster. It will save us time on VAT online, bookings, banking, shopping, everything. We were doing all those things before but pages would often time-out before we could complete a transaction which was very frustrating. This solution is fast enough to do the job quickly”.

“It’s a fixed wire from the dish to the house, we’ve got a hub in the house then Rapidity  came in and installed a beam up to the yard for the cottages. From the corner of the house we’ve then got another that goes out to the caravan park.”

The fitting of the system was all done in one morning and caused minimal disruption. It was very very quick.”

“It’s been fantastic for us, and it’s going to change our work life, home life, everything.”

Make the switch and start enjoying faster broadband

December 2, 2015 / Leave a comment / Permalink

Fibre Broadband is available in my area, so I get faster speeds instantly, right?? NO!

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member responsible for broadband, said: “Around 43,000 homes and businesses have access to fibre broadband from the new fibre network built by Connecting Shropshire but, to date, only about 20% of these have made the switch to fibre broadband. This is partly because people assume that, when fibre broadband becomes available in their area, they’ll automatically get faster speeds. That’s not the case.”

Now, you might be wondering – “well how do I get fibre broadband then?”

First, you need to check to see if fibre broadband is available to your property, and you can do this using our online checker – http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/when-and-where/. If fibre broadband is available – because the network we’ve built is open to all internet service providers – we recommend that you shop around to get the best deal by using a comparison website, such as: https://www.cable.co.uk/connectingshropshire/. You’ll then need to contact your chosen internet service provider to make the switch to fibre broadband.

Knowing how to upgrade may not be enough of a tempter for you to go through with it. So why should you?

• A fibre broadband internet connection not only gives you faster download speeds, it also gives you far quicker upload speeds, which to some businesses is critically important
• It provides a more reliable connection that more people in your home can use at the same time. That means you can be video calling a friend in Australia, while your partner is streaming a programme on catch up TV and the kids are gaming online without your connection being affected
• It may not be more expensive depending on the service provider and package you choose.

In short, it makes things in life more easily accessible and opens up a whole range of possibilities that may not have been available to you, your family or your business before.

The fibre cabinet in Astley gives around 100 properties in and around the village access to fibre broadband, should they wish to ‘make the switch’.

Don’t just take our word for it, this is what a man from Astley told us, “I am now able to connect a laptop, computer, two mobile phones and a TV to the internet all at the same time and everything is running fine at a speed of 37mbps, up from 2.3mbps previously. I immediately noticed that my iPad is much faster, and uploading photos to Flickr is really quick.”

But did it cost a lot more? No! This customer was able to upgrade to a package with their internet service provider that includes phone line, most calls and superfast fibre broadband for marginally less than they were paying previously!

However, if fibre broadband isn’t already available to you, you can follow us on Twitter (ConnectingShrop) or register for alerts on our website(http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/) and we’ll keep you updated so you know when and how you can make the switch to fibre broadband.

Are you a woman looking to set up a new business but don’t know where to begin?

December 1, 2015 / Leave a comment / Permalink

iStart is a free, digitally-focused business start-up course, enabling women living in Shropshire, Staffordshire or Telford & Wrekin to create future-proofed, agile and robust new businesses.

iStart will give women new to business all of the start-up basics, motivation, and goal-setting required, as well as sessions on websites, search engine optimisation and digital marketing techniques.

iStart is intended as a springboard for launching a new digitally-sound business that will grow with technology, making the technology work for you, not against, and give your business the best possible start in a digital world.

Course content is provided by local businesswomen, chosen for their expertise, knowledge and empathy towards women in business. iStart will have one classroom-based day in a small welcoming group, providing you with the confidence to tackle all of those niggling questions, with the support of the experts and fellow delegates.

With iStart you will also be able to take advantage of four hours of mentoring to help you overcome early hurdles. Our digital resource bank and online signposting will cut down on hours of searching, which we can all do without.

The course is being delivered by Women in Rural Enterprise (WiRE) as part of the Women and Broadband project, funded by the Government Equalities Office. WiRE believes that by working in small groups and using the extensive online tools, we are able offer the continued, combined and creative experiences of the peer group to boost your personal learning, moving you towards a successful woman-led business.

Tina Woodward, Shropshire Council’s deputy Cabinet member for broadband, said:

“This project is a great way for women to learn new skills in a supportive environment and has proven very successful. The new iStart courses are specifically tailored to support women who want to start up in business for the first time. I’m sure there will be plenty of competition for spaces so my advice would be to book early.”

A spokeswoman from WiRE said:

“We are very proud and excited to offer iStart and really urge local women who are planning a business start-up or are in the early stages to please contact us for a chat or go to the WiRE Challenge website to book; places are limited, so do hurry. We look forward to working with local women over the coming months and following their business successes.”

iStart is currently available to book on http://www.wirechallenge.org/.

Dates

  • 1 December 2015 at Telford Growth Hub
  • 14 January 2016 at Shropshire Education and Conference Centre, Shrewsbury
  • 11 February 2016 at The Beacon Centre, Staffordshire.

Further information

The Shropshire, Staffordshire, and Telford Women and Broadband project is funded by the Government Equalities Office.

The project is being delivered by Women in Rural Enterprise or WiRE, which is a national organisation of over 2,000 members. It is based at Harper Adams University and helps women in rural areas either to start up or expand a business.

The aim of the project is to inspire and enable women to start up a business, or to grow and improve an existing business, by embracing digital and cloud technology, capitalising on the opportunities offered by faster broadband.

This will create businesses which are digitally-led, embedded in the cloud and future-proofed, where barriers to start and to grow, such as remote location or limited time, are broken down by new technologies.

The project operates in conjunction with the three local broadband programmes that are part-funded by Broadband Delivery UK or BDUK, these are:

For more information go to the project website:

http://www.wirechallenge.org/ or contact Emma Bulley on 01952 815338 or at info@wireuk.org

For information about Connecting Shropshire, please go to the website:

http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/ or email Ben Walker at ben.walker@shropshire.gov.uk

For information about Superfast Staffordshire, please go to the website:

http://www.superfaststaffordshire.co.uk/ or email Louise Clayton at louise.clayton@staffordshire.gov.uk

For information about Superfast Telford, please go to the website

http://www.superfast-telford.co.uk/ or email Claire Critchell at claire.critchell@telford.gov.uk.

Case Study – The Old Rectory B&B

October 2, 2015 / Leave a comment / Permalink

There was once a time when access to Wi-Fi was considered a luxury in hotels and B&Bs. However, as technology has developed and become central to many of our day to day lives, access to a good Wi-Fi connection is now expected. While many businesses benefit primarily from faster upload speeds and website maintenance, our recent visit to a local B&B has emphasised the variety of benefits a fibre broadband connection offers.

The Old Rectory B&B

The Old Rectory in Broseley, a 5 Star B&B, upgraded to fibre broadband as soon as they learnt of its availability as part of the Connecting Shropshire programme. We met with owner, David Hoyle, who said: “During the 11 years we’ve been running, there has been a growing expectation from our guests of a strong and reliable broadband connection. Prior to upgrading, we were only getting speeds less than 8mbps so needless to say, we upgraded as soon as we had access to the network. Now we consistently average 38mbps.”

David Hoyle, owner of The Old Rectory B&B

David continued: “Before upgrading, we had problems with signal strength and would receive complaints from guests, predominantly business people, unable to access the internet to work from their rooms. For this reason, we tended to avoid targeting the business market. Since upgrading to fibre, however, we have received no complaints and some guests have returned 6 or 7 times, so it has really boosted our customer loyalty.”

Historically, the majority of the Old Rectory’s guests are older people and haven’t had the same expectation of a Wi-Fi connection. However, this is beginning to change as David explained: “Around 80% of our guests are aged 60 and over, but they have become more internet savvy and increasingly bring technology devices such as tablets and mobile phones with them for their stay, so broadband access is now something they expect – so as I’m sure you’ll understand, a reliable connection has become more important for us to have.”

The Wenlock Room has a spa bath within a four-poster canopy

David continued: “We do have younger guests too, who spend a long time connected to the Wi-Fi and often have their devices in their hand. In the past, they have tended to stay here because of the room with a hot tub, but now we have a reliable broadband connection, it has broadened our offer and allowed us to extend our reach to new markets and age groups.”

Recently inducted into the TripAdvisor Hall of Fame, The Old Rectory are highly customer focused and enjoy good relationships with their guests – something that has gone from strength to strength since switching to fibre broadband: “Since upgrading, we’ve had no problems with our broadband connection and it’s cured our reception problem. In the past, poor broadband has held us back slightly and been the main cause of complaints. We now have much more confidence in our broadband offer and will be looking to target businesses and business people again in the knowledge they’ll be able to enjoy all aspects of their stay”, David said.

Located on Ironbridge Road, the Old Rectory enjoys scenic views and is ideally situated between the Shropshire towns of Telford, Shrewsbury, Much Wenlock and Bridgnorth. David explained: “Given our location, we’ve always liked to make our guests aware of the many nearby attractions, and an effective way for us to do this is online. For years it’s been essential for businesses to have an online presence. Now we’ve a reliable broadband connection, we’re able to do this much more effectively through our website, making our product offering more appealing and competitive.”

David concluded: “It’s a case of so far, so good. We couldn’t be happier with the speeds and reliability. It’s allowed us to update and broaden our offer making us more attractive and accessible to new and wider markets.”

Artistic Shropshire pupil with designs on faster broadband wins poster competition with ‘lightning fast’ entry

September 29, 2015 / Leave a comment / Permalink

Nesscliffe becomes latest community to benefit from Connecting Shropshire’s rollout of fibre broadband

A Shropshire youngster with designs on faster fibre broadband is celebrating today.

Artistic Josie Lawson, aged 8, has won a poster competition organised by Connecting Shropshire, lead partners Shropshire Council and BT announced yesterday (Monday 28 September 2015).

To see the winning poster click here.

Josie and fellow pupils at St Andrew’s Church of England Primary School were asked to design a poster to celebrate the arrival of faster fibre broadband in Nesscliffe, and to raise awareness about its many benefits in the local community.

Josie’s colourful, imaginative design for fibre broadband, which she described as “fast as a flash of lightning”, was picked from a shortlist of four entries and now adorns the new fibre broadband cabinet on the outskirts of the village. It makes the new high-speed broadband service available to around 150 premises – including the school.

Nesscliffe primary poster competition V2

Front: Henry Burgoyne, Oscar Moore, Josie Lawson and Alfie Lewis-Coxill.  Back: Ian Motton, Assistant Headteacher. and Ben Walker from Connecting Shropshire.

Nesscliffe cabinet and poster V2

The cabinet is one of more than 200 that have ‘gone live’ as a result of Connecting Shropshire, which earlier this month announced it had brought more than 40,000 premises across the county within reach of the new fibre network.

Nesscliffe primary - whole school photo V2

Competition winner Josie said:

“I enjoy playing games, listening to music and also doing my homework on the Internet, so it will be great to do them much faster!”

Ian Motton, assistant headteacher at St Andrew’s Church of England Primary School, said:

“Increasingly the Internet is becoming a more important learning tool than ever before – in the classroom and for pupils to use at home – so these improvements are a welcome boost all round.”

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member responsible for broadband, said:

“Young people are the digital future and by engaging with young people like this it has brought to life what Connecting Shropshire is doing to provide access to faster Internet connections. These children have shown great creativity in their designs and the teachers and parents are rightly very proud of them.

“Whilst many Shropshire communities like Nesscliffe now have access to the fibre broadband network, we fully appreciate there is more work to do. The objective remains clear: we want to provide superfast broadband to as many homes and businesses as possible over the next three years.”

David Roberts, local Shropshire Councillor for the Loton division, said:

“I’m really pleased that fibre broadband has arrived in Nesscliffe. Many homes and businesses in and around the village now have access to faster download/upload speeds over the new fibre broadband network. However, the broadband speeds don’t increase automatically. The market for broadband services is currently very competitive and I would encourage people to shop around to get the best deal when they decide to upgrade to a fibre broadband connection.”

Ian Binks, BT’s regional manager for Shropshire and the West Midlands, said:

“It’s great to see how the arrival of fibre broadband has captured the imaginations of the local children in this way. Connecting Shropshire is a huge engineering challenge, but the rollout is progressing well. Whatever you do on the Internet you can do it better with fibre broadband. For example, families who need to connect a number of different devices to the Internet at the same time will notice an immediate improvement, while small businesses and homeworkers will be able to share information and large files more easily and quickly. It enables children to access their homework online, helps provide care for our elderly, as well as offering better access to ecommerce, social media and home entertainment. Superfast broadband has a huge impact on the way we live.”

Connecting Shropshire builds on the commercial rollout of fibre broadband by the private sector, which has already made the high-speed technology available to more than 110,000 Shropshire homes and businesses.

People wanting to find out if fibre broadband is in their area should enter their phone number or postcode in the checker on the Connecting Shropshire website: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/when-and-where/.

Residents and businesses wanting to upgrade should contact their chosen broadband service provider – the broadband speeds don’t increase automatically.

Broadband boost for 40,000 Shropshire homes and businesses

September 17, 2015 / 4 comments / Permalink

More than 40,000 homes and businesses across the county are now able to connect to faster fibre broadband as a result of Connecting Shropshire, partners Shropshire Council and BT announced today.

The latest villages to benefit from the rollout of high-speed broadband include Ashford Carbonell, Chirbury and Wollerton. In addition, work continues in parts of Bishop’s Castle, Prees and Wem, where faster fibre broadband is also starting to become available for the first time.

Fibre broadband has arrived in Chirbury

Morris Corfield, a family-run supplier of agricultural equipment, with sites in Broseley and Craven Arms, is one of the many businesses already reaping the benefits of the Connecting Shropshire rollout – and as a result, changing the way it works for the better.

Oliver Morris, the company’s IT director, said:

“The main difference has been the faster broadband speeds. At Broseley we’re now pushing download speeds of 30 megabits per second, and our Craven Arms site is regularly seeing download speeds of up to 60Mbps, while our upload speeds there have risen dramatically from 0.5Mbps to 8Mbps.

Oliver Morris, IT Director, Morris Corfield

“As well as making our day-to-day processes far more efficient, the other significant improvement we’ve seen since upgrading to fibre is how much easier it is to keep our website updated, and we’re now able to back-up our data using Cloud-based services for the first time ever.

“Increasingly it’s become more and more important for businesses like ours to include photos alongside all the stock we sell online. Upgrading to fibre broadband has made this much easier to manage, and of course has had the knock-on effect of giving our online customers a much better overall experience.”

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for broadband, said:

“It’s a fantastic achievement for the Connecting Shropshire programme to have provided more than 40,000 homes and businesses with access to a fibre-based broadband connection that wouldn’t have benefitted without our intervention. High-speed Internet access is increasingly important for all members of society and Connecting Shropshire remains a key strategic programme for Shropshire Council.

“Shropshire has a high percentage of small enterprises and businesses run from home, and it is imperative that these should be able to compete in an increasingly global economy. As more communities get connected to fibre-based broadband, it’s great to see more companies like Morris Corfield are upgrading and taking advantage of being able to work faster and smarter to increase productivity.”

Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director for next generation access, said:

“Today marks another important milestone for Shropshire. As our ambitious rollout continues at a pace, we’re now enabling an increasing number of people in the more remote parts of the county to access faster fibre broadband, often for the first time.

“Every day we’re seeing how high-speed broadband is transforming the way local families, residents, homeworkers and other businesses work, learn, communicate and enjoy their leisure time.”

Steve Charmley added:

“At the same time as this positive news, we fully appreciate there is more work to do. We have previously published our strategy in an ‘open letter’, and remain confident of our ambitions for providing all of our communities with faster broadband.”

People wanting to find out if fibre broadband is available in their area should enter their phone number or postcode in the checker on the Connecting Shropshire website: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/when-and-where/.

Morris Corfield Case Study

July 30, 2015 / One comment / Permalink

It’s a bright morning as we arrive in Broseley to visit Morris Corfield, a family-run supplier of agricultural equipment across Shropshire and beyond, ranging from large cultivation machinery and tractors, to log splitters and hedge trimmers. As a business, Morris Corfield took the opportunity to upgrade to fibre broadband as soon as the local cabinet was fibre-enabled in December 2014 by the Connecting Shropshire broadband programme.

Morris Corfield, supplier of agricultural equipment

We met their IT Director, Oliver Morris, to see how they have benefited from the switch: “As a business, the main difference has been the faster upload speeds,” Oliver explained. “Here in Broseley we’re pushing download speeds of 30mbps now, and our Craven Arms site is regularly seeing speeds of up to 60mbps, but the upload speed has risen from 0.5mbps to 8mbps.

