Andrew Hoad (chairman of Ashburnham and Penhurst Parish council) and I are continuing to pursue our plan which, if successful, would bring a full fibre connection to the whole of Brightling. Everyone in Brightling would then have access to a 1000 Mbps (download speed service). This would also apply to most of Netherfield, because it is served by the Brightling exchange. NB Contrast the figure of 1000 Mbps with so-called superfast, which is a mere 24 Mbps, and there are many households in Brightling who can’t even get that.
This plan is known as a “Demand Led Community Fibre Partnership” (CFP) scheme for the two telephone exchanges covering our parish. It relies on using a sizeable chunk of the pot of money allocated by central Government through their Rural Gigabit Voucher (RGV) scheme (£3,500 per business and £1,500 per residential property). Most of the properties not currently served by high speed broadband today still have RGVs unclaimed and not utilised.
We have now received the initial costing from Openreach for the Brightling exchange. It covers 381 properties at an estimated cost of £627,129, which works out at £1646 per property. This is a provisional figure and we have asked Openreach to go back and work out the final, contractual figure, which we expect to get around 20th July.
Bearing in mind the £1500 per property (£3500 for businesses) available from the RGV scheme and the £1646 per property cost, the arithmetic shows that we will need a high level of people to commit to using their vouchers through the scheme. However, East Sussex County Council has now confirmed that they are offering an additional top-up of £1000 per property for both residential and business customers, and by using this as well it should be achievable to meet the required threshold.
Once we have the final cost from Openreach, around mid-July, we will – provided the cost hasn’t changed too much – start a campaign to get people to pledge their RGV vouchers through the scheme. Since the vouchers have no cash value and in practice can only be used by clubbing together as a community, I am hopeful that we will be able to persuade enough people. Other communities have managed it.