Access to superfast broadband is one of my local priorities as fast, reliable broadband internet access is essential for homes throughout the country to benefit from online services, and for UK businesses to compete globally. 95 per cent of UK premises are now able to connect to superfast broadband, however I recognise that more needs to be done to ensure that all parts of the country have the access to the broadband they need. The challenge in more rural areas such as the Devizes Constituency is that commercial organisations are often not able to see a return on their investment and therefore public investment is needed to deliver these much-needed infrastructure upgrades. More information is available at www.wiltshireonline.org
£7.2m of public investment together with ongoing commercial upgrades means that 90 per cent of premises across the Devizes Constituency now have access to Superfast speeds. Phase 1 of the Wiltshire Council programme is complete and Phase 2 well advanced so that 10,000 premises will be connected to superfast broadband. Additionally, Wiltshire Council recently secured £2m from BDUK's South West Ultrafast Fund and £1m match funding from the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP) to deliver Ultrafast broadband (over 100mbps) to a further 7,500 premises across Wiltshire from 2018/19.
Universal Service Obligation
Focus is now on the "final 5 per cent" - those areas in the hardest to reach places in the UK that are not covered by existing plans. Measures the Government is taking in this area include the introduction of a Universal Service Obligation (USO), so every premises in the country will have the right to request access to broadband at a minimum speed of at least 10mbps by 2020. This speed allows a household to watch video on demand, use social media, shop online and work from home.
Better Broadband Scheme
I appreciate that slow speeds are frustrating, and whilst the Government's plans for the USO of 10mbps by 2020, are progressing, I am very aware that slow speeds are hugely inconvenient for my Constituents. Last year I hosted an information event in Devizes where alternative technology providers known as 'Alt Nets' presented their solutions to representatives from Parish Councils in the 'hard to reach' areas.
SOC Communications - http://soccom.co.uk/
Green Grass Broadband - http://greengrassbroadband.com/
Gigaclear - https://www.gigaclear.com/
Yonet - https://www.yonet-telecom.com/
Prime Satellite Broadband - http://www.primesatellitebroadband.com/
Voneous Rural Broadband - https://www.voneus.com/
These ‘Alt Nets’ participate in the Better Broadband Scheme which enables all premises which currently receive less than 2mbps download speed to access a voucher scheme for £350 which will cover most of the cost of the installation and commissioning of a basic broadband service including any necessary equipment. The vouchers can be 'pooled' so if a number of residents wish to access improved broadband then their vouchers can be used together. More information about the Better Broadband Scheme can be found at www.wiltshireonline.org/index.php/broadband-rollout/better-broadband-scheme
Local Full Fibre Networks
Earlier this year the Government launched the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme with total funding of £67m to enable communities to install Full Fibre Networks. The primary objective of this scheme is to expand the full fibre, gigabit-capable network to small and medium-sized enterprises. SMEs in our area will be able to access a voucher worth £3,000 to upgrade their business broadband connection to fast and reliable gigabit speed. At the same time groups of residents will be able to apply for a voucher of £500 for each domestic connection - as long as there are business users in the scheme who are the main beneficiaries.
The Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme is a significant opportunity to expand the full fibre network and to stimulate commercial investment in our priority business zones. Full details of the scheme can be found Here.
A number of communities across the Constituency are progressing Community-led schemes and Wiltshire Online has allocated a pot of money as match funding to support communities that want to help themselves access superfast broadband. Successful applicants will receive funding from Wiltshire Online for up to 50% of the total cost of their broadband solution up to a maximum of £1500 per premises. The scheme is being developed within Wiltshire Council’s existing contract with BT Group and it is only possible for us to provide funding for BT Openreach solutions. This scheme will run alongside BT’s Community Fibre Partnership scheme, more information about the scheme can be found here. If you are interested in considering a local scheme please do let me know and it will also be helpful to get in touch with your Parish Council and your Wiltshire Councillor.
I know that Superfast Broadband speeds are vital for everyone living and working locally, and I am continuing to work with Ministers and with Wiltshire Council to make the case for further investment to ensure that we are all able to access the technologies that we now rely on. In the meantime please contact me with your broadband concerns by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org - it is most helpful if you are able to include the postcodes affected and speed readings you may have.
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