Oliver Morris, IT Director

Oliver went on to say: “We used to experience time consuming little problems and while these problems didn’t stop us working, they did slow us down. Thankfully we’ve not had any of those issues in the six months since we upgraded to fibre.” A prime example is that our service staff synchronise their laptops to the manufacturer’s data on a weekly basis. Previously, when two or three of them tried to do this at the same time, it was quite a slow and painful process. Since upgrading, it is a lot quicker and much more reliable. So upgrading has certainly quickened previously time consuming processes.”

Morris Corfield staff regularly synchronise their laptops to the manufacturer’s data

From huge combine harvesters to the smaller hedge trimmers, Morris Corfield offer the full complement of agricultural machinery and equipment. With hundreds of products available for purchase at any one time, it’s important for up-to-date records to be kept and important data to be back up. Oliver continued: “But it’s not just our processes. It’s becoming more and more important to list all the stock with images on the website. Compared to five years ago, it’s crucial to keep the website well maintained because more and more people look for machinery on the internet. Upgrading to fibre has made this much easier to manage, and of course has the knock on effect that our online customers enjoy a better customer experience.” As we continue to chat with Oliver, a theme of possibility and choice emerges that clearly matches the ambition of the company. Leading us into the shop from the tractor yard, Oliver said: “Upgrading to fibre has opened entirely new possibilities. For example, we’ve wanted to use the cloud to back-up data for a while and to do this you need high upload speeds, it wasn’t even an option before we upgraded.”

Morris Corfield staff use their website to track hundreds of products available for purchase

Morris Corfield have four sites; Broseley and Craven Arms in Shropshire, Bromyard in Herefordshire and Tarporley in Cheshire. This creates problems sharing information. “Being a multi-site business, having the ability to route information through one place makes it easier to control online threats. To do this, you need good upload speeds and download speeds. Again, this wasn’t even an option before upgrading,” Oliver concluded: “In Craven Arms we have seen huge connection improvement since the upgrade. Unfortunately, our Herefordshire site can’t upgrade and it really holds them back.” Oliver goes on to say that “overall, upgrading to fibre broadband has allowed us to focus on the business and move with the times, knowing that we can rely on fast data connections.”

£146,000 funding sees Women and Broadband project continue

July 24, 2015 / Leave a comment / Permalink

£146,000 has been made available to allow the continued delivery of the Women and Broadband project after Connecting Shropshire, Superfast Staffordshire, and Superfast Telford, successfully bid for funding from Broadband Delivery UK and the Government Equalities Office.

Women in Rural Enterprise (WiRE) will continue to deliver the project, which will operate across the Shropshire Council, Staffordshire County Council and Telford & Wrekin Council areas.

As part of the Budget, the Chancellor announced a further £1.1 million to help women take full advantage of all the opportunities that superfast broadband can bring to business – and recently the Government announced the 16 successful local broadband projects across England which will deliver the scheme

Caroline Dineage, Minister for Women, Equalities and Family Justice, said:

“The Government is doing more than ever before to ensure that women have equality in the workplace. I am delighted to hear that the Shropshire, Staffordshire and Telford & Wrekin areas have been awarded funding, so more female entrepreneurs can take advantage of superfast broadband.

“If women set up businesses at the same rate as men there would be one million more female entrepreneurs: I hope that this fund helps women in the area take their first step into the business world.”

Tina Woodward, Shropshire Council’s deputy Cabinet member for broadband, said:

“I am very pleased that the bid for further funding for the Women and Broadband project has been successful.

“Monitoring during Phase 1 showed that, at their first workshop, 70% of women believed they lacked the skills and self-confidence to use broadband technologies for business, which only highlights the importance of its continued delivery. We have strong partners to carry on delivering the service with experience in the field, and it’s encouraging that WiRE will continue to deliver the project.”

Shaun Davies, Telford & Wrekin Council’s Cabinet member for customer services, said:

“I’m really pleased that the bid has been successful in securing further funding for the Women and Broadband project.

“We’re keen to enable women to start up a business, or to grow and improve an existing business, by embracing digital and cloud technology, capitalising on the opportunities offered by faster broadband.

“In Telford and Wrekin we have just launched our plans for superfast broadband for the next two years, which will see at least 98% of the area have access to superfast.

“This project is essential to giving women the opportunity to access superfast broadband and will help to stimulate demand for the services offered.”

Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council’s economy leader, said:

“It is important that everyone can utilise broadband to make the most of the opportunities available to them, whether this is for business, education or leisure.

“The Women and Broadband project has had a real impact, and so we’re pleased to see it continuing with this additional funding. We have many women entrepreneurs in Staffordshire, but would welcome more. In addition, we want to see improved skills, and for people to optimise the connectivity broadband brings, so this project is timely as it complements the rollout of our Superfast Staffordshire programme.”

Phase 1 of the project helped women develop their skills and confidence in using broadband technologies.

Clare Rowson, who attended some of the Women and Broadband courses during Phase 1, said:

“I certainly benefitted from the social media workshops, but for me the most useful was the video course. I have already been able to put this into use and have made videos for my clients. But the project was also great for giving women the opportunity to come together and network – to meet others in similar situations.”

Phase 2 will look to broaden the projects reach to give more women the digital skills to enable to use faster broadband technologies, to develop a network of peers, mentors and experts to provide ongoing support, continual improvement and further business opportunities.

To learn more about the Women and Broadband project, visit http://www.wirechallenge.org/

Open Letter – Strategy for Broadband in Shropshire

June 18, 2015 / 7 comments / Permalink

Dear All

In order to set expectations and dispel some of the myths perpetrated by detractors of the Connecting Shropshire Programme I thought I would provide an ‘open’ letter update on our progress and aspirations for delivering better broadband to all the communities in the Shropshire Council area. Contrary to reports we are very focused on achieving this and if there remains a need, the Council will review investment accordingly, as previously stated.

I intend to put a similar letter into the public domain in due course in order to ensure that information previously provided is not manipulated to create deliberately misleading publicity.

Introduction

The Connecting Shropshire programme remains a key strategic and priority programme of activity for Shropshire Council. It is fully supported by its funders and Shropshire Council has invested over £9m capital and revenue into the programme up to 2016. It remains a key enabler of service transformation, supports our local and Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) business economy and is no longer a luxury but a necessity that all our communities expect.

As a reminder Shropshire Council has, through diligent work, secured funding towards broadband infrastructure in Shropshire of:

  • Phase 1 – £26m
  • Phase 2 – £17m

State Aid

State Aid (how we use public money) remains a key constraint within the national government BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK) programme. It is important that the State Aid rules are appreciated as they have a significant impact on the procurement opportunities and method of delivery.

Any failure to meet the State Aid conditions can potentially put the authority in breach of European legislation which places a risk that competitor suppliers can challenge our contract and delivery methodology. The key conditions of the scheme place the following obligations upon the authority:

  • Public funds cannot be used to build infrastructure in areas where commercial providers have plans to build their networks
  • The money has to be spent on deploying superfast broadband (at least 24 megabits per second) to as many premises as possible. We can’t spend on deploying to more premises at lower speeds
  • The network must be ‘open’ and allow for choice of retail providers to maintain competition in the internet service provider (ISP) market
  • The solution must be robust and be scalable to service the speed requirements of network users. Wireless technologies, although now supported, have more technical challenges around resiliency and capacity. Most importantly any solution requires the incumbent supplier to ultimately deploy a fixed fibre solution when it is economically viable to do so. This, for obvious reasons, is financially challenging.

Progress on Phase 1

Delivering fibre broadband is a significant engineering challenge that involves a partnership approach. Fibre cable is taken from ‘head-end’ exchanges, which in most cases are located in market towns, and is ‘rolled out’ to new cabinet locations. This takes time, requires road closures and, in many cases needs new ducts and cables. In addition all fibre cabinets need a power supply which often requires the negotiation of wayleaves.

The programme remains ‘on target’ in its current Phase 1 delivery that started in March 2013 and is due to complete by winter 2016. Phase 1 aims to deliver superfast broadband to 87% of premises, when added to commercial providers obligations. To date we have delivered to over 35k premises (out of 64k) all of which now have access to fibre enabled service. Average speeds across the 180 cabinets already built is on average 50 megabits per second. Contrary to some reports, many cabinets are now delivering superfast broadband to areas where speeds were previously very poor.

Cllr. Steve Charmley, Deputy Leader & Councillor responsible for the broadband programme in St. Martins where fibre broadband is now available.

We are anticipating savings within Phase 1 that will contribute to further coverage. This will be assessed as part of any pre Phase 2b procurement being undertaken.

Phase 2

Prior to procuring our Phase 2 delivery the Council undertook due diligence with the supplier market to assess potential procurement, delivery and financing opportunities. At that time, and for the reasons outlined in the December 10th 2014 report, Cabinet decided to undertake a further BDUK framework procurement exercise using the secured £11.38m from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The purpose of the BDUK grant funding was to take Shropshire to at least 90% SFBB (Superfast Broadband) coverage locally, which remains a government target by the end of 2017, together with providing SFBB to 95% of the UK within the same timescale.

BT’s contract, which was signed and reported earlier this month will use £4.7m of the total £11.38m funding from BDUK. It will be used to provide another 4,000 premises with access to fibre broadband across a range of areas in Shropshire. We will release a map before the end of this month,  showing the areas that will benefit as part of the Phase 2.

Whilst the bid may be perceived as disappointing in not addressing solutions to more premises in the intervention area (15,500 premises), the ‘outcome’ from this procurement process is as expected and outlined in the Cabinet paper of December which remains in the public domain.

The Supplier’s solution model has utilised the same technologies as in Phase 1. The majority of technologies proposed are Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) and Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) or variants of these technologies. No new technologies have been offered as part of the current solution design in Phase 2 although there will remain opportunities before deployment commences for phase 2 for the supplier to remodel new technological solutions which may improve further coverage opportunities. It should be noted that throughout Phase 1 technology variants to FTTC have been deployed which are projecting cost savings that should provide additional coverage during the course of the Phase 1 contract.

It is worth noting that when the deployment costs are compared to other BDUK bids to date (of which there’ve been 31), Shropshire has been recognised as having the most challenging geography and network topology. This highlights the unique challenges that Shropshire has and needs to be considered as part of any solution. Too often these unique challenges have not be recognised by those detractors of the programme and perhaps highlights why no commercial provision has been provided in some of our rural communities.

Beyond Phase 2

We now have a balance of BDUK funds of £6.68m that can be used together with the Marches LEP’s Local Growth Fund allocation of £5.02m. We intend to use this funding towards a further procurement exercise. At the same time we will continue to explore options with our partners BT as part of the process, but not under exclusivity and with no obligations on the Authority.

The unallocated funds provide Shropshire Council with a clear opportunity to reassess the wider market as outlined in the December paper. It is anticipated that the process of ‘soft market’ testing will encourage ‘Procurement competition’ and the use of new technologies which will be essential to providing greater reach to those most impacted by the lack of fibre broadband coverage. It is important to again refer to the State Aid constraints and the need to meet the obligations outlined above. It is expected that a new umbrella State Aid agreement will be negotiated with the European Commission later this summer which will include similar constraints. This agreement will again be very clear how authorities can spend public money on broadband infrastructure.

Connecting Shropshire has already started having conversations with alternative suppliers and regularly engages with the wider BDUK Programme network to understand what opportunities are available. In particular, we will be engaging directly with those authorities that have undertaken Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) procurements, which includes Berkshire, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Kent. We already have close working relationships with our neighbour LEP authorities and are already working collectively on utilising European funding streams to support broadband initiatives.

Additional opportunities

We continue to look for further investment opportunities through private and community investments. Our Phase 1 and Phase 2 contracts provide opportunities to extend coverage and these will be explored through work with our Broadband Partnership group, which meets later this month.

We are expecting more calls for local LEP opportunities as part of a further local growth funding. The Authority remains committed to assessing these options and those from European funding streams prior to committing its own capital funding. This remains a clear and sensible strategy when the authority is faced with significant funding constraints.

The Superfast Britain connection voucher scheme has now been available in Shropshire since April. We formally released information about the scheme and process last week and we are intending holding an event in Shirehall next month with a number of infrastructure providers. We would encourage all local businesses to take up this complimentary project which could provide opportunities to get a superfast broadband connection straight away. Any solution funded by a connection voucher does not preclude the particular business from getting a fibre solution as part of the wider deployment programme.

Connecting Shropshire regularly provides updates to key stakeholders via the website, parish meetings, briefings, press releases and newsletter. We are happy to receive any suggestions and assistance from members in spreading the word about the benefits of fibre broadband to encourage residents and businesses.

It remains our aspiration that we maximise the take-up of fibre broadband within the ten-year contract term as anything above 20%, will result in a financial reward to the Council via the contract that we have with BT. This can be reinvested in the programme (although not eligible as match funding), to provide more homes and businesses with access to fibre broadband.

Summary

The Connecting Shropshire programme remains in a very positive position with delivery on schedule to cost and timescale. We have procured some additional coverage as part of Phase 2 and are now looking forwards to further coverage opportunities with the support of BDUK. We additionally have secured an interim voucher scheme that can assist local businesses to immediately take up superfast broadband.

Throughout deployment the Connecting Shropshire Team have always provided an ‘open’ and ‘honest’ approach to communication. We share the information we have to enable communities to make informed choices. This remains a key element to our communication strategy and hence why we created the Broadband Partnership Group to have a forum to share thoughts and create ‘challenge’. This will continue to be the forum to have conversations about the programme and not via the public media, which appears in some cases to be a tactical ploy by those who do not agree with our strategy. Whilst some may not agree with our strategy this does not mean that our strategy is wrong.

Regards

Steve

Steve Charmley, Deputy Leader & Member for Whittington Ward, Shropshire Council

New £5.6m deal will deliver superfast fibre broadband boost for thousands more Shropshire Homes and Businesses

June 3, 2015 / 4 comments / Permalink

Around 4,000 more homes and businesses across Shropshire will be able to receive high-speed fibre broadband following an additional £5.6 million of funding announced today.

The latest funding will extend the Connecting Shropshire roll-out which began connecting the first homes and businesses to faster fibre broadband around 18 months ago.

Steve Holmes, BT Client Business Development Director, and Chris Taylor, Connecting Shropshire Programme Manager.

The new deal injects further funding into the Connecting Shropshire partnership between Shropshire Council, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and BT, with £4.7 million coming from BDUK and £900,000 from BT. Additional funding already available from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership and BDUK will be used to undertake a further procurement exercise by the end of 2015.

This additional funding will mean that more premises will be able to order a fibre broadband connection

Parts of Montford Bridge, Prees and Munslow exchange areas not already enabled for faster fibre broadband will be among the places to benefit from this new funding. More details of the other areas to benefit will be announced before the end of the month. The upgrade work will take place during 2017 and 2018.

So far, more than 34,000 premises are able to upgrade to faster fibre broadband out of the 62,000 planned in the first phase of the Connecting Shropshire roll-out, which is expected to finish at the end of 2016.

People wanting to find out if fibre broadband is in their area should enter their phone number or postcode in the checker on the Connecting Shropshire website: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/when-and-where/. Residents and businesses wanting to upgrade should contact their chosen broadband service provider, the broadband speeds don’t increase automatically.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member with responsibility for broadband, said: “This extension to the Connecting Shropshire programme will provide access to faster fibre broadband to more communities. Even with the extension covering more premises, we know that there is still work to be done which was expected due to the geographical and network challenges we have in Shropshire. We intend to use additional funding already available and the balance of BDUK funds to seek further procurement opportunities to enable more homes and businesses to get superfast broadband.”

Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of next generation access, said: “Today marks another important milestone in the development of Shropshire. Every day the internet is impacting on lives in new and exciting ways, which is why we are working hard to connect as many communities as possible. Rolling out fibre broadband in a rural county like Shropshire has its engineering challenges, but our teams have the expertise to ensure the roll-out continues smoothly and quickly.”

Fibre broadband arrives in Myddle & Harmer Hill – a case history

May 8, 2015 / Leave a comment / Permalink

This article has been contributed by a guest blogger, Colin Ruck, any views expressed are his own.

At last it has arrived. As one resident said “It is like winning the Lottery”. In both villages we have struggled to join the internet revolution with speeds of less than 1Mbps. Yes that is really slow!!! We waited a long time for superfast* broadband to arrive in Myddle and Harmer Hill with all the inevitable trials and tribulations.

