Cumbria County Council

November issue of Connecting Cumbria Newsletter

3 November 2011 at 12:32 in News by Louis Mosley

Can be read here, in case you’ve missed it.


with an interview with Fra Cooke, chair of Cumbria’s Hub coordinators!

Ofcom launches Broadband Map

6 July 2011 at 12:02 in News by Louis Mosley

The map was published this morning.

Check it out here:

The map shows:

· The availability of superfast broadband
· The average broadband take-up
· the average maximum speed for current generation broadband and cable services
· The percentage of homes getting less than 2Mbps

The map is divided in to 200 authorities. Each area has been ranked according to a score given for each of the measures above and colour coded with green ranking highest, and red lowest.

Unfortunately, it shows how much there is to be done in Cumbria.

Cumbria scores very badly on the all important measures of the percentage of homes getting less than 2Mbps (Cumbria scores 21.1%  - among the very highest in England) and the availability of superfast broadband (a big 0% in Cumbria). Only take-up is respectable (if not a glowing result).

Let’s make sure that we reverse this situation by 2015!

Cumbria County Council announces broadband supplier shortlist

3 June 2011 at 10:21 in News by Louis Mosley

Yesterday, Cumbria County Council announced the list of suppliers who have made it through to the second stage of the broadband procurement process.

The contract, worth £120million, is made up in two lots as follows;

Lot one is for the contract to provide ICT services to the council, this includes provision and maintenance of computers, phones and security etc.

Lot two is to support an exciting county wide initiative to improve public sector networks across Cumbria and to implement super-fast broadband across the County, a project known as ‘Accessible Cumbria’.

bidders through to the second stage are:

Lot One – ICT Services (maintaining the council’s computers, phones etc.)

BT Global Services
Commendium Ltd
Computercentre UK Ltd
Tata Consultancy Services Ltd

Lot Two – Accessible Cumbria (installing a superfast broadband network)

BT Global Services
Cable and Wireless
Commendium Ltd

124 suppliers registered an interest in the two ICT contracts with a total of 23 suppliers submitting submissions in the first stage.

The next stages involve the shortlisted companies entering into detailed dialogue with the Council to complete their outline stage 2 submissions for each lot by the end of July, with final detailed solutions by the end of September. The final decision will be taken by Cabinet in December 2011.

The contract start date will be 1st April 2012.

Here is the full press release

What do you make of the list?

Latest Update from Cumbria County Council

5 March 2011 at 08:32 in News by Louis Mosley

Here’s the latest from the County website:

The County Council has been asked to take on the role as responsible body for the Accessible Cumbria (superfast broadband) project in Cumbria, by Broadband Development UK (BDUK).

The project aims to develop opportunities’ for businesses and communities to develop and thrive in Cumbria. For that reason we are working with communities and businesses to develop the model that best delivers improvement to those communities.

We recognise the golden opportunity this represents for the communities of Cumbria and are keen to support it. There is a financial commitment from the County Council and for that reason the councillors will consider the matter formally at the end of March.

Our key thinking has been informed by discussions with residents, businesses and may yet change in the future dependent upon feedback that the County Council receives prior to the decision in the meeting at the end of March.

The discussions with BDUK to date have focussed on two things.

How do we get the best value out of the money we have been promised?
How do we ensure that any rationing is fair?

How do we get the best value out of the money we have been promised?

A strategic fibre to the property (FTTP) solution is probably the least effective way of maximising the value from the money available to us. It would be expensive and therefore only benefit a small part of the population. There are clearly various degrees of enthusiasm and expertise in our communities which would also be shunned by the FTTP approach.

One of the recurring themes from several of the community workshops councillors have attended is “concentrate on the backhaul”. If we can provide a community point of presence then a wide range of approaches can be adopted by the community to deliver their own broadband.

To minimise the cost of that backhaul we intend to take advantage of our own need to procure a network provider and the assets that we own in CLEO (Cumbria and Lancashire Education Online) to rationalise all this down to one service where points of presence for community use can be provided through schools, libraries and local authority buildings as a first call.

This can be provided through our own procurement and does not need large amounts of BDUK money. There are, however, plenty of communities that do not have a school, library or local authority building and the BDUK funding would be used to extend beyond that current network out to community groups. We are confident that this can be done and still protect the service required by schools.

Evidence suggests that there is a significant amount of unused capacity in the school network which would be utilised without impacting on school usage. In addition, use in school and use at home is largely synchronous and so deployment of appropriate technologies can ensure that bandwidth is switched when demand requires it. This could further enhance the capacity outside of school times without being detrimental to schools or domestic and business users. This switching is a cost above what the County Council needs to invest for our own purposes and so would be the start of the BDUK work.

