Connecting communities to fast fibre broadband
Openreach is working hard to improve their network to get faster fibre broadband to as many people in the UK as they can. But there are some areas which they don’t currently plan to upgrade, or areas where they’ve upgraded to fibre but where people want to have an even faster internet connection. They know this can be frustrating. But there is another solution – a Community Fibre Partnership.
What’s a Community Fibre Partnership?
Openreach work with your local community to build a customised fibre solution to bring fibre broadband to homes and businesses. They put a joint funding arrangement in place, which means they contribute some of the costs and your community funds the rest. They will then build the most affordable solution they can to meet your needs. They will also advise on any grants you might be able to get to help pay for your part e.g. from local authorities or the Government. If your area already has fibre broadband, you can also use a Community Fibre Partnership to upgrade to even faster speeds.
Openreach offers this step-by-step guide.
Enter your landline number or postcode into their fibre checker to see if you can get fibre, or if they are planning to bring it to your area soon. If the fibre checker says ‘we’re not quite there yet’ that means that they don’t have plans to upgrade your area yet. So a Community Fibre Partnership could be a good alternative. If you’re in an area that’s already getting fibre broadband (through Fibre to the Cabinet or FTTC) rather than direct to your premises (through Fibre to the Premises or FTTP), you could apply for a Community Fibre Partnership to upgrade this.
Register to let Openreach know you’re interested in a Community Fibre Partnership (don’t worry, you aren’t committing to anything at this stage). They will then email you a reference number, and details of what will happen next. Around 24 hours later they will send you a second email with a link to a website. You can use this to fill in details of the addresses, postcodes and landline numbers of other local people who are interested in setting up the Partnership.
This is when you’ll need to start drumming up support in your area. Talk to your neighbours and local businesses about the benefits of fibre broadband. Openreach’s ‘reaching out to your local community’ leaflet provides some advice on how to do this. Or they can get involved directly – just let them know.
At this point Openreach will give you a ballpark cost to bring fibre to your area. They will cover some of the costs, so the price in the quote will be what they call ‘the gap’ i.e. the amount your community will need to pay. You’ll now need to share this with your community. You might also want to talk to other local people or businesses about helping with funding (if you haven’t done that already). You might also be able to get Government funding, including the Rural Gigabit Scheme. This scheme offers vouchers towards the cost of your build of up to £1,500 for residents and £3,500 for businesses. At this stage, you will need you to tell Openreach if you want to go ahead, or if you’ve decided not to take things further (there’s still no obligation to do anything though).
Openreach will give you the firm costs (although these might change once they’ve done a survey). They will also confirm exactly which addresses will be covered by the upgrade. They will then create and send you a full proposal showing the solution they are proposing.
Now it’s time to get the community together to raise the money (Openreach can help you with fundraising ideas). You’ll need to pay 50 per cent of the costs when you sign the contract. Then you’ll pay the rest of the balance when Openreach finish the installation. This is usually around a year after you’ve signed.
Once you’ve signed the contract it’s over to Openreach engineers to build the infrastructure. Obviously this won’t happen overnight – but they will keep you updated along the way. As soon as everything’s in place, you and the other members of your community will be able to choose a broadband provider and get connected to fibre.
Further information can be found at https://www.openreach.com/fibre-broadband/community-fibre-partnerships