[* Superfast broadband is defined as a connection capable of 24mbps download speed]

The Connecting Shropshire web site informed us to expect fibre broadband by the end of August 2014. We had the new Huawei fibre cabinets in place in both villages. We were getting excited. Needless to say it did not arrive on time. What was going on?

Suddenly the sticker on the cabinet saying that fibre broadband had arrived went up in Harmer Hill. They were connected but not Myddle. Both villages are on the Bomere Heath exchange but on different cabinets. What had happened? Oh the frustration!

Fibre broadband is available to order in Harmer Hill

Letters were sent to Connecting Shropshire, our MP and the divisional chief of BT.
Back came the replies. Myddle, Cabinet 5 on the Bomere Exchange, could not easily be connected with fibre as there were several blockages in the ducting between us and Bomere Heath, a distance of some 7 Km of ducts, including one that would need the road digging up and replacement ducting installed. For those who don’t know, Openreach engineers blow the glass fibre along the existing ducts using compressed air. Any sort of blockage understandably creates havoc with this method of deployment.

Myddle would have to wait. Christmas came and went and the New Year arrived. In February we saw men and machines digging around the new green box, the power supply was connected. It must be getting closer.

Every day a few of us hopefuls were logging into the Connecting Shropshire web site and waiting to see the words we all wanted to see when we put our postcode into the checker (see: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/when-and-where/), that our cabinet was now connected and we could order superfast broadband connection.

At the end of February the message changed. We were on. Get on the phone quickly and order a package. The first connections in Myddle were made on 3rd March 2015.

New fibre and old copper cabinets in Myddle

This is where your experiences will differ in accordance to where you live. To our surprise TalkTalk do not provide a fibre broadband package for this exchange. Curious but true!! Sky provide a service to the area and also PlusNet (part of BT). BT provide two packages with differing pricing structures:

  • Infinity 1 is the cheaper and slower 40 mbps downstream and 10mbps upstream
  • Infinity 2 is the more expensive 80mbps downstream 20mbps upstream

Yes theoretically we can get these speeds and we were struggling on less than 1mbps! In practice the speed may vary during the day but I consistently receive speeds of between 50mbps and 20mbps.

There are other providers but you will need to do your own research!

A BT package was duly ordered. A date was fixed 10 days from the call for an engineer to visit the house and the new router was ordered. The new router arrived, 2 days to go, Wednesday 4th March 2015. The engineer arrived as promised and we were connected!!! His test readings gave 60mbps downstream and 15mbps upload!!! Line length to the cabinet has an impact on the final speed you can get in your home. If we lived closer to the cabinet and lines went directly to the cabinet the speeds would be nearer the 80/20 we were hoping for. Never mind anything is better than less than 1mbps!  Now to start using the fibre broadband to its full potential.

Fibre broadband is available to order in Myddle

Firstly make sure your wireless connections are adequate throughout the area you are likely to use the service. For example it is no good having superfast to your router if you then expect a wireless signal to give you fast internet speeds when you are too far away from the router. One solution is to purchase some of the Homeplug equipment that extends your internet into other rooms by making use of your copper wire in the household electricity circuit to carry the signal. It works well and saves you having to lay new cables to carry the internet signals.

Next start exploring what you can do with the fast speed you now have.  Skype works as it should. You can talk to the family as if they are in the room with you. Computer updates download in seconds, images go to and come from others in seconds instead on ages. Emails are there in a jiffy. BBC iPlayer and catch up TV works on the fly with no buffering, watch films on Netflix or Amazon Fire. YouTube just works and of course browsing the web is now a joy. The list goes on.

Before I finish, I want to add my heartfelt thanks to the people at Shropshire Council who made a bold decision to pump money into the infra-structure project, £8million so far plus £8 million from BT and another £8million from BDUK. The majority of Shropshire residents will not be held back by slow broadband ever again.

Suffice it to say I agree with what was said at the start, getting hooked up to superfast broadband is  “Like winning the Lottery”.

Colin Ruck
Parish Councillor
Myddle and Broughton
Nr Shrewsbury

Connecting Shropshire broadband update – 174 cabinets now live!

April 27, 2015 / 8 comments / Permalink

Ever since the first roadside cabinet went live in December 2013, Connecting Shropshire has been working hard to install fibre broadband. To date, 174 new roadside cabinets have been installed and are live in 43 exchange areas putting over 30,000 premises within reach of the new fibre broadband network.

This cabinet in Stoke St Milborough provides nearby premises with access to a fibre broadband connection

To see whether you have access to fibre broadband, use the checker at: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/when-and-where/

The map allows you to get up-to-date information about the status of your exchange area. The availability checker enables you to enter their postcode or telephone number to find out your exchange area, whether or not fibre broadband is available and estimated dates for availability. For a list of all our live cabinets, see: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/live-cabinets/

To connect to fibre broadband, people need to contact their chosen internet service provider to upgrade their broadband package, the broadband speeds won’t increase automatically.

Not all premises in an exchange area will get access to fibre broadband and not all premises served by a fibre cabinet will necessarily get access to faster broadband.

Fibre in Focus – Hobsons Brewery

April 1, 2015 / Leave a comment / Permalink

Reuben Crouch, Commercial Director at Hobsons Brewery

It’s a crisp and sunny spring morning as we pull up in Cleobury Mortimer, home to Hobsons Brewery.  A local favourite down many Shropshire pubs, Hobsons have recently taken up the opportunity to upgrade to fibre broadband after the local cabinet was fibre- enabled as part of the Connecting Shropshire programme.

We met with their Commercial Director, Reuben Crouch, to see how they had found the switch in the early days: “The biggest difference was the speed of uploading data,”  Reuben explained shortly after meeting. “We’re seeing speeds pushing 40 mbps now on the downloads, but the upload speed has been really dramatic – it’s gone up from 0.5 to about 8 mbps, which has been a revelation. The issues weren’t stopping us working – but what they were doing was really slowing us down.”

Pausing for thought, he continued: “For example, the way we did our accounts was that we’d upload the data to a secure server for the accountants to then download. But the upload was mind-numbingly slow and it would tie up the computer for the entire day and slow up the other computers on the network as well. So the quicker that job can be done the better.”

Reuben shows off two of Hobsons ales: Town Crier and Old Henry

Showing us round the Hobsons home, Reuben began to further unpick the impact the upgrade had on the business. Leading us into the area where their beers are casked, he continued: “An interesting thing about the brewing industry is that every time you send out a cask of beer, there is more value in the cask than there is in the beer itself. So you really need to keep a reliable track of where those casks are going because you don’t want to be losing them. Because none of the software we had to do that was working that well, we’re in the process of developing a cloud-based storage database – where we scan a cask using our phones and then upload that information to the cloud. The fact that we’ve now got the superfast broadband means that’s almost instantaneous, whereas before it was constantly lagging and really slowing the process down.”

 

The more Reuben explains about the business and where they are going, a theme begins to emerge: one of efficiency and ambition – “We’ve been doing a lot of export recently, something that we’re really pursuing as a business, and we’ve got a new website being designed and a series of country-specific sites in development – and that again involves uploading an awful lot of data – so that takes up a lot of bandwidth and a fast connection means it’s a much quicker process.”

Once more he pauses for thought, before beginning to sum up what all the small and subtle changes meant for Hobsons. “Ultimately what it’s allowed us to do is free up time, and our staff have become more efficient as a result [of the faster speeds] because they can finish the job quicker and move onto something else. The more efficient the workforce is, the more you can deliver without increasing your business costs, and as a result you can be a lot more ambitious and achieve a lot more in your time.”

At this point, another member of the Hobsons team pops out to where we’re sat in the sunshine to let Reuben know that a major UK retailer is on the phone – the timing, to illustrate the ambitions of the business, couldn’t have been better. Apologising, Reuben nips inside to take the call, leaving me to wander round the site. It’s certainly not in a buzzing metropolis, with the views of green fields and the small countryside town down the hillside.

The Connecting Shropshire rollout enabled the local cabinet to Hobsons early this year, with the business receiving the service in early February at a lower cost than their previous package. In that time, the company has seen the benefits it can bring, contributing to them being able to push forward with more ambitious plans for the year ahead. Efficiency has always been part of their philosophy, with the company placing an emphasis on making the best use of sustainable and recyclable energy sources, and the upgrade to fibre broadband has allowed this ethos of maximising resources to further flourish in the wider running of the company.

Reuben outside the Brewery in Cleobury Mortimer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With time now running short, Reuben returns to quickly sum up the overall effect the service has had on the business.

“If we didn’t have the fibre broadband we’d have had two options: we would’ve either had to employ additional labour in order to achieve all the things we wanted to achieve, or we would’ve had to make sacrifices on goals. It’s like everything else, you prioritise what needs doing – so our priorities would get done, but the other things that are really pushing us now probably wouldn’t.”

With this to reflect on, we take up the offer to check back towards the end of summer 2015 to see how things have progressed as the new service becomes established in the company routine. Already, Reuben has shed light on how the simple things have really assisted this successful, if relatively small, local business to pursue more ambitious goals and further their success.

A look ahead in 2015

March 10, 2015 / Leave a comment / Permalink

As winter begins its slow, begrudging, retreat we look ahead to this summer and which exchange areas we’ll be working in.

Openreach engineers installing fibre cable – pulling it through miles of underground ducting.

The plans for later this year are being finalised so exact locations are still to be confirmed, however the exchange areas that we are confident that, all being well, we’ll be seeing at least one new cabinet go live in are listed below. So, in alphabetical order, they are:

• Bucknell
• Clive
• Cressage
• Ditton Priors
• Ellesmere
• Great Bolas
• Knockin
• Lee Brockhurst
• Munslow
• Pipegate
• Prees
• Queens Head
• Richards Castle
• Seifton
• Stoke St Milborough
• Tenbury Wells
• Wem
• Whixall

If you don’t know which your exchange area is, you can find out using our interactive map and availability checker here.

Several of these are exchange areas that the programme hasn’t previously worked in and will see the fibre network continue to grow as we work towards the target of providing access to fibre broadband to as many premises in the Shropshire Council area as possible.

Fibre Fact Finding foray #3

February 27, 2015 / 5 comments / Permalink

Fibre Fact Finding foray number three sees Callum visiting an area where Connecting Shropshire is building a ‘fibre to the premise’ or FTTP network. FTTP takes longer to build, and is much more expensive, as the fibre doesn’t terminate at a single point (the cabinet), but at many different locations in the vicinity of the dispersed rural premises in the area served. In this instance, on top of the 3 kilometres of fibre to the cabinet there is an additional 14 kilometres of fibre to local distribution points (usually a pole).

Another week, another site visit as part of my Connecting Shropshire work. Once again, it involved donning an oversized hi-vis jacket as I was returning to the field to see the work going on around Forton Heath to clear blockages in the ducts where the fibre cables go. This is the most common issue the engineers face.

Mike Gardiner was on hand once more, to talk me through things. After driving past the first cabinet to go live way back in 2013, we ended up about five minutes further down the twisty road where we pulled into a coned-off area in between some temporary traffic lights and walked towards a small mechanical digger and a four foot square hole in the road.

The stretch of roadworks

The digger, and the two men working with it, were clearing blockages in the ducting as they explained:
“We normally have about 100 yards between man-holes, but here we’ve got 400 yards and it’s been really difficult. Almost every 50 feet we find there’s something that needs to be cleared to enable us to pull the cables through and continue the job.” Silt builds up over time particularly after flooding and collects in the duct so we have to blast it with high pressure water and if that doesn’t work dig down to clear the blockage.

Digging down to the duct

Pulling the fibre through is a time consuming process as the distances can be kilometres long and they have had to do this for a lot of the new fibre network in the programme. When you add in the need for digging up precise sections of road more regularly than anybody would like it’s a huge task. However, at least having duct available allows them to pull a lot of fibre through without having to dig everything up as we would if the cable was directly buried. Sometimes where duct is not available we have to use an overhead route we mentioned in our previous newsletter. I left them to get on with it as they had nearly beaten this challenge.

About 30 yards further down the road were two Welshmen, readying the next stretch. Whereas the blockage the others were working on required the hefty machinery to allow them to clear it, the blockage just up the road was something the high pressure water jet could clear. As with their colleagues, they had been working up and down the country on the national build of fibre broadband, most recently over the border in their homeland on the Superfast Wales programme.

“You know straight away if we can use the jetter or if we need to dig to clear it. We’re nearly though this section now once the boys up there are clear.”
With that, he hopped into the duct and got ready with his water jet to clear the last blockage on the 400 yard stretch between this man-hole and the previous one.

The water jet has been used to clear the duct

Back up the road, I noticed the absence of the deep growl of the digger’s engine. Heading back to investigate, I found that the blockage had been cleared and could see the rope pulling through the cable from the other end. The relief and satisfaction on the faces of those who had worked so hard to clear it was plain to see.

It can sometimes be a lot of hard work and hours of effort put in for 50 yards of fibre; the engineers realise that they aren’t going to know for sure how long a stretch will take until they are doing it. This particular road has been tough going but they are hopeful that they are through the worst of it now and will be able to lay more and more each day. With the programme in Shropshire alone having enough fibre cover from here to the Swiss Alps, they remain undaunted by the scale of the task ahead

Boost for Shropshire homes and businesses as Connecting Shropshire reaches half-way

February 10, 2015 / Leave a comment / Permalink

Around 31,500 homes and businesses across the county are now within reach of faster fibre broadband thanks to the Connecting Shropshire partnership.

The achievement marks the half-way point in the roll-out, which is on course to connect more than 63,000 premises by the end of 2016.Connecting Shropshire is a partnership between Shropshire Council, BT and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.

The local milestone comes as the Government today announced two million homes and businesses around the UK are now able to get superfast broadband as a result of BDUK.

The arrival of the new technology has been welcomed by James Frizzell, manager of Bridgnorth’s Majestic Cinema – a traditional three-screen cinema, which dates back to 1937. James said: “It used to take us a day to download a three-minute trailer. Now, since upgrading to faster fibre broadband, we can download a whole film in about an hour.”
Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member with responsibility for broadband, said: “Connecting Shropshire has done much already to bring faster broadband speeds to rural communities – from Adderley to Yockleton, and Homer to Ightfield. Whilst it’s great news to have reached this milestone in the current phase one contract, we know that there’s still much work to be done to provide faster fibre broadband to even more communities.

“The ongoing procurement for a phase two, and the announcement (on January 29) of additional funding for Shropshire Council to support the roll-out of fibre broadband, demonstrates our continued commitment to connecting as many homes and businesses to fibre broadband as possible.”
Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of next generation broadband, said: “Today marks a giant step forward in the roll-out of fibre broadband in Shropshire and across the UK. Here more than 142,000 homes and businesses now have access to high-speed fibre broadband thanks to Connecting Shropshire and BT’s own commercial fibre broadband programme. We’re now reaching into the hearts of scores of communities across the region that have so far been beyond the reach of this vital technology.

“There can be few areas of modern life which are not influenced in some way by broadband – whether it’s supporting how we work, how we learn, how we communicate with friends and family, or how we entertain ourselves. Now’s the time to embrace high-speed broadband and switch to the superfast lane.”

People wanting to find out if fibre has gone live in their area should log onto the Connecting Shropshire website: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/when-and-where/

Once an area has ‘gone live’, people will be able to get download speeds of up to 80 megabits per second (Mbps) and uploads of up to 20Mbps*. Residents and businesses wanting to upgrade should contact their chosen broadband service provider.

The Connecting Shropshire programme is being delivered by a team of more than 50 people planning, building and commissioning the network in the Shropshire Council area.

Further information

* These are the top wholesale speeds available from BT’s local network business Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.

Connecting Shropshire phase 2 procurement underway with further funding confirmed

January 30, 2015 / 4 comments / Permalink

In February 2014, Shropshire Council was allocated £11.38m as part of the Government’s commitment to improve broadband nationally and to provide access to superfast speeds for at least 90%[1] of premises in the Shropshire Council area by 2017. The funding was offered to the Council provided it could locate committed match funding on a £1 for £1 basis.

Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) has subsequently committed to supporting Shropshire Council with a further procurement up to the value of £11.38m, regardless of the Council’s ability to secure the necessary full match funding beforehand. The agreement was based on Shropshire Council’s commitment to continue to seek match funding. Yesterday (29 January) Culture Secretary Sajid Javid MP was in Shropshire to announce a £7.7m contribution to the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to support the roll-out of fibre broadband in Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin. The allocation for the Shropshire Council area is likely to be £5,150,000.

Following a Cabinet decision in December[2], Shropshire Council is progressing with a phase 2 procurement that is currently out to tender under the existing ‘framework contract’ arrangements that BDUK have in place. The tender process and contract negotiations should be completed by the summer, although any work is unlikely to start until the current phase 1 contract is completed at the end of 2016.

