Superfast Essex Programme Update - November 2018

Trouble viewing? View this email in your browser.

Gigaclear delivery timescale changes to July 2020

Gigaclear fibre cable

Gigaclear's full fibre broadband rollout across Essex is now forecast to complete later than previously anticipated primarily due to the complexity of the network build coupled with resourcing challenges resulting from Gigaclear's rapid growth.

Work under Phase 3 in Uttlesford District and parts of Braintree District and Colchester Borough and Phase 4a which is due to extend the existing coverage in Epping Forest District is now due to complete by July 2020, rather than December 2019. The new timescales for Phase 3 have been updated on our website and interactive map. The Phase 4a cabinet areas and the addresses which will be served by them are being finalised in preparation for work to start and will be added to the website with build dates once confirmed in early 2019.

Superfast Essex and Gigaclear are sorry the timescale is changing and accept this will be disappointing to all communities eagerly waiting for the full fibre network to arrive.

Under Phase 3 it has taken Gigaclear longer than expected to complete and then validate the overall network design ready for the build to start, but work is underway and progressing now, with the first three cabinet areas in Uttlesford and Braintree being built.

Gigaclear is building an entirely new full fibre network to rural areas which in itself is complex - both in terms of negotiating permissions with third parties to physically dig up roads and laying new fibre cables and agreeing local road closures. Gigaclear is also growing at a rapid pace and there has been a lag in scaling its business processes, resulting in some network rollouts taking longer than anticipated. Gigaclear has recognised the need to commit more resource to the project and is doubling the size of its Essex team, including the addition of a dedicated local community liaison officer, and is also establishing an Essex-based office.

Gigaclear remains fully committed to building the planned network. The new timescales are robust and will be closely monitored as the work progresses.

We understand communities will be disappointed at the change in delivery timescales, however Superfast Essex is confident the inconvenience of the delay will be outweighed by the satisfaction that the quality of the new full fibre network will provide when it arrives, and the fact that the ultrafast network will be future proofed for years to come.


Openreach FTTP availability to be listed on website

Fibre

New information has been added to the Superfast Essex website about FTTP services made available by Openreach under this programme.  

The new page lists the addresses which have been upgraded with fibre directly to their property (Fibre-to-the-Premises) since the programme started and the list will be updated every three months with more addresses as work progresses. The new page can be found at www.superfastessex.org/FTTP.

FTTP is an alternative to Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) which has been the predominant technology used to date across the rest of the Superfast Essex programme, and which uses fibre-optic cables up to the street cabinet and then uses copper wires to connect to the property.

So far more than 2,400 homes and businesses have already been upgraded to access FTTP and there are thousands more planned.

We have recognised as more FTTP is being built as part of our programme, we needed a new way to share this information in parallel to our Openreach cabinet list for FTTC services which are updated every week. All addresses already able to access superfast broadband (FTTC or FTTP) will already be shown as pink on our interactive map too. 

If your address is listed on our FTTP page it means superfast broadband is available to you and you can upgrade your broadband - just follow the link to FTTP providers and contact one to upgrade.


Next steps for remaining areas not in upgrade plans

Superfast Essex is currently planning a Phase 4b rollout in Essex and continuing to explore options for further funding to do even more.

The current rollout has so far reached 115,000 homes and businesses and is expected to reach 154,600 by September 2020 under existing plans. Phase 4b and beyond aims to increase the superfast footprint beyond this.

Phase 4b will be funded in part by a DEFRA grant which is to be focused on upgrading some businesses across Essex to access fibre broadband, and in part by a Thurrock Council investment contribution which will be focused on rolling out fibre to some residents and businesses in Thurrock District.

Procurement for Phase 4b is currently underway and is expected to complete in Spring 2019. You can read more about our future plans as they evolve at: www.superfastessex.org/whatshappeningnext.

We understand there will still be some parts of Essex not able to access superfast broadband or able to benefit from these upcoming plans, and we are continuing to identify potential funding sources to extend coverage further.

We have updated our State Aid map as part of our ongoing monitoring of commercial broadband coverage from operators in Essex and this includes identifying 6,000 new addresses which are recognised as unable to access an existing superfast broadband service and not in plans to receive one by December 2019.

Superfast Essex therefore recognises there is still more investment needed however there is currently no guarantee if and when further funding may become available. In the meantime, we would encourage communities to explore what other options are available to help get them better connected. Along with the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme mentioned below, and the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme which provides an interim basic broadband solution for those with the lowest speeds, the Government also has some guidance options on its website which may be of interest regarding community-led schemes.


Changes to the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme

Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme logo

The success of the full fibre broadband scheme launched by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) earlier this year has called for changes in order to ensure as many businesses as possible can benefit from the scheme’s available funding.  The maximum value of the voucher available for eligible businesses is being reduced from the current £3,000 to £2,500, with residents still able to claim £500 when part of a group business project.

The high demand for the vouchers so far means the scheme’s funds are now expected to be committed a year earlier, and perhaps even sooner if the current success of the scheme continues to grow. Businesses are encouraged to “pool” their vouchers with neighbouring businesses in order for the scheme to reach more properties without the need for any additional funding.

The changes will come into effect from 26 November 2018 for individual business applications and 7 January 2019 for group applications.

The scheme allows businesses and surrounding homes to subsidise (and in many cases fully fund) the installation cost for a full fibre gigabit capable connection, regardless of whether they can access superfast speeds or not. Up to ten residents can be included in one SME application. As of November 2018, there are eight Essex businesses now benefiting from the scheme and a further 42 applications in the pipeline.

For full details on the scheme and how to apply visit: www.superfastessex.org/gigabitvoucher.


Girlguiding Anglia Digital Challenge badge launches

Super Sam Digital Challenge Badge

Superfast Essex has launched a challenge badge with Girlguiding Anglia aiming to inspire young people to help older relatives and friends do more online and be more confident with digital tasks and applications.

The Super Sam Digital Challenge Badge is open to all Essex members of Girlguiding Anglia to complete between now and 31st January 2019.

To achieve the Super Sam Digital Challenge Badge, members of Rainbows (age five to seven years), Brownies (age seven to 10 years), Guides (age 10 to 14 years) and Rangers (age 14 to 18 years), from within the three Essex county regions of Girlguiding Anglia (Essex North East, Essex South East and Essex West) must complete a selection of compulsory tasks followed by other age appropriate digital tasks as set out in the Digital Challenge pack.

This is one of a number of initiatives being supported by Superfast Essex to help encourage people to do more digitally and raise awareness of the possibilities of what can be achieved online as public and private services are increasingly being transformed to digital platforms.

Read more about Super Sam, view the photos from the launch and the Girlguiding Anglia YouTube video.