Saturday, 5 March 2011

Eden Broadband

A meeting was held on Thursday 3rd March in Kirkby Stephen with a rep. from the Broadband Delivery UK team (Mike Kiely from the DTI/BIS) to update everyone on the BDUK pilot project progress and to discuss next steps.

There were approximately 20 people present from parishes such as Warcop, Ravenstonedale, Kaber, Great Asby, Mallerstang, Morlands, as well as far afield as Dacre, Northern Fells, and Sedbergh/Dent. Peter Thornton (Councillor) and Upper Eden Community Plan officers, Libby Bateman and Tom Woof, were present.

Originally, the plan was for 3 areas to be invited to run innovative pilot projects for Next Generation Access, but this was extended to 4 after the Rheged broadband conference last September and the success of Eden to be chosen as a Big Society Vanguard area.

Cumbria County Council (CCC) have been chosen to administer the procurement process and project. [It has to be said that this appears to have resulted in it becoming a Cumbria-wide scheme, rather than a proper pilot trialling rural next generation broadband solutions, which is a situation which would seem to need rectifying at the CCC meeting at the end of March. Or we could end up with 'jam spread too thinly' to achieve anything future-proofed or innovative].

Mike Kiely updated us on progress with CCC, and gave some indication of the level of interest expressed by suppliers at a recent Open Day held by CCC held for that purpose. It seems that Electric North West are interested in allowing fibre optics to be run along their low voltage power lines (10-30KV), which would mean that villages such as Warcop, which has overhead power, could benefit.

Miles Mandelson of Great Asby Broadband had had a meeting with Alan Cook (Project Manager at CCC for the BDUK pilot) which seemed to counter the news on the CCC website about 30 'Hub Co-ordinators'. There was a lively discussion about how the number 30 was arrived at, how these would be chosen, what they would do etc.

Terms of reference for the group were discussed to ensure that an 'official line' is given cohesively from Eden to CCC, BDUK etc that is agreed between the members rather than mixing messages and causing confusion. [It is obvious that CCC have a difficult task in front of them, satisfying all the different needs of such a diverse county, particularly if they pursue the single supplier route rather than encouraging existing and new community groups to self-organise and deliver. Communities know best!]

Leith and Lyvennet Broadband Group reported on their recent meeting, plus a name change: to Eden Valley Digital. This name change was NOT well received because LLBG only covers 10 parishes, not the Eden Valley. However, the good news is that the public meeting voted in favour of supporting NextGen broadband initiatives in L&L and LLBG have submitted an Expression of Interest to CCC via BDUK.

Tom and I reported back on the recent FTTH Council conference in Milan, with Tom pointing out just how many ways there are to lay fibre to the home - overhead power lines, through water and gas pipes, dug into fields, fed through ducts etc etc. There were plenty of examples given of successful rural FTTH projects, and there is no reason why Eden, or more particularly Warcop, should settle for anything less than the future-proofed solution that is Fibre To The Home.

Fibre training has been organised on 10th march (next Thursday) with Lucidos near Sedbergh for anyone interested. Please contact project dot officer at uecp dot org dot uk

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