The phase 2 procurement will be funded entirely from the £11.38m from BDUK. The match funding element from the Marches LEP will be used to assess the next most economical procurement route once the phase 2 procurement process has completed.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member responsible for broadband, said: “This is great news for the people who live work and visit Shropshire. It means that we’ll be able to provide access to fibre based broadband for even more of the people who are struggling with slow and unreliable broadband speeds.”

“Whilst I acknowledge that there’s still much work to be done, I’d like to publicly commend the Council officers involved in the Connecting Shropshire programme in getting us to this advantageous position.”

Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, said: “This additional funding is excellent news for Shropshire and the extra funding from BDUK will help take superfast broadband to 90% of premises in the Shropshire Council area. The UK already does more business online than any other European country and widespread access to superfast speeds will provide a welcome boost to Shropshire’s economy.”

[1] The national commitment is for 95% of premises to have access to superfast broadband (i.e. download speeds above 24mbps) by 2017

[2] The Cabinet report can be found on the following link: http://shropshire.gov.uk/committee-services/documents/s5312/19%20Connecting%20Shropshire%20Phase%202.pdf

Notes to editors:

For more information, please contact Callum McLagan at the Shropshire Council press office on 01743 252826 or email callum.mclagan@ipande.co.uk

(All Shropshire Council news stories can be read at http://shropshire.gov.uk/news/)

About Connecting Shropshire

The Connecting Shropshire programme is bringing fibre based broadband to areas where it isn’t economically viable for commercial companies to provide do so.  It’s a partnership between Shropshire Council, BT and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) that will enable more than 62,000 homes and businesses in Shropshire (excluding Telford and Wrekin) to access faster broadband by the end of 2016.

Connecting Shropshire programme website: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/

Photos showing the rollout of Connecting Shropshire can be downloaded for free from: https://flic.kr/s/aHsk1gij7M

Superfast Britain is a Government programme of investment in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race.  The portfolio is comprised of three elements:

  • £780m to extend superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the UK by 2017
  • £150m to provide high speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities
  • £150m to improve quality and coverage of mobile phone and basic data network services

Administered on behalf of Government by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), Superfast Britain is transforming Britain by promoting growth, enabling skills and learning, and improving quality of life. For further information, see: https://www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk

 

Fibre fact-finding expedition

January 14, 2015 / One comment / Permalink

Following my last trip to see the work ‘in the field’ for Connecting Shropshire, this time I was sent to where the journey begins for fibre optic broadband – the main telephone exchange or ‘head end’ exchange.

Armed with a host of questions, a notepad and a pen, I turned up at the Shrewsbury telephone exchange and met Mike Gardiner again – my nominated tutor on these trips. We began by heading into the depths of the building to where it all starts. My aim was to see how this unseen part of the journey works, then find out more about the build that may not be seen by everyone.

To the untrained eye, it instantly reminds you of the footage of a computer from 1960s. Huge blinking, electrical cabinets fill the room, whirring away like a caffeinated wasp.

Where it all starts

The very start of the fibre optic journey is here, in the intriguingly named Optical Line Termination (or OLT to its friends). Fibre cables are attached to individual connecting points – or ports – here, each flashing merrily away if they are fully operational, before stretching out and into another, similarly large, cabinet called the Optical Consolidation Rack (OCR).

Optical Line Termination

 

Optical Consolidation Rack: The trays wrap the individual fibres.

The OCR acts to organise the individual fibre optic lines, first separating them out from the OLT and then streamlining them into larger cable bundles of 12. These are then grouped together into the cables that go on the long journey through the ducts and then to the green roadside cabinets of glory.

Perfectly organised, clean and crisp branching of cables which are then grouped into the needed numbers and then sent out the OCR, above our heads and out of the room on to the next stage of the fibre’s journey at the exchange is in the aptly named cabling room.

Optical Consolidation Rack: The groups of 12 fibres are put together into the larger cable that goes to the Cabling Room

In here you can really see the size difference between fibre and the chunky copper
cables as both come in and out of this sorting room (of sorts) for cables. The fibre cables (yellow in the photograph) enter the room and then into a Cable Chamber Joint to be spliced and coated ready to leave the strange world in the exchange. So having whizzed through all this, I ask how this all fits in to the big build.

The Cabling Room. The yellow cables are fibre cables whereas the much larger grey cables are copper.

“Well, the first stage is the planning for the OLT, OCR,  jointing and cabling. Once the calculations have been made, the work to build  each of these begins, with the cabling typically taking the longest.” Mike  explains.

“So, what people see is the cabling and duct work, but behind the scenes we’re building the less glamorous but cleaner things! Part of the work we do while cabling is to test the connections as we go along, so if there is an issue we can pick it up early.”

Seeing as he’s mentioned it, I feel it’s my duty to ask about any particular challenges:

“At this point the main thing we might come across would be a blockage in the ducts. The guys would know right away whether it’s something like a build-up of silt from all the flooding that they can clear with a high pressure water jet or if it’s going to need a lot more work. They’ll test with a rod from both ends of the duct so they can measure where the blockage is, or if there is potentially another one further along.”

The real issues come when the ducts are badly blocked. To clear this they have to dig down to the duct to clear the blockage manually, which predictably takes longer than for blockages that the water jet can clear. Things are further complicated by the fact that accessing the ducts is made even more difficult because much of the modern world’s infrastructure is built over the top of them. Mike continued:

“It’s really unfortunate when you run into these problems as you know it will take longer to sort – you just want to complete the job. The lads have had lots of people come up to them to talk about how they’re looking forward to fibre and the difference it will make to them.”

Once all the cabling has been done, any issues cleared, then comes the connections to the cabinet.

“It takes about 10 days to what we call ‘stand’ or commission a cab, so we try to get that done before we need it, just so it’s ready to go when we get there. Connecting power can sometimes be a little difficult for some of the very rural cabinets, but we normally find a way to do this and then it’s final stage of checks and tests.”

Mike’s diagram shows the connection from start to finish. (TJ = Track Joint – this is where fibre cables can be sent in differing directions towards their final destination)

Leaving the cabling room, Mike shows me the equipment used to make these final tests. With everything connected up, a light signal is sent from the exchange and someone at the cabinet looks at their gizmo and, if the reading they get is within a certain range, then the fibre cables are doing their job and it’s ready to go – any issues and the machine will be able to tell them how far down the line it is so they know where they need to go to fix it.

Once again, Mike has to head off as his phone has been ringing like a mad thing the entire time but it’s been an eye opening trip for me. The main thing that’s stuck with me is how much work it takes to run over a thousand miles of fibre cabling and how fragile it all looks at the start in those optical trays in the exchange.

Superfast broadband comes to Much Wenlock

January 7, 2015 / Leave a comment / Permalink

More than 1,000 further Shropshire homes and businesses can benefit from superfast speeds

More than 1,000 residents and businesses in medieval Much Wenlock are being encouraged to sign up for superfast broadband, following the arrival of the new technology in the town.  This comes as part of a national Government campaign* to raise awareness of the benefits faster Internet speeds can bring.

The public sector is investing £1.7 billion in the UK’s digital infrastructure so that, by 2017, 95 per cent of businesses and homes across the UK will be able to access superfast broadband.  This includes investment in Connecting Shropshire – a partnership between Shropshire Council, BT and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK.

Superfast broadband is already available in 78 per cent of UK premises.  Locally, the Connecting Shropshire rollout has brought around 29,000 homes and businesses within reach of the fibre broadband network.  However, some people are not aware whether they can get superfast broadband where they live, or what they need to do to take up the service.  Shropshire homes and businesses can check the availability of fibre broadband on the Connecting Shropshire website: www.connectingshropshire.co.uk.

Philip Dunne, MP for Ludlow, was out in Much Wenlock recently inspecting the work of the Connecting Shropshire programme, which has now made superfast fibre broadband available to more than 1,000 premises in the town.

Connecting Shropshire Programme Manager, Chris Taylor, and Philip Dunne MP

Philip Dunne said: “This is great news for Much Wenlock.  Superfast broadband is essential to local businesses, and I’m certain that it will be a catalyst for the creation of new jobs in the town.  It will also transform the lives of local families, whether they’re using the technology for working from home, entertainment or education.”

David Turner, local Shropshire Councillor for Much Wenlock, said: “The arrival of superfast broadband in Much Wenlock creates exciting opportunities for us all.  Many of the services we use are now accessible online, and with the explosion of online shopping and online streaming services, now’s the time for residents and businesses to check out whether they can benefit from superfast broadband by visiting www.gov.uk/gosuperfast, www.connectingshropshire.co.uk or by contacting their chosen Internet service provider.”

Ian Binks, BT’s regional manager for Shropshire and the West Midlands, said: “As the birthplace of Dr William Penny Brookes – who inspired the modern Olympic movement and one of the official mascots for London 2012 – Much Wenlock has become increasingly well-known around the world.  It is, therefore, fitting that it can now boast world-beating fibre broadband speeds.

“The people of Much Wenlock  join more than 85,000 households and businesses across Shropshire** who already have access to fibre broadband as a result of BT’s commercial rollout and the Connecting Shropshire programme.”

Research*** shows that UK homes are getting more connected, with the average number of digital devices in the home increasing rapidly.  Superfast broadband can help meet the need to operate computers, tablets, set top boxes and smartphones at the same time, and help users to enjoy the options of working at home, running a small business or catching up on favourite TV programmes and films.

Media enquiries:

Contact Callum McLagan of ip&e Communications on 07876 886823 or email callum.mclagan@ipande.co.uk  (All Shropshire Council news stories can be read at http://shropshire.gov.uk/news/)

Or

Emma Tennant at the BT regional press office on 0800 085 0660 or email: emma.tennant@bt.com.

Further information

* For more information about the Superfast Britain campaign see www.gov.uk/gosuperfast.

** Excluding Telford & Wrekin

*** Superfast coverage in the UK is highest among EU5 countries (higher than Germany and Spain and five times higher than Italy and three times higher than France).  Source: Ofcom European Broadband Scorecard – March 2014.

More information on the Government’s investment of Superfast Broadband: www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk.

Village downloads early Christmas present from Connecting Shropshire

December 19, 2014 / 5 comments / Permalink

An historic village in north east Shropshire has received an early Christmas present from the Connecting Shropshire fibre broadband partnership that will put it at the forefront of the digital information age. Villagers in Adderley, near Market Drayton, can count on their broadband speeds improving significantly following the arrival of faster fibre broadband – with some homes and businesses who opt for an upgrade seeing a 100-fold increase in their broadband download speeds.

Adderley Parish Councillors celebrate the advent of fibre broadband with Shropshire Councillor Paul Wynn (on the right hand side)

The early Christmas present was delivered by Connecting Shropshire partners, Shropshire Council and BT. The majority of the village’s 100-plus premises will be able to access superfast broadband speeds of 24 megabits per second (Mbps) or above, and the average download speed will increase from 0.45Mbps to nearly 59Mbps.

Chairman of Adderley Parish Council, Marius Coulon, said this is “a fantastic advance for the community that will allow both children and businesses faster access to the internet – thank you Shropshire Council”.

It’s just over 12 months since the first community benefitted from the roll-out of fibre broadband by the Connecting Shropshire partnership.  Since then the Connecting Shropshire fibre broadband roll-out has continued at a pace, with more than 28,000 premises across the county now able to access faster fibre broadband as a result of the programme.

In addition to rolling out more than 300 kilometres of fibre optic cable, engineers from Openreach – BT’s local network business – have installed around 140 new road-side cabinets, which are needed to connect local people onto the new network.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member with responsibility for broadband, said: “Connecting Shropshire has done much already to bring better broadband speeds to rural communities like Adderley, where download speeds previously were under 2mbps. This is one of many cabinets that we have built and will continue to build as part of the first phase of the contract with our partners. The approach being taken is consistent with Government policy to get to as many premises as possible for the money available.

“As part of the Government’s continued commitment to delivering superfast broadband to more premises in Shropshire we agreed at Shropshire Council’s Cabinet to begin a second phase of procurement using the £11.38m provided by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). This is very positive news for Shropshire and will mean that fewer people have to struggle to access the internet and all the benefits that brings. We are continuing to work on finding ‘match funding’ and remain optimistic that this will be achieved early in 2015.”

Ian Binks, BT’s regional manager for Shropshire and the West Midlands, said: “Increasingly the internet is touching our lives in new and exciting ways, which is why our teams are working hard to roll-out faster fibre broadband to more communities as quickly as possible.

“The dramatic improvements that people in Adderley will now be able to experience will change the way they communicate forever. Whether it’s families needing to connect several devices to the internet at the same time, or people wanting to work from home or shop online, everything is faster and easier with fibre broadband.”

Paul Wynn, Shropshire Councillor for Prees, said: “I’m really pleased that fibre broadband is now available to order in Adderley village thanks to Connecting Shropshire; better broadband has been high on local people’s wish list for some time. Whilst this is great news for local businesses and residents who have been struggling to connect to the World Wide Web, I’d like to remind people that it is an opt-in service and broadband speeds won’t increase automatically. To upgrade to fibre broadband contact your chosen internet service provider.”

New Shropshire Council Mobile Library begins the rounds

October 20, 2014 / One comment / Permalink

Shropshire Council has just taken delivery of a new Mobile Library to serve communities in north Shropshire. The new vehicle incorporates the Connecting Shropshire logo.

The new Mobile Library offers a range of library services. Readers will be able to choose from a selection of titles in a light, airy design that makes full use of the space. There is a separate children’s section and the vehicle is fully accessible.

Chris Taylor, Connecting Shropshire programme manager, said:

“We work closely with the library service and it’s great to see the importance of the broadband programme reflected in the addition of our logo to the new vehicle. We look forward to travelling out and about on the Mobile Library to inform people about the availability of faster fibre broadband in the coming months.”

Connecting Shropshire fibre broadband project marks double milestone

October 6, 2014 / 4 comments / Permalink

Connecting Shropshire – the multi-million pound high-speed fibre broadband programme – is celebrating a double milestone.

Left-to-right: Steve Davenport, local Shropshire Councillor for St Martins, Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member responsible for broadband, Owen Paterson MP, Ian Binks, BT’s regional director for Shropshire and West Midlands, Chris Taylor, Connecting Shropshire programme manager

Thursday 2 October saw the switching on of the programme’s 100th high-speed fibre broadband roadside cabinet, which took the number of homes and businesses within reach of the new network to more than 20,000.

The new green metal cabinets are needed to connect local homes and businesses onto the new fibre optic network being rolled out across the county.

The Rt Hon Owen Paterson, MP for North Shropshire, will join representatives from Connecting Shropshire to unveil the roadside cabinet in St Martins, which will make the new high-speed broadband network available to nearly 300 village premises.

Owen Paterson said:

“This is great news for St Martins.  Faster fibre broadband is essential to local businesses and I’m certain that it will be a catalyst for the creation of new jobs.  It will also transform the lives of local families, whether they’re using the technology for working from home, entertainment or education.”

The new cabinet in Coopers Lane is the first of four serving St Martins parish that will be going live in the coming weeks as part of Connecting Shropshire, a partnership between Shropshire Council, BT and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, and the first of 10 to be upgraded in the Chirk exchange area*.

People wanting to find out if their cabinet has been enabled should use the new online map and easy-to-use line checker on the Connecting Shropshire website.  These allow people to get up-to-date information about the status of an exchange area and to get specific information about premises by entering a postcode or telephone number.  It can be accessed by logging onto: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/when-and-where/.

Once an area has ‘gone live’, people will be able to get download speeds of up to 80 megabits per second (Mbps) and uploads of up to 20Mbps**.  Residents and businesses wanting to upgrade should contact their chosen broadband service provider.

The Connecting Shropshire programme is being delivered by a team of more than 50 people planning, building and commissioning the network in the Shropshire Council area.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member responsible for broadband, said:

“It’s great to see so much progress and that we’ve achieved this significant milestone within a relatively short space of time.  This is testament to the hard work of the Connecting Shropshire team.”

Steve Davenport, Shropshire Councillor for St Martins, said:

“I’m really pleased that fibre broadband has started to arrive in St Martins.  Many people in the village will get access to much faster download speeds over the new fibre broadband network when compared to the existing copper network.  I would encourage people to check fibre broadband availability with their chosen Internet service provider.”

Ian Binks, BT’s regional manager for Shropshire and the West Midlands, said:

“Connecting Shropshire is a huge engineering operation, but the rollout is progressing extremely well.  Since the first roadside cabinet was switched on in December 2013 in Montford Bridge, our teams have continued to work hard to bring the new technology to as many communities as possible, as quickly as possible.”

