When will full fibre broadband come to Rutland, Stamford, Bourne and the Deepings?
For many, working from home during the pandemic is a blessing. For those with a dodgy internet connection, video calls and the ‘uploads and downloads’ of modern business are an utter curse.
Most homes and businesses in South Lincolnshire and Rutland can receive ‘super fast’ broadband - defined in the UK as a connection with download speeds of 24 megabytes per second or above.
According to Openreach, which owns the UK’s largest broadband and phone network, 96 per cent of us can access this.
But while fibre optic cables link local exchanges with the green street cabinets, its generally copper wire that completes the journey between the cabinet and your door.
For those living a distance from the cabinet, the fast connections advertised by broadband providers are lost in this final link.
Fortunately there is hope on the horizon. Openreach is replacing the copper wire to offer ‘full fibre’ broadband - fibre optic cable all the way from the exchange to each home or business.
The effect will be to increase download speeds of up to 1,000 megabytes (1GB) per second, making live streaming and much more hitch-free.
Kasam Hussain, Openreach’s partnership director for the Midlands, said over the past few months, the majority of people have been able to work from home, but that full fibre will iron out difficulties and ‘future-proof’ the network.
“We are making a £12bn investment to make 20 million properties full fibre by the mid-2020s,” he said.
“It’s a five to 10-year project that is not just happening in big cities and urban areas - Bourne and Stamford are included.
“For people living and working in these areas it will mean smoother home-working, video calls, streaming, andthe ability to use virtual reality headsets and to control home heating and lighting remotely.
“Having a full fibre network could improve the East Midlands economy by £3.5bn, according to some estimates.”
Work on the full fibre network will start imminently in Bourne, while Stamford is scheduled for the latter half of this year. As a major civil engineering project, it will take a couple of years to lay fibre cables to every door in the two towns.
Start dates for Oakham, Uppingham and more rural areas have not yet been announced. For these many hundreds of people, the village of Whissendine might offer a way to cut the wait.
“In Whissendine residents formed a Community Fibre Partnership Scheme and through this have worked with us and Rutland County Council to help establish a full fibre network early,” said Kasam.
“As a result, homes and businesses in Whissendine will be on a full fibre network within a year and not only does this mean faster broadband, it can also add to the saleability of a home.”
Resident and business owner Trevor Dustan led the community to join forces with Openreach and the council.
The work – secured after residents pledged support for the Government’s Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme - builds on the existing superfast broadband network in the village, which was installed in 2013.
Trevor, who runs Skimflat Property Maintenance, said: “Living and working in Whissendine, I know just how important fast and reliable broadband is, not only for family life, but also for running my property maintenance company.
“Bringing full fibre all the way to our homes will completely transform the way people can go online and provide everyone living here with a state-of-the-art broadband connection.”
Trevor explained how fast and reliable broadband is important for business.
“The ability to get online and connect with customers, manage social media channels, place orders, and deal with all of the admin that comes with running your own company is essential,” he said.
“I genuinely can’t wait to be connected to the new fibre network.”
He added that the reaction from the village has been “fantastic”.
Trevor made sure all 450 properties in Whissendine received a leaflet about Openreach’s broadband scheme. The village pub, The White Lion, helped rally support and acted as a focal point for the community.
“At one point, they even had information about the fibre build on their bar screens to make sure people didn’t miss it,” said Trevor.
Within a week the partnership had attracted the funds needed for the scheme to get started.
In the partnership, Openreach will cover some of the cost and then provide a price for the installation which residents and business owners can meet through their own fundraising, as well as applications for government vouchers .
“Both Openreach and Rutland County Council were excellent throughout the whole process,” said Trevor. “I’d strongly urge other communities in the same position to look at working together in the same way.”
Full fibre broadband is capable of carrying speeds of up to one gigabyte per second - about 15 times faster than the UK’s current average - bringing more reliable broadband to places like Whissendine.
Kasam said: “Rutland has always been a frontrunner when it comes to making faster broadband available.
“It was one of the first to start rolling out superfast broadband, has had consistently high take-up and community interest since then, and I’m pleased to say is now well on the journey to increasing full fibre coverage. This build is expected to take about 12 months.
“Whissendine is the first village in the county to benefit from Openreach’s full fibre network and people living and working here are going to notice a huge difference.
“Our engineers – designated as key workers during the Covid-19 pandemic - have already started building the network, and because we use existing infrastructure wherever possible, we’re keeping disruption to an absolute minimum.
“Full fibre is not only much faster, but it’s more reliable and future-proof for years to come.”
Once the network is built, residents and business owners will need to get in touch with the company they pay for their broadband and enquire about upgrading to full fibre - it doesn’t happen automatically.
Coun Oliver Hemsley (Con), leader of Rutland County council, said its ‘Digital Rutland’ project has created the conditions for families and businesses to take advantage of faster internet speeds.
“Fast and reliable broadband is vital to help people stay connected, particularly in rural areas like Rutland,” he said.
“This has never been more important, given the extent to which we’ve all come to rely on the internet for work, education and keeping in touch this year.”
Coun Hemsley said it is encouraging to see the community in Whissendine taking this one step further by upgrading to gigabit-capable full fibre broadband through the Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme.
“We are also working hard to bring full fibre broadband to more communities in Rutland as part of the UK’s Local Full Fibre Network Scheme,” he said.
People can check which services are available to them on the Openreach fibre checker.
To find out more about forming a Community Fibre Partnership like residents of Whissendine, click here.