Connecting Shropshire

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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.

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