Sue Schofield, chairman of St Martins Parish Council, said:

“I’ve been waiting for this news for some time and I’m really pleased that fibre broadband is now starting to become available in the village.  This is especially good news for the local economy; attracting new businesses and enabling people to work flexibly from home.

“As I run Broadplace*** in the St Martins Centre, I’m looking forward to being able to upgrade to fibre broadband.  Fibre optic broadband will also make the centre more attractive to organisations wanting to deliver online training courses.”

Connecting Shropshire builds on the commercial rollout of fibre broadband by the private sector, which has already made the high-speed technology available to more than 111,000 Shropshire premises.

Further information

* The Welsh part of the Chirk exchange is being fibre-enabled as part of the Superfast Cymru programme.

** These are the top wholesale speeds available from BT’s local network business Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.

*** The St Martins Broadplace offers IT learning opportunities for people of all ages and abilities.  The facility is run by local volunteers who offer one-to-one support for beginners, as well as a range of workshops in digital photography, Internet shopping and job-hunting online.

Please note that not all premises in an exchange area will get access to fibre-based broadband, and not all premises served by a fibre enabled cabinet will necessarily get a speed enhancement.

To upgrade to fibre-based broadband, people should contact their chosen Internet service provider.

Connecting Shropshire has the responsibility for providing access to faster fibre broadband for premises that are in the Shropshire Council area.  For information about the Welsh part of the Chirk exchange area see the Superfast Wales programme website: http://www.superfast-cymru.com/home

Fibre fact-finding expedition

October 6, 2014 / Leave a comment / Permalink

I’m not an engineer, I just help out running Connecting Shropshire’s social media accounts. So, to help me gain an understanding of what they do, the Connecting Shropshire team sent me out for a road trip with Openreach to see a little more about the nuts and bolts of how this whole fibre internet thing works. So, here it is, from the engineers through me to you.

My guide for the day from Openreach, Mike Gardiner, leads the way. First up I was taken to the ‘frontline’ and visited an engineer putting the finishing touches to one of the shiny new cabinets.

“This road-side cabinet is what we engineers call the D-SLAM,” Mike announces, rather less grandly than I’d envisaged, while opening up the cabinet. For those not versed in technical speak (me included), D-SLAM stands for ‘Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer’. Nope, me neither. I bravely swallow my pride and ask what it means. Luckily, it seems it’s not the first time someone has asked. It’s because, in the telecoms industry, a fibre customer is a ‘Digital subscriber’. The cables connecting these ‘Digital Subscribers’ to the network are the ‘lines’ and ‘Digital Subscribers’ need their ‘lines’ to get ‘access’ to the network though the cabinet. ‘Multiplexer’ means that more than one line, or customer, can use the fibre at the same time. After jotting my new learnings down, I look for more information.

How long does it take to set up a cabinet like this?

“I’ve been working on this one about three hours this morning, we had already pulled the cable into the footway box, which is around 10 metres away and I’ve just been pulling the remainder of the cable in. This cabinet has not been as straightforward to install as I would have hoped.” Mike pauses for a second, then continues.

“The problem we’ve had with this particular cabinet has been with the duct between the fibre optic cabinet and the old copper cabinet just down the road. The ducts connecting the two were badly blocked, you see.  Our ducts often get filled up with silt, or get damaged by tree roots and the like. In this case, we had to excavate the pavement around the duct and then repair the duct.  Only then could we pull the cables through and connect them up. This is just one part of the job, each cabinet involves hundreds of hours of work on average.”

Wow, I feel like Paxman or something. What a question that was. I press on, eager to show I’m one of them really, and hit them with another tough question.

So how does it all work then?

“So the fibre comes to the new D-SLAM from the nearest large exchange or ‘head end’. You get the phone line that comes into the existing cabinet from the local telephone exchange and then off to the customer.” Mike explains. I understand, perhaps I’m actually really technologically minded but just hadn’t realised until now…

“So,” Mike continues, snapping me out of my dreams of being the next Tommy Telford chap. “when someone here in Shropshire decides to upgrade to fibre broadband, an engineer would come along, the phone line gets disconnected in the old cabinet then gets re-diverted into the D-SLAM. It goes in one side, the magic side as I call it, and comes back out, gets linked back to the old cabinet and then out to customer as fibre broadband.”

I nod encouragingly, quickly realising I may not be the undiscovered engineering genius I thought I was about 10 or 15 seconds ago.

“This D-SLAM extends the exchange equipment so that it’s closer to homes and businesses…it might be easier if I got a piece of paper and drew it for you!”

I fear he’s picked up my shortcomings. Thankfully, he does just that and, like a child with a picture book encyclopaedia, I suddenly find things easier to understand and realise it’s not actually as complicated as I thought.

Here is the full version of the diagram he drew for me:

So, the fibre runs from the head end exchange all the way to the new roadside cabinets, connected through a series of ducts. The copper line comes from the telephone exchange, into the old copper cabinets nearby. The two cabinets are connected using copper wire, and the existing copper line runs from the old cabinet into nearby homes and businesses. So when you contact your chosen Internet Service Provider to order an upgrade from copper broadband to faster fibre (and you can choose from a number of service providers), the changeover connects you to the fibre cabinet, meaning the data moves from the head end exchange to the cabinets through the fibre network, not the copper one, and then out to the homes down the copper line giving you faster internet. Fibre to the Cabinet is a bit like if you are running a marathon, but for the first 26 miles you get a taxi and only run the last few hundred yards, making your average speed much faster.

Sadly, I had to be whisked away at this point but I was left with a promise that my education would continue soon with a trip to the head end exchange. Sounds exciting. But for now, this is where my teaching ended.

Plans to provide fibre broadband to 13 new exchange areas announced

September 15, 2014 / Leave a comment / Permalink

New exchange area map outlines programme’s plans up until December 2015.

Thirteen more exchange areas will get high-speed fibre broadband before the end of next year as part of the multi-million pound Connecting Shropshire programme.

RAF Museum, Cosford

Openreach engineer, Danielle Baugh, surveying outside the RAF Museum in Cosford as part of the Connecting Shropshire programme.

The partnership between Shropshire Council, BT and Broadband Delivery UK, aims to make the sophisticated technology available to around 7,500 homes and businesses in: Bishops Castle, Bromfield, Calverhall, Cressage, Ditton Priors, Dudleston Heath, Ellesmere, Hodnet, Knockin, Munslow, Norton, Seifton and Worfield.

Today also saw the launch of a new online map and easy-to-use line checker on the Connecting Shropshire website, designed to make it even easier for people to find out the availability of fibre broadband in their area.

It can be accessed through the Connecting Shropshire website at: www.connectingshropshire.co.uk/when-and-where/

The map allows local people to get up-to-date information about the status of their exchange area within the programme. The line checker enables people to enter their postcode or telephone number to find out their exchange area, whether or not fibre broadband is available and estimated dates when it will be available to them.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member responsible for broadband, said:

“We’re working towards connecting as many Salopians to fibre broadband as we can and the next stages of the plan are now confirmed. So far over 19,000 homes and businesses across 25 exchange areas have seen fibre broadband become available to them through the programme and as we continue to build, even more will be connected.

“The map and line checker are important resources that allow people to see where they fit into the programme and whether they are in an area where faster fibre broadband is already available.”

Steve Henderson, BT’s regional director for broadband partnerships, said:

“This is an exciting time for Shropshire. The Connecting Shropshire partnership is spreading its wings and our teams are working hard to bring high-speed fibre broadband to as many communities as possible, as quickly as possible, including some of the most remote areas of the county.

“Fast and reliable internet is becoming crucial to daily life for residents in Shropshire. Fibre broadband will provide an equal opportunity to access essential online activities, such as council services, healthcare and other public services, as well as offering new leisure and educational opportunities.”

Connecting Shropshire builds on the commercial roll-out of fibre broadband by the private sector, which has already made the high-speed technology available to more than 111,000 Shropshire premises.

Women and broadband project

September 9, 2014 / 4 comments / Permalink

£75,000 has been made available to Shropshire Council after Connecting Shropshire made a successful bid for funding from Broadband Delivery UK and the Government Equalities
Office.

The grant is to run a Women and Broadband project in the Shropshire Council area until March 2015 and will cover all the costs of the project. Women in Rural Enterprise (WiRE), based at Harper Adams University, has been appointed to run the project.

Tina Woodward, Shropshire Council Deputy Cabinet member for broadband, said:

“I am pleased that the bid has been successful as the project aims to enable
and to assist women to take advantage of the faster broadband networks we are
building to grow and improve their business or even start-up a new business. We
have great partners to deliver the service with experience in the field. WiRE
is performing a similar role in Staffordshire and we’ll be working with them
where practical to gain economies of scale.”

The project will support women in business, with a programme of conferences, workshops and mentoring for women-led businesses and potential female entrepreneurs across the Shropshire Council area.

The first event is on 18th September, please follow this link http://www.wirechallenge.org/ to find out more and to book a place.

Free events for businesses

August 15, 2014 / Leave a comment / Permalink

 

 

 

 

 

Optimising Business Broadband events will allow you to discover how your business can benefit from adopting fibre-based broadband. Learn how, by embracing digital technologies, you can increase your business’s competitiveness and performance by opening up new markets and creating more efficient ways of working.

The first Shropshire event is on 29th August in Shrewsbury.

Click here to view our schedule of events and for booking details.

This project is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund

Connecting Shropshire connects Pontesbury exchange area to fibre broadband

August 12, 2014 / Leave a comment / Permalink

More than 2,300 homes and businesses in Pontesbury, Minsterley and Snailbeach now have access to fibre broadband

Daniel Kawczynski MP meets Robert Pither, the Broadplace Coordinator, in Pontesbury

The roll-out of fibre based broadband across Shropshire passed another milestone this week as the final cabinet in Pontesbury exchange area was connected to the new faster fibre optic network.

11 fibre broadband cabinets, serving 2,300 premises in communities including Minsterley, Snailbeach and Pontesbury itself, are now “live”. Customers served by them can place an order for fibre broadband with an internet service provider of their choice.

Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, who visited the community, said:
“This is great news for the Pontesbury area, and represents new opportunities for businesses and residents alike. Government recognises that there is still more to do and I will continue to lobby for an expansion of this important programme.”

Current national plans will ensure superfast speeds for 90% of the UK by 2015, but Government believes that its transformation of the digital landscape should reach every area of the UK.

Daniel continued:
“Focus is now on those harder to reach areas, which we have a number of in Shropshire. A series of pilot projects are currently under way nationally and we want to see these replicated in Shropshire to investigate the best way of bringing better broadband to all.”

The engineering work in Pontesbury is the latest development by Connecting Shropshire, a partnership between Shropshire Council, BT and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) that will enable more than 62,000 homes and businesses in Shropshire to access faster broadband by the end of spring 2016.

The Pontesbury announcement came as the Government announced that more than 1 million UK homes and businesses now have access to superfast broadband as a result of the UK-wide rollout. The rate at which superfast technology is being rolled out under the Government programme is rapidly accelerating. Up  to 40,000 premises are now gaining access every week and the programme will extend superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the UK by 2017.

Bill Murphy, managing director of next generation access for BT, said:
“The Connecting Shropshire programme is making strong progress, bringing high-speed fibre broadband to some of the most challenging areas. The programme shows the power of the public and private sectors working together. BT has brought technical expertise to the table as well as millions of pounds of investment and, if we can go further, we will do so. This exciting technology is providing a major boost for local households and businesses whether they are using it to work more efficiently and find new customers or for online learning and leisure.”

Connecting Shropshire is currently in Stage Three of a nine phase programme that will provide 93 per cent of premises with access to the faster fibre network by the end of spring 2016 with all premises in the programme area getting at least a basic level of broadband. It builds on BT’s commercial roll-out of fibre broadband which has already made the technology available to around 54,000 premises across Shropshire (excluding Telford & Wrekin).

 

Artistic Shropshire pupil with designs on faster broadband is honoured by Connecting Shropshire

June 27, 2014 / 8 comments / Permalink
Bicton School pupils

The competition winner & runners-up gather to see the design placed on the new fibre cabinet. L-R: Natalie Johnson, Dan Czyzyk, Imogen Jones, Kate Dawson, Paige Liversidge, Katy Neal, Chris Taylor

An artistic county youngster will be honoured today by the Connecting Shropshire broadband partnership after scooping top prize in an unusual competition.

A Banksy-style art challenge was organised to mark Bicton Church of England Primary School becoming the first in the county to be served by the multi-million pound Connecting Shropshire partnership between Shropshire Council and BT.

Paige Liversidge’s design was picked from scores of imaginative entries by fellow students, to adorn the high-speed broadband cabinet outside her school in Bicton Lane, Bicton, near Shrewsbury.

Paige, aged 11, was joined today by representatives from Shropshire Council and BT to unveil her winning design on the cabinet, which will be used to highlight to the local community that high-speed fibre broadband is now available in the area. This cabinet is one of 75 installed in the multi-million pound Connecting Shropshire broadband programme of which 55 are now ‘live’ and ready for people to order faster fibre broadband from their chosen internet service provider.

Paige Liversidge, the winning designer, said:

“I’m really excited to see my design go up on the cabinet. For my design I chose lots of bright colours so that people walking past would want to stop and read my sticker and learn what it means to have fast broadband.”

Commenting on the benefits of fibre broadband in the school, acting head teacher Natalie Johnson said:

“Use of the internet now touches every part of the curriculum. Our pupils use it every day for everything from interactive activities to doing online research for school projects and a variety of other schoolwork. Without fast connectivity and speeds there is the risk that children will miss out on what is now an essential learning tool, so having fibre in our area is great news. We were delighted when Connecting Shropshire asked us to take part and we’re all looking forward to seeing the winning sticker in pride of place.”

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member responsible for broadband, said:

“For us it’s great to have the real life impact of what we’re doing shine through. We’ve had more than 50 of these cabinets go live in the last few months and by getting involved with communities like this it has just brought home what we’re doing. These children have shown great creativity in their designs and the teachers and parents are rightly very proud of them, sadly my entry didn’t make the final shortlist!”

Dan Czyzyk, BT project manager, said:

“Connecting Shropshire is a huge engineering programme but the roll-out is going extremely well. So far our engineers have installed around 175,000 metres of fibre optic cable, sited 75 high speed broadband cabinets* and poured over 80 tonnes of concrete!

“The new fibre optic network opens up a host of exciting opportunities for everyone – whether you’re a family with lots of different devices on at the same time, or a homeworker or small business – everything is faster and better when you’re using fibre broadband.”

Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, said:

“I would like to congratulate Paige on winning this competition, her poster will be seen by all households and businesses within the vicinity of the school and will encourage them to order faster fibre broadband. I also applaud the school for getting pupils involved in this important ‘Connecting Shropshire’ broadband project.”

The partnership builds on the commercial roll-out of fibre broadband by the private sector, which has already made the high-speed technology available to more than 110,000 Shropshire homes and businesses. The programme itself is continuing at pace with over 10,000 premises homes and businesses now within reach of the new fibre network as a result of Connecting Shropshire. More details of where and when the programme will be heading can be found at the website – www.connectingshropshire.co.uk – or by following the programme on Facebook and Twitter.

Note:

* 75 cabinets have been installed to date; customers can order from 55 today with a further 20 cabinets going live in the next few weeks.

Meet the Engineers

May 30, 2014 / 3 comments / Permalink

One sunny/rainy day (depending on when you looked out the window), we hitched a ride with some nice chaps from BT to go and meet some of the Openreach engineers who are working on the Connecting Shropshire project to bring fibre broadband to Salopians. (Fibre optic cable is being installed in parallel to the existing copper network, allowing digital information to be sent through glass fibres, reducing electrical resistance and increasing speeds).

First up we met Sam and Andy, working like beavers at the roadside near Cross Houses. After the introductions and seeing the little hole where they have all the cables (technical term, honest), we asked Sam what his main job was.

“I run the cabling from A to B.” He said. “Its four little tubes, inside a tube. So you can see here the box, and in between these boxes you have the ducts, and it’s through there we need to pull the tubing.”

As you can see from the diagram, the cables run between the boxes along ducts, and the only way to connect the fibre is to pull the tubing through from one box to the next. Since the beginning of the Connecting Shropshire programme, over 139 kilometres of fibre have been pulled through. It’s hard work. Engineers like Sam and Andy, need to hand rod up to 100 metres of cable to connect the two boxes.

