Braithwaite Village Hall
7th September 2011
This meeting was essentially an information dissemination exercise and was addressed by three main speakers:
Geoff Smith – Chair – Acting Chair of Allerdale District Association
Jim Savege – Corporate Director – Cumbria County Council
Ronnie Auld – Broadband Rep - CALC (Cumbria Association of Local Councils)
Alex Cliff – Director – InkSpot Wi-Fi
(n.b. These short summaries of the presentations are taken from personal hand-written notes and not extensive, figures/facts should be verified before quoting).
Cumbria fails to meet the present and future demands of Broadband provision both in rural and urban areas. Business satisfaction with current service provision is falling. The result of poor Broadband provision affects education resulting in deprivation, lack of social inclusion, economic and business growth. Good Broadband would improve Public Sector efficiency and the transformation of public service delivery. The strategy is to achieve Superfast Broadband across Cumbria and to stimulate private investment. Cumbria County Council has £17m allocated for this procurement process. Part of the role of ‘Broadband Champions’ is to research what kind of Broadband connections people want, how much they are prepared to pay a service provider, stimulate thinking surrounding the benefits of Superfast Broadband. £½m has been allocated on ‘early trials’. From 2012 onwards, require detailed information from all households.
Why is Broadband important? Clear benefits to everyone in UK. Internet has earning potential of £22Bn per annum. Broadband is vital for businesses (particularly rural businesses) and access to education – Distant Learning etc. Employment – effective tool in countering Frictional Unemployment. Social networking – teleconferences – not good service from SKYPE at present. Medical & Health impacts – on-line tele-medicine, tele-care, on-line medical diagnosis will become commonplace within next 20 years. Impacts for elderly, ill, disabled people, on-line shopping etc. All require greater bandwidth. Ronnie Auld encourages us to ‘look to communities’, community engagement linked with existing parallel engagement strategies with key facilitators: CALC/Borough Councils/Parish Councils/Champions/Hub Co-ordinators. Over-reaching aim is communities involved in universal roll-out. Cumbria comprises of 268 Parish Councils and 2000 Parish Councillors. – Allerdale, 60 Parishes. Need to engage with selves and other parties i.e.: businesses, charities, and ‘third-age’. Encourage youth involvement through social networking sites – FaceBook, Twitter etc - youth to take lead in teaching older people IT/Internet usage – models already in existence.
InkSpot Wi-Fi set up to solve rural Broadband problems - definition of ‘rural’ – 4 miles from nearest Exchange. Suspects that FTTH (Fibre To The Home) will not happen in Cumbria – too expensive. It is, however, imperative to introduce fibre into area to enable Super Wi-Fi from powerful access point. Best option Wi-Fi – quickest and cheapest particularly with the availability of White Space (high frequencies) over the next ten years. Implications for health – one router can serve entire village or town. Cumbria lags behind London and other major cities by 5 to 7 years for Broadband provision. Warns of managing expectations and cites example of 50mb network and contention rates i.e.: 50mb/50 users = 1mb contended. 50mb/100 users = .5mb contended, poor connectivity/persistent buffering etc.
Can Fibre optic be installed overhead? No, unsuitable in severe weather conditions and prone to heat/cold/cracking/snapping - unlike copper, little flexibility.
CLEO Schools Network? 85% of capacity unused and will provide connectivity for larger areas. Cumbria County Council to advise.
£17m to pay for specific service providers? No, £17m for infrastructure only. Public can use any provider they choose, not tied to any set provider. Cumbria County will not regulate rates but will ensure no ‘premium rates’ are imposed for rural connectivity and Cumbria County will oversee quality assurance. Communities should ‘gang’ together to negotiate best rate possible.
Parish Councils/Councillors need to focus on IT/Broadband provision for local communities.
Publicise benefits of Broadband as widely as possible, Parish Newsletters/local press etc.
Introduce Broadband provision into Town/Parish plan – better chance of procuring various funding streams.
WARNING: Apathy and ‘doing nothing’ will result in your community lagging 10 years behind other Cumbrian towns and parishes.