In this way we will maximise the value from the existing public sector network and maximise the impact of the BDUK funding. As well as utilising the CLEO network we recognise that by leasing this to a supplier it has commercial value in itself. Therefore in the bidding process, we anticipate that potential suppliers will come up with funding of their own thereby extending the amount of work that we can do.

This explains how we maximise the number of points of presence in the communities. Beyond that point of presence we will look to establish a ’Quality Guild’ of suppliers that offer services ranging from supply of parts through to a full service. The criteria for gaining acceptance onto this Quality Guild will be established with the help of the coordinators who represent community broadband across Cumbria.

This Quality Guild will then allow each community to decide their own level of expertise/enthusiasm and match that against a suitable supplier. We believe this fulfils the two tenets of Big Society: the right to choose and the obligation to pay. There is no free broadband. The funds will be used to ensure that the rate the community pays is competitive.

How do we ensure any rationing is fair?

Even with the gap funding model outlined above which we believe can be delivered, the current level of funding will mean choices need to be made as part of the pilot phase. We are currently preparing papers for consideration at council as to how the allocation would be made. The following criteria are being considered:

Index of multiple deprivation ,including accessibility domain
Opportunity for business development and employment growth
A “not spot “ or area of poor broadband coverage with market failure
Different levels of community engagement i.e. fully engaged and active; variable interest but where opportunity is alive; little or unexplored capacity
Different topographies, geography, settlement types i.e. Deep rural - market town and
hinterland - urban fringe.
Opportunity to test different and innovative technologies.
We have also started to identify broadband coordinators to represent community groups who will have a say in the governance of this project. This is a complex situation and the results of the procurement and degree of gap funding will also have an impact on how far we can go.

I hope this shows that we have done a lot of the planning and thinking necessary to get this off the ground to the maximum advantage for all of Cumbria. BDUK acknowledge that our plan is innovative and deliverable.

We are also lobbying through our MPs for BDUK to make a statement about any intentions for Cumbria beyond the pilot phase but as yet there has been no firm commitment.

Work on procuring the points of presence is in accordance with BDUK requirements of a European procurement. This does take a little time but does ensure maximum value for the investment. None of the BDUK money goes into managing the process. BDUK expect that we will pick up that bill – which they have done by combining it with its own procurement of ICT services. For that reason we expect the final shape to be known at the end of the year with deployment during spring summer 2012.

Universal Service

Our vision for the future is to see the whole of Cumbria connected to high speed broadband internet in line with the government’s commitment to deliver a Universal Service in broadband, at a speed of 2 Megabits per second, by no later than 2012.

We see this as the absolute minimum service and reflects the feedback and concern we have received from some communities. There are parts of the County that have no broadband at all. These communities are concerned that if we focus on the easy to upgrade areas then they will get left even further behind. The County Council is clear that the 2mb universal service will be exceeded and the challenge for any supplier is how much they can deliver for the money and still ensure a minimum of 2mb.

We value your views and they have had an effect on moulding our thinking to date and they will in the future.

Please contact your local Parish Council or Broadband Hub Co-ordinator with any thoughts or responses to this statement.

CCC will be meeting with coordinators in March to collect views and give information on any further developments. Updates will appear on these web pages when available.

A list of Hub coordinators will be available shortly.

Latest News on Cumbria’s Broadband Pilot

22 February 2011 at 16:09 in News by Louis Mosley

Don’t expect any official announcements until March at the earliest, but Cumbria County Council’s officers have been busy working away behind the scenes. They even have a name for the pilot: Accessible Cumbria!

Here’s what you need to know.

Read the rest of this entry →

Broadband Meets Localism Conference

17 January 2011 at 18:51 in News by Louis Mosley

On Saturday, over a hundred parish champions gathered for the ‘Broadband Meets Localism’ conference at Carlisle racecourse. The event was organised by Ronnie Auld of the Carlisle Parish Councils Association (CPCA) and Cumbria County Council and sponsored by BT.

Broadband Meets Localism Conference

You can watch the day’s proceedings here, filmed by the dedicated Citizen reporter John Popham, or re-read the day’s live-blog, overseen by Nick Turner.

Below are highlights from the reactions of two parish champions who attended: Charles Paxton and Lance Greenhalgh. For their full accounts, check the Leith-Lyvennet blog.

“Better communications are being seen as an essential element of the transition toward greater inclusion and participation. BT will be making the single largest private investment of all time into upgrading British Communications infrastructure! Two and a half billion pounds, the scale of the task is epic, the complexities are “eye-wateringly complex” (quoting Rory Stewart MP) but the potential rewards are of unmeasured magnitude.