“The target is 400-500 metres a day.” Sam explained. “Yesterday we didn’t manage as much, which is a bit disheartening. Some days it’s good and we can get 600-700 metres done. Which makes up for days like yesterday.”

The obvious question at this point was, what happened yesterday? Put simply, problems. Looking at the work they are doing, it’s not hard to see how challenging it can sometimes be. Following the flooding earlier this year, engineers have been hampered by flooded boxes and the silt and mud they leave behind.

“During the floods it wasn’t too bad actually,” Sam said. “Some of the boxes were flooded but we managed to work away from the lower ground where most the flooding was at the time.”

“If there’s snow on the ground it can make things much more difficult,” Andy added, “but we’ve been lucky this year.”

When the ground is frozen, opening up the boxes themselves can be a tricky and time-consuming task – it is this job of opening up the box that Andy is getting on with while we talk to Sam. However, while some boxes can prove troublesome for Andy to get into, it is the silt-clogged ducts after flooding that can delay the pair even more, Sam said.

“We were working up past Harmer Hill and up there when there’s a lot of rain the boxes are full of water. We’ve got pumps that we can pump the water out. We cabled two sections out of seven but five of them were covered in silt. So we had to get a jetter in and wash it all through.”

 “It’s not an easy job.” Sam continued. “When it’s nice and the sun’s out and the job’s going well, it’s a good place to work. But if it’s cold, raining, the duct is flooded or blocked and work is slow… it’s obviously less enjoyable if I’m honest!”

Not only do the pair have to contend with the weather making their jobs harder at times, they also have to be wary of traffic – on busy roads like today, they can only work outside rush hour between 9:30am and 3:30pm when the traffic lights can be used.

Our time with the engineers is sadly nearly up as otherwise we’d be holding them back from doing their job, and given the competitive glint in Sam’s eyes when he talked about the targets we didn’t want to delay him too long. But before we left, we asked what the average day for them went like.

“We start at 6:30 in the morning then finish at 6:40.” Sam replied, quickly adding, “That’s night, not in the morning!”

Their 40 hour working week, sometimes made up of 12 hour days is not easy. Add on top of that the physical nature of the work and you suddenly feel a huge amount of respect for them. Both Sam and Andy genuinely seemed to be enjoying what they do, especially as round Shropshire when people see they are laying fibre broadband they get “excited and chatty”.

Long before the public see them, however, they work to load up the trailers going to “traffic sensitive areas” or head off to quieter, more rural areas to get a few hours of cabling done there before the 9:30am marker allows them to work on the busier roads. After the 3:30pm mark, they head back to quieter areas to make the most of the hours in the day.

The sound of the troublesome box hatch opening is our cue to leave them in peace and let them get on with the job in hand. As Sam clambers down into the box, we ask what he did before this.

“I used to work selling phones; it was quite different I can tell you!”

With that, Sam ducks inside the box to get to work while Andy gets the equipment they need for the next stage of the day’s work. It’s difficult to appreciate just what a huge task building the fibre network across Shropshire is but, piece by piece, the big build is taking shape.

Connecting Shropshire secures additional funding for fibre broadband roll-out

April 7, 2014 / 37 comments / Permalink

A further £1,454,257 has been awarded to Connecting Shropshire by the government to provide over 1,000 additional rural premises with access to faster fibre broadband.

This extra coverage will be provided under an extension to the current Connecting Shropshire programme being rolled-out by BT in partnership with Shropshire Council and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). Coverage details will be confirmed once technical surveys of the areas have been completed.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council cabinet member for broadband, said: “The Connecting Shropshire programme team have worked extremely hard to bring in this additional funding, which backs up our pledge as a Council to do all we can to secure additional funding to give access to fibre based broadband to as many homes and businesses in the Council area as possible.”

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: “This additional funding is excellent news for Shropshire and the extra £1,454,257 will take superfast broadband to an extra 1,000 premises that would otherwise have had to wait. The UK already does more business online than any other European country and widespread access to superfast speeds will provide a welcome boost to Shropshire’s economy.”

Rural Affairs Minister Dan Rogerson said: “Fast and reliable broadband coverage is crucial to building stronger rural economies and enabling farmers and all rural businesses to grow and thrive. This extra funding will allow rural businesses to benefit and will help close the rural and urban divide in broadband coverage.”

Connecting Shropshire reaches first anniversary

March 27, 2014 / 4 comments / Permalink

Albrighton, Cosford, Halfway House, Minsterley, Pontesbury, Westbury and Yockleton are latest communities to ‘go live’

The multi-million pound Connecting Shropshire partnership rolling out faster fibre broadband across the county continues to gain momentum, partners Shropshire Council and BT confirmed as the ambitious programme celebrates its first anniversary today (March 27).

Around 6,500 homes and businesses are now able to connect to the technology thanks to the Connecting Shropshire partnership. And in the last two weeks Albrighton, Cosford, Halfway House, Minsterley, Pontesbury, Westbury and Yockleton became the latest communities where high-speed fibre broadband has ‘gone live’ for the first time as a result of Connecting Shropshire. Around 3,500 premises in these communities are now able to connect to the new fibre network which will deliver download speeds of up to 80 megabits per second and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps*.

The partners also used today’s anniversary to reveal some fascinating facts and figures which further demonstrate the scale of the engineering operation being undertaken.

During the first year since the contract was formally signed engineers working for Openreach, BT’s local network business, have:

  • Laid more than 80,000 metres of fibre optic cable;
  • Installed more than 180,000 metres of new ducting;
  • Sited more than 50 new roadside cabinets;
  • Moved more than 120 tonnes of earth;
  • And poured around 55 tonnes of concrete, to make faster broadband a reality.

Connecting Shropshire is a partnership between Shropshire Council, BT and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) that will enable more than 62,000 rural homes and businesses in Shropshire (excluding Telford and Wrekin) to access faster broadband.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council cabinet member for broadband, said: “It’s been a big year and getting things up and running was a huge task, however now we’re underway and things are picking up speed it’s clear we’ve come a long way in a year. The next year for the project – and getting fibre to as many people as we can – is the focus for us now.”

Ian Binks, BT’s regional manager for Shropshire and the West Midlands, said: “Today marks another major milestone for the partnership. We’ve achieved so much in the first year, but we’re already focused on the work that needs to be done in the year ahead.

“It’s a huge engineering project, but we’re on course to reach the half-way point around this time next year.”

People will continue to be informed about the progress of the programme via the website www.connectingshropshire.co.uk, Shropshire councillors, parish councils and regular updates in the media.

The combined investment from Connecting Shropshire and the private sector’s commercial roll-out plans means 93 per cent of homes and businesses in the Shropshire Council area will have access to faster fibre broadband by the end of Spring 2016.

Shropshire homes and businesses are able to order fibre broadband from a wide range of internet service providers as the network being installed by Openreach is available to all providers on an open, wholesale basis, thereby ensuring competitive prices. To check whether you can access fibre broadband services contact your internet service provider.

Montford Bridge became the first rural community to be connected as part of Connecting Shropshire in December.

Note

*These are the top wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.

Timetable of fibre broadband roll-out for next 14 months announced

February 7, 2014 / 109 comments / Permalink

Programme moves up a gear during 2014 as work begins in 25 more areas

Work has begun in the next 25 exchange areas to benefit from the £24.6 million Connecting Shropshire programme. On Friday 7th February, partners Shropshire Council and BT today announced more details about the areas where people will be able to start accessing faster fibre broadband over the next 14 months.

The exchange areas are:

  • Bayston Hill
  • Bomere Heath
  • Broseley
  • Bucknell
  • Chirk
  • Church Stretton
  • Cleehillstone (Clee Hill)
  • Cleobury Mortimer
  • Clun
  • Craven Arms
  • Cross Houses
  • Dorrington
  • Hadnall
  • Hanwood
  • Highley
  • Much Wenlock
  • Pipegate
  • Prees
  • Quatt
  • Queens Head
  • Shawbury
  • Shifnal
  • Tenbury Wells
  • Wem
  • Whixall

The high-speed technology is expected to start going ‘live’ in Bayston Hill, Bomere Heath, Bucknell, Church Stretton, Craven Arms, Cross Houses, Dorrington, Hadnall, Hanwood, Much Wenlock and Shawbury from this Summer. The other exchange areas will start to go live later in the year and will be shown as ‘future exchanges’ on the Openreach where-and-when pages, see: http://www.superfast-openreach.co.uk/where-and-when/

After several months of planning and surveying work, engineers will begin putting in the fibre optic cable and new roadside cabinets that are needed for people to get access to the new fibre broadband network.

At the same time fibre broadband will be extended in the parts of Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Market Drayton and Oswestry not already covered by any commercial rollout.

Work to connect the remaining exchange areas in this particular phase will begin in the second half of this year, with the majority completed by the end of Spring 2015. By this time more than 30,000 premises are expected to have been provided with access to fibre broadband, marking the half-way point in the Connecting Shropshire programme.

Connecting Shropshire will continue to keep people informed of the progress of the programme in these and other areas via the website www.connectingshropshire.co.uk, Shropshire councillors, parish councils and regular updates in the media.

Connecting Shropshire is a partnership between Shropshire Council, BT and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) that will enable more than 62,000 rural or very rural homes and businesses in Shropshire (excluding Telford and Wrekin) to access faster broadband.

The combined investment from Connecting Shropshire and the private sector’s commercial roll-out plans will mean 93 per cent of homes and businesses in the Shropshire Council area will have access to faster fibre broadband by the end of Spring 2016.

Shropshire homes and businesses will be able to order fibre broadband from a wide range of internet service providers as the network is available to all providers on an open, wholesale basis, thereby ensuring competitive prices. To check whether you can access fibre broadband services contact your internet service provider.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member responsible for broadband, said: “Following on from recent announcements about communities getting fibre broadband ahead of schedule, and further phase one communities due to get fibre broadband by the spring, we are building confidence in the programme as a whole to bring faster broadband to the current and future generations”.

Mike Cook, BT’s regional director for the West Midlands, said: “It’s a huge engineering project that we’re undertaking here in Shropshire, but we’re committed to connecting communities as quickly as possible whilst of course planning carefully to ensure the project delivers the best value for money from the investment.”

“The internet is playing an increasingly important part in all our lives which is why the strong progress being made by Connecting Shropshire is so important.”

Rizvan Khalid, Executive Director of Euro Quality Lambs Ltd based in Craven Arms, said: “Faster fibre broadband gives businesses like ours the ability to use the latest internet-based software to increase both productivity and communications within our business and externally with key suppliers. It can’t come soon enough!”

“Once we have faster broadband we are planning on experimenting with VOIP telephony systems which will help our roaming team stay in touch better, simpler and most importantly, cheaper. Much of our data is backed up online so a faster service means we’re not waiting so much and we can be more productive at our desktops.”

Notes:

Some of these exchange areas cover premises in neighbouring local authorities. Homes and businesses in each local authority area are the responsibility of the respective broadband programmes in Wales, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Telford, Worcestershire, and Herefordshire (Fastershire). Links to these programmes can be found on the following page of the Connecting Shropshire website in the ‘Bordering Counties broadband information’ section: http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/related-external-links/

Chirk exchange is located in Wales, but Connecting Shropshire has the responsibility for providing access to faster fibre broadband for homes and businesses in the Shropshire Council area.

Latest communities to benefit from Connecting Shropshire broadband partnership are announced

January 21, 2014 / 8 comments / Permalink

Fibre broadband coming soon to 18 more Shropshire communities 

The next communities to benefit from the £24.6 million Connecting Shropshire fibre broadband partnership were announced today by Shropshire Council and BT.

Alberbury, Aston on Clun, Boningale, Clungunford, Cosford, Cross Lane Head, Halfway House, Little Brampton, Ploxgreen, Pontesford, Purslow, Quatford, Snailbeach, Stoke St. Milborough, Upton Magna, Westbury, Withington and Yockleton will be the next places to get high-speed broadband as part of the programme. Fibre broadband will be coming soon to these areas with people able to order services from Spring 2014.

Last month Montford Bridge became the first rural community to ‘go live’ as part of Connecting Shropshire. The programme is gathering momentum with roadside fibre broadband cabinets going live each week, including in Harlescott, which was announced earlier this month, with Bicton also now ‘live’. Albrighton, Ford, Minsterley and Pontesbury will follow before the end of March. Residents and businesses in these locations will be able to enjoy broadband download speeds of up to 80 megabits per second and uploads of up to 20 Mbps*.

Connecting Shropshire is a partnership between Shropshire Council, BT and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) that will enable more than 62,000 rural or very rural homes and businesses in Shropshire (excluding Telford and Wrekin) to access faster broadband. The combined investment from Connecting Shropshire and BT’s own commercial programme will mean 93 per cent of homes and businesses in the Shropshire Council area will have access to fibre broadband by the end of Spring 2016.

Shropshire households and businesses are able to order fibre broadband from a wide range of internet service providers as the network is open to all providers on an open, wholesale basis, thereby ensuring competitive prices.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member responsible for broadband, said: “It’s great to be able to confirm even more areas as part of the first phase of the programme. For the people and businesses in these rural communities it’ll mean that they will be able to gain access to higher broadband speeds sooner than they thought; in this day and age, it’s becoming ever more important to have fast and reliable broadband to get on in business and in life.”

Mike Cook, BT’s regional director for the West Midlands, said: “The internet is playing an increasingly important part in all our lives which is why the strong progress being made by Connecting Shropshire is so important. Whether it’s small businesses keeping in touch with their customers and suppliers, children doing their homework or playing interactive games online, grandparents staying in touch with their grandchildren, or people working from home. Each of these things is made easier, quicker and better by faster fibre broadband.”

To check whether you can access fibre broadband services contact your internet service provider or go to www.connectingshropshire.co.uk

Note: *These are the top wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.

 

BUSINESSES IN LINE FOR BOOST FROM CONNECTING SHROPSHIRE

January 15, 2014 / Leave a comment / Permalink

Battlefield Enterprise Park becomes first in the county to start to benefit from £24.6m partnership between Shropshire Council and BT;

 Businesses invited to event to gain insight into benefits of fibre broadband

 The new roadside cabinet provides access to fibre broadband for 172 premises

From the left:

Nick Chavasse (Shropshire Business Board), Ian Binks (BT Regional Manager), Lindsay Booth (BT openreach), Cllr. Steve Charmley (Shropshire Council Cabinet member with responsibility for broadband), Cllr. Vernon Bushell (Shropshire Councillor for Harlescott).

Firms at a business park on the outskirts of Shrewsbury are the latest to reap the benefits of the multi-million pound rollout of high-speed fibre broadband by Connecting Shropshire.

Battlefield Enterprise Park in Harlescott has become the first business park in the county to start benefitting from the partnership between Shropshire Council and BT.

Tuesday 14th January 2014,  saw the ‘switch on’ of four new fibre broadband roadside cabinets in the Harlescott area, with others to follow serving in total around 3,500 homes and businesses in the Harlescott area.

Engineers will complete the upgrade works that will serve most businesses on the Battlefield Enterprise Park over the coming weeks.

When an area has ‘gone live’, businesses and residents can order fibre broadband from a wide range of internet service providers as the network is open to all providers on an open, wholesale basis, thereby ensuring competitive prices. They will be able to enjoy download speeds of up to 80 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps*.

To coincide with this latest development, Connecting Shropshire has organised a free drop-in session specifically tailored towards helping local businesses wanting to know more about how they might benefit from the new technology.

It’s being held at Shropshire Food Enterprise Centre in Vanguard Way, Battlefield Enterprise Park, SY1 3TG, on Wednesday, January 29, from 12 noon until 6.30pm, with advisors from Connecting Shropshire and the Council’s Business and Enterprise team on hand throughout. Any local business is welcome to attend.

More information about the roll-out of fibre broadband is available from the Connecting Shropshire website: www.connectingshropshire.co.uk

Connecting Shropshire is a partnership between Shropshire Council, BT and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) that will enable more than 62,000 homes and businesses in Shropshire (excluding Telford and Wrekin) to access faster broadband by the end of Spring 2016.

It builds on BT’s own commercial rollout which will bring fibre broadband to more than 123,000 homes and businesses across the county by the end of Spring 2014. The combined investment programmes will mean 93 per cent of homes and businesses in the Shropshire Council area will have access to fibre broadband by the end of Spring 2016.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member with responsibility for broadband, said: “I’m really happy to see the first roadside cabinet to provide fibre based broadband to a business park. Connecting Shropshire is starting to provide access to fibre broadband in a number of communities which would not have benefitted without the intervention of the Council. I’m especially keen to see local businesses embrace faster broadband to boost their productivity and long-term sustainability”.

