Susan van de Ven

Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon Learn more

Spotlight on broadband: a basic utility

by Susan van de Ven on 6 August, 2020

My district colleagues and I provided this report to Meldreth Parish Council in July, following clear concern from local residents and businesses about the inadequate state of current broadband provision and the need to capture any opportunities for improved infrastructure provision.

County Broadband

We delayed reporting on the offer from County Broadband as initially it seemed to be a matter of individual household choice. However the additional pressures of the lockdown with many residents working or studying from home have exposed the patchiness and weakness in speed of the broadband service in the village, with many people reporting its inadequacy relative to the service which larger settlements and their workplaces receive. In light of this, and given the drive to more sustainable living – property market experts now believe that it is the broadband service available in any settlement which should be at least as if not more important than all other metrics assessing a community’s sustainability – we now believe our residents deserve to have at least a choice between infrastructure providers. The only way that choice can currently be achieved is if enough households sign up to merit the investment County Broadband is offering to make. County Broadband have extended their deadline for sign up in Meldreth.

The County Broadband offer guarantees speeds of between 300-900 megabits per second (Mbps), depending upon what tariff the customer chooses. This compares with the typical BT offering for this area of 32-55 Mbps, so an order of magnitude faster.  The cost of the basic package is initially cheaper than BT prices but rises above the BT price if the very fastest speeds are sought. Probably the most attractive residential tariff from County Broadband is the middle one, the Hyper 600, offering an average 600 Mbps download and upload speed at a standard monthly charge of £55 (after an initial six months at £29.50).  They also offer a very cost effective telephone service which can retain your existing landline number.

Future-proofing properties/premises: even if residents are satisfied with their broadband speed now it seems likely that devices using broadband will proliferate in our homes and workplaces and place additional demand on the system. Broadband speed reduces the further away from a green box is the property and also depending upon how many neighbours are using the broadband at any given time before it reaches a property. We are already aware of a village-based business, Teknis, which will vote with its feet and move elsewhere if the broadband does not improve.

Marketability of homes/attractiveness of business premises: estate agents now routinely publish broadband speeds when marketing property and it is frequently one of the most important factors in a decision by a prospective buyer about whether or not to proceed with the purchase. Good broadband has become even more essential as so many of us have been working from home during the lockdown and there is every indication that working from home will become commonplace. Working from home has the consequential advantages of reducing work-related journeys and increasing consumer spending in local businesses.

BT’s Open Reach is a volume supplier, so they concentrate on investing the majority of their activity in cities and large settlements. By contrast rural communities are not a big enough market to merit equivalent investment from Open Reach, whereas serving small rural communities are County Broadband’s specialism.

County Broadband has offered to connect one of our public buildings with free Wi-fi as part of their offer. Even with the possibility of the wonderful Screenbank project supplying reconditioned computers, we know that the cost of Wi-fi can be a barrier to internet access.  Therefore we feel that County Broadband is an important opportunity for free public connection that should be given serious consideration.

For more information, please see the County Broadband website http://www.countybroadbandfibre.co.uk/.

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