Over the past year, or so, I have been working with James Saunby of Grey Sky Consulting on a number of bids to the Government’s Rural Community Broadband Fund. We’ve been working with communities, local authorities, and other partners in areas which are defined as in the “last 10%” in terms of broadband connectivity. In this context, the last 10% means those areas which are unlikely to be served by the upgrades which are being rolled out via the main BDUK programme, wherein Government, local authorities and the European Union are investing in extending Next Generation Access (connectivity upwards of 24Mbps) beyond the areas deemed commercially viable by the main players. The BDUK programme will bring better connections to those who are located between the 66% of properties judged commercially viable and 90% (on average) of the population.
James and I have been working with communities and partners in Cheshire, Durham, Tees Valley, Kirklees and Cumbria. To date, we’ve had 100% success rate in getting bids through the Expression of Interest Stage, and the only project to have reached contract stage under the Rural Community Broadband Fund is led by Grey Sky in Rothbury, Northumberland (read more about this here). It has been great to work with some of the communities which had been in danger of left behind by the 21st Century, and set them on the road to benefitting from the same new technologies which urban residents now take for granted. It’s not a straightforward task. The technical challenges are one thing; the mindset of people who have never had the internet and don’t necessarily see a reason for having it, is perhaps an even tougher obstacle.
The current round of the Rural Community Broadband fund is scheduled to be the last. And, on Friday last week, we heard that the deadline (originally intended to be 24th May) has been extended to 17th June (although, at the time of writing the website has not been updated to reflect this). This could be the last chance for communities in the last 10% to have a crack at getting greatly enhanced broadband.
So, if you would like to work with James and myself to get better broadband please get in touch. But, do it quickly, there is not much time left.