Ian Binks, BT’s regional manager for Shropshire and the West Midlands, said: “Increasingly we’re seeing how the internet is impacting on almost every aspect of our lives. That’s why the availability of faster fibre broadband is so important.

“High-speed broadband enables everyone to do things faster and more effectively, recent research demonstrates that up to six out of 10 small businesses can grow faster as a result of better connectivity while 83 per cent can save time and money. Evidence also shows that jobs can be safeguarded and created with a high speed broadband connection.”

Nick Chavasse MBE, Shropshire Business Board champion for broadband, added: “It’s good news for the local economy that Connecting Shropshire is starting to provide access to fibre based broadband for businesses in the Harlescott area of Shrewsbury. Battlefield Industrial Estate and Enterprise Park is the largest concentration of businesses in the Shropshire Council area. Fast and reliable broadband connectivity helps businesses to work smarter in a number of ways, including communicating better and exploiting new market opportunities”.

Note: *These are the top wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.

MONTFORD BRIDGE CELEBRATES ‘SUPER SWITCH ON DAY’ AS FIBRE BROADBAND GOES LIVE

December 18, 2013 / 3 comments / Permalink

Fibre based broadband has arrived in Montford Bridge, Connecting Shropshire announced today.

More than 160 homes and businesses in Montford Bridge will have access to the new fibre enabled network as the first roadside cabinet to be funded by the programme is ‘switched on’ by Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council portfolio holder responsible for broadband, and Steve Henderson, BT’s general manager for the West Midlands.

The switch on is part of a national initiative, which sees green fibre broadband cabinets in many parts of the country ‘going live’ simultaneously today. “Super Switch On Day” marks the progress of superfast broadband partnerships with Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) – the government agency providing £780 million in public funding to extend superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the UK by 2017.

Montford Bridge is just one of a number of towns and villages up and down the country that today join the 200,000 premises in mostly rural locations around the UK that are already enjoying access to faster fibre broadband speeds as a result of the BDUK programme. The national rollout is accelerating, with many projects already ahead of schedule; the work in Montford Bridge is two months ahead of target. Already 10,000 premises per week are gaining access to superfast broadband nationally, and this will increase to 25,000 per week in spring 2014, increasing to 40,000 per week by summer 2014.

Connecting Shropshire, a partnership between Shropshire Council and BT, builds on BT’s own commercial roll-out of fibre broadband so that 93 per cent of homes and businesses in the Council area will have access to fibre broadband by the end of spring 2016.

The arrival of fibre broadband in Montford Bridge was welcomed by the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who said: “The roll-out of superfast broadband has the potential to transform rural areas, bridging the age-old gap between rural and urban. It will allow businesses to grow and expand and communities to access services in a way that they’ve not been able to before.

“It will be a massive benefit to everyone who lives in this area, and I look forward to seeing many more of these projects get off the ground.”

Steve Charmley said: “This is an important step forward. Whether you are a local businessperson wishing to build your company, a student carrying out research or a householder making use of on-line shopping and entertainment, access to high-speed internet has never been more important.  In today’s rapidly moving world, fast and sophisticated communications are absolutely vital. They are an essential part of future success.”

Montford Bridge will be joined by more than 6,000 homes and businesses in Albrighton, Harlescott, Minsterley and Pontesbury that will have access to high speed fibre broadband in the next three months as a result of the multi-million Connecting Shropshire programme.  Once an area is enabled, people should check with their internet service provider (ISP) regarding fibre broadband availability, cost and speed.

BT’s investment of £8.6 million in Connecting Shropshire bolsters the public sector investment, which includes £8.2 million from Shropshire Council and £7.8 million Government funding from BDUK.

Steve Henderson added: “All over the country fibre broadband is changing people’s lives. It provides a digital gateway to a wealth of opportunities whether it is supporting how we work, how we learn, how we communicate with friends and family, or how we entertain ourselves.

“Access to high-speed broadband is rapidly becoming a key ingredient for economic growth and is also a major determining factor in where businesses decide to locate.

“Fibre broadband opens up a whole raft of leading edge software applications that could benefit business – allowing them to work more efficiently, for people to work when and where they want to, to expand their business offerings and to connect with customers, not just locally but all over the world.”

Openreach, BT’s local network business, is primarily deploying fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology, where the fibre runs from the exchange to a local roadside cabinet. In addition to download speeds of up to 80Mbps, FTTC also delivers upload speeds of up to 20Mbps1 — and could deliver even faster speeds in the future.

Openreach has also started to make fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology, where the fibre runs all the way to the home or business, commercially available on demand2 in certain areas where fibre broadband has been deployed, and plans to expand access in due course. FTTP-on-demand offers the top current download speed of 330Mbps1.

Fibre broadband at home means everyone in the family can do their own thing online, all at the same time, whether it’s downloading music in minutes or watching catch-up TV; streaming HD or 3D movies in the few minutes it takes to make popcorn; or posting photos and videos to social networking sites in seconds. Fibre improves the quality of online experiences and supports exciting new developments in internet services.

The benefits are also considerable for businesses, which can do much more in far less time. Firms can speed up file and data transfers, collaborate with colleagues and customers on conference or video calls or swap their hardware and expensive software licenses for files, processing power and software from cloud computing. Staff can work as effectively from home as they would in the office.

Openreach engineers will install the fibre network which will be open to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis.  Households and businesses will therefore benefit from a highly competitive market, bringing greater choice and affordable prices.

Notes:

1 These are the top wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.

2 Openreach will levy an installation charge for FTTP on demand. It will be up to service providers to decide whether they pass that on to businesses or consumers wishing to use the product.

Please note due to the current network topography, and the economics of deployment, it is likely that some premises within selected exchange areas will not initially be able to access fibre-based broadband. Openreach is considering alternative solutions for these locations.

Update – November 2013

November 15, 2013 / 2 comments / Permalink

First communities announced

We’ve just announced that from early 2014, fibre based broadband, with many premises receiving speeds of more than 24 megabits per second (mbps), will start to become available to homes and businesses in Montford Bridge, Montford, Bicton, Ford, Shrawardine, Pontesbury and Minsterley. This is really exciting news for these communities who will be the first to benefit from the programme. In total, around 6,000 premises will get access to fibre based broadband during phase one of the programme, which will also cover the village of Albrighton (between Telford and Wolverhampton) and Harlescott in Shrewsbury.

In January, once remaining survey work has been completed, we’ll be able to tell you which other rural communities will benefit from the first phase of the roll-out. In addition, we plan to give more details of exchanges due to get access to fibre during 2014.

Engineering work has begun

In addition to planning and surveying work, engineers from BT openreach have been working to extend the fibre spine infrastructure that connects local telephone exchanges into BT’s core network. Here is a picture of Steve Charmley (left of picture), Shropshire Council Cabinet member with responsibility for broadband, meeting openreach engineers out on site to review their progress.

Cllr. Steve Charmley and BT openreach

Projected deployment map

Version 2 of the map showing the projected deployment of better broadband in the Connecting Shropshire programme has now been published. If you know someone who doesn’t have access to the internet who’d like to be sent a hard copy of the map, please ask them to contact the programme team (details at the bottom of the next page).

As previously, we do stress that the map is at a high level and is not accurate to premise or postcode level. As physical inspections of ducts and cabinets are undertaken, our projections will change and we’ll update the map accordingly.

Projected deployment map

The map now provides further information about the 7% of premises in the seeking additional funding areas. These are now marked as light green and yellow areas. Please note that we are still seeking additional funding for premises in these areas:

  • Premises in the yellow areas (2% of the total) are currently projected to get access to speeds of less than 2mbps. As part of the programme, we’re committed to providing all premises in these areas with access to a network that will provide speeds of at least 2mbps by the end of Spring 2016. We’re also seeking additional funding to provide premises in these areas with access to fibre based broadband.
  • Premises in the light green areas (5% of the total) already have access to at least 2mbps and we’re seeking additional funding to provide access to fibre based broadband.

Getting out and about

As a team, we’re often out-and-about across the Shropshire Council area explaining more about the programme and the benefits of fibre based broadband for businesses and communities. If you know of a local group or event that you think we should be attending, please let us know and we’ll arrange a visit.

For further information please check the website or get in touch:

Website:      www.connectingshropshire.co.uk

Email:          connecting.shropshire@shropshire.gov.uk

Phone:         01743 252203

Twitter:       https://twitter.com/connectingshrop

Facebook:    search for ‘Connecting Shropshire’ or click here

First communities to benefit from multi-million pound Connecting Shropshire broadband programme are announced

October 24, 2013 / 15 comments / Permalink

The first rural communities to benefit from the £24.6 million Connecting Shropshire broadband programme were today named by Shropshire Council and BT.

From early 2014, high-speed fibre based broadband with speeds of more than 24 megabits per second (mbps) will start to become available to homes and businesses in Montford Bridge, Montford, Bicton, Ford, Shrawardine, Pontesbury and Minsterley.  In total, around 6,000 premises will get access to fibre based broadband during phase one of the programme, which will also cover the village of Albrighton (between Telford and Wolverhampton) and business premises in Harlescott. Further announcements of rural communities benefitting from phase one of the roll-out are expected to be made in January, 2014.

Since the partnership was announced earlier this year, engineers have been busy surveying the network in order to ensure the roll-out of the new technology is carried out in the most cost-effective and efficient manner.

As one of the most rural programmes of its kind in England, the scheme has attracted £7.8 million of funding from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, £8.2 million from Shropshire Council and £8.6 million from BT. It will enable more than 62,000 rural or very rural homes and businesses in Shropshire to access faster broadband by the end of Spring 2016.

An estimated 1,300 kilometres of optical fibre will need to be laid and approximately 350 new roadside cabinets installed by a team of more than 100 engineers. The majority of premises in the programme area will benefit from speeds of 24mbps or more – all will get at least 2mbps.

Connecting Shropshire builds on commercial fibre roll-outs to bring fibre broadband to 93 per cent of Shropshire homes and businesses (excluding Telford & Wrekin) by the end of Spring 2016. This equates to over 130,000 premises in total.

The programme is actively seeking more funding to further extend the availability of high-speed broadband across the whole of the Council area.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council Cabinet member with responsibility for broadband, said: “I’m really pleased that we can announce the first communities to benefit from fibre based broadband as the programme starts to move from planning and surveying to the deployment of phase one.  The first communities to benefit include a mix of rural and business premises, which wouldn’t have benefitted from access to fibre broadband without the intervention of the Council. I’m especially excited about the opportunities that access to faster broadband will bring to boost the productivity of rural businesses as well as offering new training, educational and entertainment options for households”.

Bill Murphy, managing director of next generation access for BT Group, said: “This is a very exciting step forward for these communities because faster fibre broadband can benefit everyone. Whether you’re a small business wanting to stay in touch with customers and suppliers, or parents with children using the internet for homework and playing games, whatever you do online, you can do it much better and faster with fibre broadband.”

Nick Chavasse MBE, Shropshire Business Board champion for broadband, said: “The Connecting Shropshire team have worked hard to progress this important programme. I welcome this announcement that Harlescott, which includes one of the largest business parks in the council area, is set to benefit from access to better broadband early in the project. Fast and reliable broadband connectivity helps businesses of all sizes to prosper in a number of ways, including communicating better and exploiting new market opportunities”.

Here are some FAQs which may help to answer any questions about this announcement:

Q. Will other communities get access to fibre based broadband in phase 1?

A. Yes, other communities will get access to fibre based broadband in phase 1 and these will be confirmed in January. In addition, details of exchanges that are due to get access during 2014 will also be announced in January.

Q. I live in one of the first communities, when can I upgrade to faster broadband?

A. Fibre broadband will start to become available in your community from early next year, but we don’t yet know exactly which homes and businesses will get access.  Not all premises will necessarily get access to fibre broadband.  The first thing to do is register your interest in faster broadband with your existing internet service provider (ISP).

Q. I live in one of the first communities, what broadband speed will I get?

A. It’s too early to say exactly what speed you’ll get. The majority of premises in the programme area will benefit from speeds of 24mbps or more – all will get at least 2mbps. We recommend that you register your interest in faster broadband with your existing internet service provider (ISP).

Q. Will I have to pay more to get faster broadband?

A. The answer to the question depends on a number of variables, such as how much you currently pay, what kind of package you’re on, who your internet service provider is, etc. Therefore, we can’t say whether it’ll cost you more, less or about the same to upgrade to faster broadband speeds.

Q. I live close to one of the communities announced, will I get access at the same time?

A. It’s too early to say as we’re still surveying these areas, survey work for phase 1 will be complete by the end of 2013.

Q. Why are these communities getting access first?

A. We are building a complex network, which has to start from where the fibre already exists.

Q. When faster broadband becomes available will my broadband connection speed get faster automatically?

A. No, faster broadband will not just automatically switch on. To get a faster service you’ll need to check the speed availability and place an order with your chosen Internet Service Provider (ISP).  Connecting Shropshire is not an ISP.

Q. Will the network be open to competition?

A. Yes. The network is being built by Openreach, BT’s local network business, and will be open to all communications providers on an equal basis, enabling the people of Shropshire to choose the provider and broadband package that best suits their need.

Connecting Shropshire team

Update – August 2013

August 29, 2013 / 14 comments / Permalink

Since our last update in June, the Connecting Shropshire programme has continued at pace. As a result of this partnership work we anticipate being able to announce some of the early communities that will benefit from access to fibre based broadband, as part of the Connecting Shropshire (CS) programme, in the autumn.

We define fibre based broadband as a broadband internet connection which uses fibre optic cables somewhere between the premise and the exchange. This includes both fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and fibre to the premise (FTTP) technologies.

The £24.6m Connecting Shropshire programme, when merged with existing commercial deployment plans, aims to deliver access to fibre based broadband to 93% of premises (homes and businesses) with the majority benefitting from access to superfast speeds of at least 24 mbps.

Work has begun

Planning and survey work is underway, which will confirm the routes for the estimated 1,300 km of fibre optic cable that will be laid during the deployment phase. Alongside this, engineering work has begun in local telephone exchanges. Amy Tubb (pictured) is an engineer for Openreach, BT’s access network business, and is one of the team working to extend the fibre spine infrastructure that connects local telephone exchanges into BT’s core network.

 Amy Tubb, engineer for BT Openreach

Amy is one of 26 new engineering recruits who are based in Shropshire. From starting work with BT in May until mid-August, she was shadowing technicians working on the company’s commercial fibre roll-out.

Amy has now completed her training and is fully skilled in both copper and fibre network engineering. Amy previously worked as an installation technician in The Royal Signals, and is one of many ex-armed forces personnel taken on by BT to support its roll-out of superfast broadband across the UK.

Expected deployment

The following map showing the expected deployment of better broadband in the Connecting Shropshire programme is available on the website and can be viewed by clicking this link.

If you know someone who doesn’t have access to the internet who’d like to be sent a hard copy of the map, please ask them to contact the programme team (details at the bottom of the page).

Connecting Shropshire fibre deployment map

Connecting Shropshire fibre deployment map

Note 5: Premises within the ‘seeking funding’ area will be provided access to a basic level of broadband (2mbps or above) by the end of spring 2016 as part of the programme.

Whilst the CS programme is still in its early stages, the indicative map has been created to help illustrate plans for rolling out fibre based broadband across Shropshire. We do stress that the map is at a high level and is not accurate to premise or postcode level.

As physical inspections of ducts and cabinets are undertaken, our projections will change and we will update our website map accordingly. Please be patient with us as this process unfolds.

The 7% of premises in the ‘seeking additional funding’ areas in the legend above will get access to a basic level of broadband (2mbps or above) by the end of spring 2016 as part of the CS programme.

In order to meet Shropshire Council’s aspiration to provide all premises in Shropshire with access to fibre based broadband (with as much having access to superfast speeds of 24mbps and above), the CS programme team is working diligently to secure additional funding from other sources including Defra’s Rural Community Broadband Fund and the £250 million announced by the Treasury in June 2013 for the delivery of superfast broadband.

For additional information, please contact us via:

Email:  connecting.shropshire@shropshire.gov.uk

Phone:  01743 252203

Update – June 2013

June 24, 2013 / 8 comments / Permalink

Since Shropshire Council announced the finalisation of the contract in March 2013, Connecting Shropshire has moved into the mobilisation phase of the programme.

The Partnership – Shropshire Council and BT

As part of the programme, BT and Shropshire Council have committed to work closely as a partnership. Both organisations have been actively recruiting to their teams to ensure they have the appropriate skills and experience to deliver the commitments announced in March.