The principal broadband movers and shakers were there and each gave encouraging and informative speeches: Rory Stewart MP, Bill Murphy, Managing Director of Next Generation Access BT Group, and Marie Fallon Corporate Director of Environment at Cumbria County Council.

Read the rest of this entry →

News: BT, Cumbria County Council, and Lindsey

4 January 2011 at 18:58 in News by Louis Mosley

Today, BT announced the winners of its Race To Infinity. Barrow-in-Furness fell just short, coming 20th. BT will upgrade the winners to FTTC by 2012.

Cumbria County Council announced six community events throughout the county to enable you to have your say in person on the Council’s proposed priorities and budget options. They will be held in:

Allerdale - Tuesday, 11 January Christchurch, Cockermouth 7-9pm

Eden - Wednesday, 12 January Evergreen Hall, Penrith 7-9pm

South Lakeland - Thursday, 13 January County Council Offices, Kendal 7-9pm

Carlisle - Tuesday, 18 January Richard Rose Central Academy, Carlisle 7-9pm

Barrow - Wednesday, 19 January Forum 28, Barrow-in-Furness 7-9pm

Copeland - Thursday, 20 January Egremont Market Hall, Egremont 7-9pm

If you can’t make it,  you can still let the Council know what you think on their website forum here.

And finally, Lindsey Annison makes her New Year predictions - well worth reading!

Eden’s Broadband Champions meet with BDUK

19 December 2010 at 12:35 in guest post by Libby Bateman

On 16 December, Libby Bateman, UECP project officer and Broadband Champion for Ravenstonedale, convened a meeting between Mike Kiely of BDUK and Broadband Champions from across the Eden valley. Here, she blogs about her experience as a longstanding broadband campaigner and her perspective on the latest developments in the campaign:

Meeting of Broadband Champions at Kirby Stephen, 16 December 2010. Photographer: Lance Greenhalgh

Yesterday, I walked through the snow with a young friend of mine to her home halfway up the Uldale Valley. She is one of three children in their late teens and early 20s and I feel like I am letting her down when I say: “it may be another twelve months before we can get broadband to your home”.  She has now been unable to drive her car for three weeks because of the snow. She has been completely isolated from the outside world with no broadband, a very unreliable landline, and no mobile signal.

Six months ago, it was very simple: we were going to dig in the fibre, plug it in, and switch it on. Our problems were: which route do we take? And how do we make it affordable?

Then, along came the Big Society, which seemed to be purpose-made to help us in what we were trying to achieve, and along came some money from BDUK - another real bonus.

But the result of these two strokes of luck has been delay. Instead of bashing on and building our networks, we now have to wait for the powers-that-be to catch up. The BDUK funding and the resulting government procurement have slowed things down. But, however frustrating this may be, we can’t rush the process: it’s essential that they get it right first time.

To quote a good friend, this is where the Big Society and Big Government come crashing into each other. But remember, we are the Big Society Vanguard, which means that the government is hoping to learn from us how it can work better with communities. And so, yes, we may well go bump a few times, but isn’t that part of any learning process?

Now, my intention is to ensure that, in twelve months time, we really do deliver broadband to the top of the Uldale Valley and that we don’t just get faster broadband to major population centres to satisfy government statisticians.

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Defining the Digital Hub

14 December 2010 at 15:30 in News by Louis Mosley

What did Jeremy Hunt mean when he announced last week that every rural community in Britain would get a “digital hub” by 2015? Ever since, the fells and dales of Cumbria – not to mention the county’s blogosphere – have been humming with different definitions.

ABOVE: Peter Smith, Lance Greenhalgh, Freddy Markham and Charles Paxton of the Lyvennet Valley Broadband Group meet on Friday in the Tufton Arms in Appleby to discuss the definition of a “Digital Hub”.

But what do communities want?

Ultimately, it will be up to Cumbria County Council to define the “Digital Hub” as part of the tender document that it will publish next year. But the needs and requirements of communities should shape this definition.

“Digital Hubs” will be built with public subsidy, so it is only fair that communities are given a say in how this money is spent.

The risk is that Cumbria County Council will use BDUK’s £10m to subsidise a supplier to run fibre to exchanges and cabinets closed to the community (FTTC), with cabinets being re-defined as “Digital Hubs”. These cabinets would be the property of the supplier and no community would have the right to use them to extend a fibre network to the premises (FTTP).

This would dash the hopes of communities that want to run FTTP. As Miles Mandelson noted in the comments:

“If the cabinets are exclusively for onward connection to households by copper they cannot be regarded as fit for purpose. Copper has no place in NGA broadband. If it’s allowed to form part of the new infrastructure then it’s the generation after next that will have to sort the mess out.”

So what are the alternatives?

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