What does it take to bring fibre broadband into a rural community?
A journal of my experiences bringing fibre broadband directly into the homes, businesses, charities and a school here in our little village of Ketton in Rutland.
In February 2021, our fantastic county councillor Gordon Brown (not *the* GB - much better), asked if I would like to run the program to bring Fibre to our community. There is a government voucher scheme for rural communities and we can take advantage of it. I'm really keen to put my technical experience to good use. So, I jumped at the chance to make people's lives just a little bit easier.
The initialism FTTP is the first thing to know. Fibre To The Premises. Where basically, the copper wires and traditional box on the wall your internet wireless router connects to today are replaced with a fibre optic cable into your home/organisation and a suitable box and router it connects to. This brings terrifically fast, much more reliable and more consistent internet connectivity to you. All three benefits are a real boon for any rural community, even where Superfast (aka fibre to the cabinet) is in place. How? Why? The copper wires take that really fast signal to your home and as you get further away from the main distribution box, the speeds and reliability drop off. The reason? Fibre carries laser light and, there is nothing faster than the speed of light - even electrons!
We're served by Openreach, so I first I registered on the Community Portal. Although there are good case studies on there, considering the amount of revenue it will produce, there is disappointingly little information, guidance or help. The government's rural fibre broadband voucher scheme has lots of information, but again no method.
The purpose of this blog is to capture the process and experiences good and bad as we go through this and hopefully this will help someone in the future.
The most crucial thing for me was to ensure everyone in the village has the chance now and in the future to benefit. No matter how far-flung their home, farm, business, charity or church is within the Parish. To that end we got one crucial thing in place straight away: a list of all postcodes for our Parish - the whole community.
In hindsight, we made this more complex than it needed to be. We first got a list of postcodes and streets online and copied it into a spreadsheet (I used Google Sheets). We then obtained a postcode boundary map from Rutland County Council. The two didn't match, not a great start! However, we took the spreadsheet as the master as it contained more addresses than the boundary map and included some important businesses for our community not covered by the map.
I wanted to get a bit more support from around the village so asked a handful of people in the village to form a working group. I chose some people who are technically savvy just in case it might help. I'm a newly minted Parish Councillor and so I got agreement that the working group would be accountable to the Parish Council reporting back at each meeting.
We held a Zoom session for the working group, set up a WhatsApp group, I also set up a Trello board - simple Kanban tool) to help us keep track and collaborate effectively.
With all of this in place, we started. But that's for a future post.