  • A governance structure has been put into place to ensure that there is full visibility and accountability within the partnership. Andrew Evans (Head of Business Growth and Prosperity) will be the Senior Responsible Officer for the programme representing Shropshire Council. Chris Taylor will manage the ‘day to day’ programme for Shropshire Council and reports directly to Andrew. Councillor Steve Charmley (Member for Whittington and Cabinet member) takes on the role of portfolio holder for the programme with support from his deputy portfolio holder, Councillor Tina Woodward (Member for Alveley and Claverley).
  • Shropshire has recruited Morag Banks as Project Administrator. Morag joins the team to support and coordinate project activities. In addition, Kevin Johnson has been appointed as Contract Officer. Kevin brings a wealth of technical and project management experience to the team. Kevin has previously been  employed by BT plc as a lead programme manager for infrastructure ‘plan and build’ projects including the 21st Century Network (21CN) programme that has transformed the traditional PSTN (public switched telephone network) to a full Internet Protocol (IP) network.
  • BT has appointed Rob Jones to the position of Project Manager. Rob Jones will coordinate the programme on behalf of BT Plc. Rob is an experienced BT project and programme practitioner with many years of successful project and programme delivery and a longstanding career within BT across engineering, sales, marketing and portfolio functions.
  • Daniel Czyzyk joins the Connecting Shropshire programme as Openreach Project Manager. Dan will be responsible for the planning and delivery commitments.  Dan was responsible for Openreach’s pre-planning and bid into Connecting Shropshire as part of procurement.
  • The Partnership programme team meet weekly on an operational level, monthly for Programme Boards and quarterly for Strategic reviews. The aim is to ultimately co-locate the partnership team in Shrewsbury.

Launch Event

More than 100 representatives from businesses, councillors and community organisations attended the launch event hosted at Shrewsbury Town Football Club on May 31. The purpose of the event was to explain how the programme will operate and communicate. For full details of the event, including the presentation slides and pictures, click here. Alternatively please ask one of the Community Action Team for a copy of the presentation.

Refreshed Connecting Shropshire brand

As part of the transition from procurement through to mobilisation, the Connecting Shropshire brand has been developed to reflect this significant milestone. The ‘Building a Broadband Future’ theme emphasizes the shift to constructing and enabling the network for access.

Postcode Checker

The Connecting Shropshire programme was introduced to provide better broadband to areas that were not currently part of existing deployment by commercial providers. Within the Shropshire Council area there are 142,000 defined premises. Of these, 72,000 premises form part of the Connecting Shropshire programme area. To check whether you are part of the Connecting Shropshire programme area we have developed a postcode checker.

This will tell residents and businesses if their premises form part of the programme defined intervention area. Please note the checker will only work for a postcode that is within the Shropshire Council area (excluding Telford and Wrekin).

The BT Openreach checker has been updated accordingly to show associated exchanges across Shropshire as ‘under evaluation’ – http://www.superfast-openreach.co.uk/where-and-when/

It’s a ‘big job’

This programme aims to provide 93% of Shropshire premises with a fibre solution. This is a big job but is not starting from scratch. BT will be building off their existing commercial deployments and this will, in part, determine the phasing. Each phase is planned and built to optimise the money we have available. There will be nine phases through the programme which will complete in Spring 2016. Each phase has four distinct stages:

  • Pre-planning – assessment of network resources
  • Prepare exchange – assess and plan the equipment and power requirements that are needed
  • Planning the network – carry out physical inspections of ducts and cabinets
  • Installation of network resources – fibre and network deployment

Phase 1 is already underway and you will soon start to see engineers in some areas carrying out inspections. We are planning to announce those areas that will form part of Phase 1 later in the autumn after which we will start pre-planning work for further phases at three-monthly intervals.

We have posted a video which can be seen by clicking here that describes the challenges and methodology of deployment which you may find informative. If you are unable to access the link please contact the team and we will ensure we send out the video on a CD.

Additional Funding

A £20 million national DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) scheme was launched in November 2011, and aimed to target and support the 10% hard to reach areas which would otherwise only receive 2mbps under the BDUK contract.

The Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) scheme has been subject to some criticism as the full details of the 10% gaps will not be evident until all surveying has been completed by BT. Without clarity to this information the process becomes constrained.

We are however continuing to work with DEFRA and BT, and will ensure that where additional funding opportunities exist we make the most of them. It is however important to set the expectations for the RCBF scheme, which is competitive and available to all local authorities and communities in England.

As an illustration of the potential costs for deploying fibre to premises beyond the current contracted 87% SFBB (Superfast Broadband – 24mbps), costs could exceed £6 million to achieve an increase from 87% to 90%.

We are continuing to look at other supporting forms of finance to further improve the fibre broadband coverage in Shropshire including:

  • £300 million has been earmarked by the Government for broadband after 2015. More details of this allocation are due to be announced at the end of June.
  • The Government has signed up to delivery of the EU 2020 Digital agenda objectives. This includes a commitment to give all households a minimum speed of 30Mbps by 2020. The commitment is closely aligned to the 2014-2020 EU Structural and Investment Fund Growth Programme which will be Local Enterprise Partnership based. We are working with our colleagues in Herefordshire and Telford & Wrekin to seek opportunities to bid into this funding stream to further support these European objectives.

Digital Champions and Advocacy

Throughout the roll-out we will ensure there is full engagement through a network of stakeholders and communication channels. We will use the network of parish and town councils to ensure all communities are briefed on the deployment plans. We will build on the network of Digital Champions that already exists in local communities.

The Rural Community Council runs a project called ‘Get Shropshire Online’ which provides a support network of volunteers who help people to use a computer for the first time, improve their confidence with the basics, or get online. To find out more click here.

In addition, Digital Advocates will keep colleagues, friends and communities updated on the Connecting Shropshire programme. Volunteers will also be asked to help promote the programme within their community by putting up posters and distributing leaflets in suitable locations, e.g. doctors surgeries, church halls, and local notice boards.

All such promotional material will be provided by the Connecting Shropshire team. Advocates will be at the heart of communities working closely with their respective town and parish councils.  Please contact the Connecting Shropshire team to become an advocate for the programme.

Keep updated

We will ensure that through a variety of communication channels all residents of Shropshire can keep updated on the programme. A ‘keep me informed’ registration page has been developed on our website which will keep you updated on the programme’s progress.

To contact us, email: connecting.shropshire@shropshire.gov.uk

Connecting Shropshire Launch Event

June 3, 2013 / 9 comments / Permalink

 

Brendan Dick, Keith Barrow, Kim Mears and Daniel Kawczynski MP (from left to right) view the fibre optic technology at the launch of Connecting Shropshire on 31st May 2013

Brendan Dick, Keith Barrow, Kim Mears and Daniel Kawczynski MP (from left to right) view the fibre optic technology at the launch of Connecting Shropshire on 31st May 2013

More than 100 representatives from businesses, councillors and community organisations have been hearing about a project to ‘build a broadband future’ in Shropshire.

The Connecting Shropshire project is a joint venture between Shropshire Council and BT to bring a broadband service to every corner of the county by the end of spring 2016.

BT is contributing £8.6m towards improving broadband coverage in ‘non-commercial’
areas, while Shropshire Council is contributing £8.2m, with £7.84m coming from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funds.

The aim is to see 93% of premises across Shropshire – more than 130,000 premises – getting access to broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps by the end of spring 2016.  In
addition, the contract includes a commitment to deliver a minimum speed of 2Mbps to all premises in the project area.

An event was held on Friday 31 May 2013 to explain to people from community organisations, businesses, and town and parish councils how the project will work.

Click here for photos of the event.

Representatives from BT, Shropshire Council and BDUK spoke about the huge engineering challenge involved with getting broadband to the more rural parts of Shropshire, as well as highlighting the benefits that faster broadband can bring.

Follow the link to view the Building a Broadband Future (presentation).

Keith Barrow, Shropshire Council’s Leader, said:

“I think everyone is excited about the potential of getting faster broadband, and there
is a natural tendency for people to see improvements straight away. However, it’s important to understand what a huge undertaking it is to install cables in all of our rural areas, and we were grateful to have BT experts on hand to explain the engineering feat that’s involved.”

Brendan Dick, managing director of the BT Regions team, said:

“During the next three years we’ll be rolling out enough fibre to connect Shropshire to
the Swiss Alps.  This is a physically and technically challenging project.  I was delighted to be there last Friday sharing some insights on how we approach fibre deployment, and what work is already underway.”

Diagram illustrating the phases of the Connecting Shropshire project

Diagram illustrating the phases of the Connecting Shropshire project

Project update – April 2013

April 11, 2013 / 30 comments / Permalink

Following an intense period of activity through the winter, Shropshire Council announced the outcome of its procurement process on March 27  2013.

British Telecommunications PLC (BT) were chosen as the partner to deliver this exciting project which will see 93% of premises across Shropshire, more than 130,000 premises, getting access to broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps by the end of Spring 2016.  In addition, the contract includes a commitment to deliver a minimum speed of 2Mbps to all premises in the project area.

BT is contributing £8.6m towards the deployment in “non-commercial” areas, while Shropshire Council is contributing £8.2m, with £7.84m coming from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funds.

Fibre broadband will bring Shropshire’s predominantly rural economy into the digital fast lane, revitalising small towns, villages and hamlets by making it possible to start and run a connected business from these locations and, in the long-term, ensuring local people don’t suffer from a digital divide.

Engineers for Openreach, BT’s local network business, will build the new fibre infrastructure. Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) will be the main technology deployed. This delivers download speeds of up to 80Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps. Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology – delivering ultra-fast speeds of up to 330Mbps – will also be deployed in certain areas.

The new fibre-based network will be open to all communications providers on an equal basis. Households and businesses in Shropshire will therefore benefit from competition in the market, bringing greater choice and competitive prices from a range of service providers.

Faster broadband will also help to boost the competitiveness of local businesses, enabling them to find new customers and operate more efficiently, whilst opening up new web-based learning and other development opportunities for households.

For local businesses, the fibre network will underpin the introduction of new services. Big business applications driven by new ‘cloud’ services will be within the reach of enterprises of all sizes. Computer back up, storage and processing will be faster, and the use of high-quality videoconferencing and telephony will become a viable possibility.

Mobilisation

During April, the Connecting Shropshire team will start gearing up for the deployment phase, which will include a number of critical dependencies to ensure the programme is successful:

  • Connecting Shropshire will co-locate with BT in a single programme office in Shrewsbury.
  • A stakeholder ‘kick-off’ meeting will refine the governance and stakeholder engagement process. Project controls, reporting and processes will be agreed to ensure that the programme has full accountability.
  • Internal and external service dependencies will be co-opted to ‘smooth’ deployment:
    • Highways engagement
    • Planning department
    • Power supply companies

Surveying and planning

A six to nine month period of intensive planning and surveying will run concurrent with the initial mobilisation. This will enable us to refine and confirm deployment plans, which we will share as they are confirmed. The roll-out will have nine phases which are due to be completed by the end of Spring 2016.

Engagement and support

Throughout the roll-out we will ensure there is full engagement through a network of stakeholders and communication channels. We intend to use the network of parish and town councils to ensure all communities are briefed on the deployment plans.

We intend to reach out into communities to seek volunteers who want to get involved as ‘digital champions’. These individuals will provide informal advice, information and support to adults in their local community who either want to get online and learn how to use a computer for the first time, or improve their confidence with the basics.

Volunteers will also be asked to help promote this service in their community by putting up posters and leaflets in suitable locations, such as doctors’ surgeries, church halls, and local notice boards. All such promotional material will be provided by the Connecting Shropshire team.

Additional funding

In order to meet Shropshire Council’s aspirations for 100% next generation access (NGA) and as much superfast broadband as possible, additional funds will need to be secured. The council is currently working to secure additional resources, including applying to the £20m Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) as part of the Rural Development Programme for England. The RCBF is jointly funded by Defra and BDUK and provides grants to communities to establish superfast broadband in hard-to-reach areas.

We understand that there could be a further £300m made available after the next election in 2015 to extend superfast and NGA coverage. We will continue to work closely with BDUK and local members to ensure that Shropshire is able to access these funds when they become available.

Keep updated

We will continue to keep our website updated throughout the project. This will include information about the project, including timescales, together with evidence and demonstration of the benefits of using broadband for both residents and businesses.

£24.6m deal signed to bring faster broadband evolution to Shropshire

March 27, 2013 / 21 comments / Permalink

High-speed fibre broadband is set to become available to more than 90 per cent of Shropshire homes and businesses within the next three years as a result of a multi-million pound partnership project between Shropshire Council and BT.

The Connecting Shropshire project will build on BT’s commercial investment so that 93 per cent of premises across Shropshire*, more than130,000 premises, should have access to broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps by the end of Spring 2016.  As a result of the contract, all premises covered by the project will receive a minimum of 2Mbps.

During the course of the rollout BT may use Connecting Shropshire as a test bed for developing fibre innovations and other broadband technologies designed to boost speeds even further.

Shropshire is one of England’s most rural and sparsely populated counties and so the project will transform broadband speeds across the county.  According to Ofcom, the county’s average downstream speed is currently 8.2Mbps, whilst 17.1 per cent of premises receive less than 2Mbps.

BT has been chosen following an extensive and thorough selection process.  The company is contributing £8.6m towards the deployment in “non-commercial” areas, whilst Shropshire Council is contributing £8.2m, with £7.84m coming from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funds.

George Candler, Shropshire Council’s director of commissioning, said:

“We have been working hard, through our Connecting Shropshire project, to drive forward improvements to broadband provision for residents and businesses, so we are delighted to have reached this point.  We look forward to working closely with BT over the coming years to ensure people start seeing the benefits of faster broadband even in the remote, rural parts of our county.”

Nick Chavasse MBE, Shropshire Business Board champion for broadband, said:

“Reliable and fast broadband connection is fundamental for business growth.  I am delighted that Shropshire Council has embraced this project and is fully committed to driving it through as soon as possible.  Fast broadband connectivity will help our businesses to prosper and in turn help to increase employment across the county.  Poor broadband is a barrier to growth, and the plan to roll out fast broadband to the business community, in particular, is crucial to the success of our economic growth strategy.  We will continue to work with, and offer our full support to, this ambitious partnership programme.”

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey, commented:

“Shropshire is one of the most rural counties in England, but access to fast broadband speeds is just as important here as it is in our major cities.  This project will deliver all the benefits of superfast broadband to Shropshire homes and business, providing a tremendous boost to the local economy.”

Bill Murphy, managing director NGA for BT, added:

“This is fantastic news for the people of Shropshire.  As communications technologies evolve it is really important that communities across the county are able to evolve with them, which is fitting since Charles Darwin is surely Shropshire’s most famous son.

“Fibre broadband will bring Shropshire’s predominantly rural economy into the digital fast lane – revitalising small towns, villages and hamlets by making it possible to start and run a connected business from these locations and, in the long-term, ensuring local people don’t suffer from a digital divide.”

Engineers for Openreach, BT’s local network business, will build the new fibre infrastructure.  Fibre to the Cabinet will be the main technology deployed.  This delivers wholesale downstream speeds of up to 80Mbps and upstream speeds of up to 20Mbps. Fibre to the Premises technology – delivering ultra-fast wholesale speeds of up to 330Mbps – will also be deployed in certain areas.

The new fibre based network will be open to all communications providers on an equivalent basis**.  Households and businesses in Shropshire will therefore benefit from a highly competitive market, bringing greater choice and affordable prices from a wide range of service providers.  It will also boost the competitiveness of local businesses, helping them to find new customers and operate more efficiently, whilst opening up a host of new learning and development opportunities for households.

Superfast broadband benefits include users being able to use multiple bandwidth-hungry applications at the same time, and sending and receiving large amounts of data much more quickly and efficiently.  New fibre services are set to transform the way consumers use the Internet, from the simple sharing of pictures and video to enjoying the growing boom in entertainment services available online.

For local businesses, the fibre network will underpin the introduction of many new services and applications.  Big business applications driven by new ‘cloud’ services will be within the reach of enterprises of all sizes.  Computer back up, storage and processing will be faster, and the use of high-quality videoconferencing will become a viable possibility.

The project team will be working closely with parish and town councils to ensure that local communities are able to make the most of improved broadband speeds and the new and exciting opportunities this project brings to Shropshire.

Further information

*Does not include the Telford and Wrekin Council area

**Openreach provides external CPs (Communications Providers) with a variety of ways in which they can offer fibre broadband to their customers.  These include an ‘active’ product – GEA – which comes in various speed combinations and a ‘passive’ product – PIA – whereby CPs can lay their own fibre via BT’s ducts and poles if they want greater control over the service they offer.