Superfast Essex Programme Update - March 2020

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Coronavirus impact on Superfast Essex programme

In this unprecedented time of the Coronavirus pandemic we would like to reassure everyone that the Superfast Essex programme is continuing its rollout programme.

Currently Gigaclear and Openreach have advised their teams are able to continue to work while adhering to the Government measures put in place to prevent the virus spreading. We are monitoring the situation carefully and working closely with our delivery partners. 

However please note the Superfast Essex programme communications resource is being temporarily redeployed in order to support the Essex County Council response to the pandemic which means it will take longer for us to answer your enquiries submitted via our contact form and social media. We would encourage you to make the use of the interactive map and information on our website to help answer any questions as much as possible. We will do our best to respond any enquiries sent to us as soon as we can.

We will also publish any significant updates to this position at: www.superfastessex.org/updates.

Openreach and Gigaclear have added information to their websites in respect of the pandemic.


Openreach reaches new superfast delivery milestone

Openreach engineer working at cabinet

Thousands more homes and businesses can access superfast speeds following the completion of Openreach’s Phase 2 superfast fibre network rollout.

The build, which began in summer 2016, has enabled 60,000 more properties countywide to access superfast speeds of 30Mbps and above over the past three years. The deployment included a mix of superfast fibre technology upgrades to existing cabinets, as well as new full fibre cabling direct to homes and businesses.

The final reports from Openreach confirming which addresses were upgraded by Phase 2 were provided to Superfast Essex in February and the interactive map has now been updated to show a pink dot for the addresses which can now access a superfast broadband service.

Work is continuing under the remaining phases of the Openreach network build, Phase 3 and Phase 4, which are running concurrently. More than 7,000 homes and businesses have already been upgraded. A further 7,000 remain in plans for an upgrade between now and December 2021. You can read about the different phases of the rollout, the areas they cover and the timescales on our website.  

The remaining build is predominantly full fibre which is more complex because of the additional work required to install new fibre optic cabling. It brings with it a greater potential for unexpected engineering issues which can take longer to resolve for work to be completed. In anticipation of the extra time required to overcome these issues, Openreach has extended the timescale for its Phase 3 rollout covering Castle Point, Colchester, Maldon and Rochford by a further three months, meaning it is now expected to complete in September 2020 along with the work in Tendring. The interactive map has been updated. Keep checking here for the latest progress.

Remember nobody is automatically connected once the network is upgraded, you have to contact a service provider and ask to switch: www.superfastessex.org/getconnected.


Gigaclear ultrafast network now available to more

Gigaclear engineer working at a fibre cabinet

More homes and businesses can access ultrafast broadband speeds on the Gigaclear network as work progresses in Uttlesford and Braintree Districts.

More than 500 homes and businesses can now access the Gigaclear network in Uttlesford District from live cabinets in Birchanger, Stansted Mountfitchet, Gaunts End and Widdington as a result of our rollout plus a further 1,000 which have been upgraded in the same areas under Gigaclear’s commercial plans. Work is also underway in Debden Green, Little Bardfield, Hatfield Heath and Howlett End.

In Braintree District more than 700 homes and businesses can access ultrafast broadband on the Gigaclear network in Cornish Hall End, Great Saling, Ridgewell, Panfield and Bocking West as a result of the Superfast Essex programme. Almost a further 2,000 have also benefited due to Gigaclear’s commercial build in the same areas. Work is also underway in Great Notley, Row Green, Great Henny and Gosfield with more services currently expected to go live in Great Notley and Row Green next month.

Plans and detailed designs for the network build being extended in Epping Forest District are also progressing.

All work remains on track to be completed by December 2021. Keep checking the Superfast Essex interactive map for the latest information. Enter your address via the Gigaclear Postcode Checker to register for direct updates from Gigaclear about the build in your local area.

Remember nobody is automatically connected once the network is upgraded, you have to contact a service provider and ask to switch: www.superfastessex.org/getconnected.


Full fibre funding for rural homes and businesses

Martin Bristow

Free Government funding remains available to help rural residents and businesses access full fibre broadband.

The Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme (RGVS) provides support towards the installation costs of a full fibre, gigabit-capable broadband connection in rural areas. It was introduced to run alongside the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS) but the funding for GBVS has almost run out. Applicants may still wish to pursue both schemes but Government has warned that the majority of GBVS funding has already been allocated and for that reason is encouraging applications for the rural voucher scheme which still has funding available.

The RGVS (www.superfastessex.org/ruralvoucher) offers businesses in rural areas up to £3,500 and residents in rural areas up to £1,500. The Rural Gigabit Voucher does not require residents to be part of a business-led group. Under the GBVS (www.superfastessex.org/gigabitvoucher), businesses can claim up to £2,500 and residents £500, as long as they are part of a business-led group. A maximum of ten residents per business is permitted. 

Across Essex, more than 165 residents and businesses have already transformed their broadband speed with a full fibre connection and 310 GBVS applications and 85 RGVS applications remain in progress. Find out how the GBVS helped future-proof Essex-based businesses - This Is Fever, Roding Tech, Hoxton Macs and Neon Digital: www.superfastessex.org/casestudies.

When asked if they would recommend applying to the voucher schemes to others, Martin Bristow from Roding Tech said: "Certainly, if people are looking to move into the cloud and want a reliable, faster connection - it's a no brainer. I can’t imagine going back to where we were before!"


Smart tech can help reduce loneliness and isolation

Elizabeth, 91, from Epping lives in a smart home

Smart technology is helping to transform the lives of older people and people with disabilities in Essex and helping them to stay connected with family and friends. It could help you or someone you know feel more independent and less lonely or isolated.

Digital Boomers has helped to install tech such as smart speakers, care tablets, video doorbells, motion sensors and panic buttons in Essex homes to support people with care needs. It is helping them to live more independently, stay living in their own home, feel safer, less lonely and more in control of their own lives, and giving their families peace of mind and reassurance, particularly if they don't live nearby.

We visited three smart homes in Essex and captured their stories on film. Watch their videos and contact Digital Boomers to find out more about how smart technology could help you or someone you know at home.


Have your say on the future of rural Essex

Rural Uttlesford

The Essex Rural Partnership wants to find out what matters most to the people that live and work in Essex’s rural communities, including views on broadband access.

You are invited to respond to a public consultation to help shape the priorities for rural Essex residents and workers over the next four years. A new strategy being written aims to represent the needs of rural Essex to all levels of Government and will provide evidence towards future funding bid initiatives. 

Essex is a surprisingly rural county with 72% of its land area classed as rural. The Essex Rural Partnership  brings together a wide range of organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors to co-ordinate action on the major challenges facing the county’s rural areas.

Have your say by taking part in the consultation by 30th March 2020 . It will take around 10-15 minutes of your time.


How digital are you? Have you got the ‘Tech Factor’?

Robot vacuum

Do you ask “Ok Google, is it going to rain today?” each morning before you leave the house? Does a small robot vacuum your floor or mow your lawn? Do your children think Alexa is another family member?

Superfast Essex is searching for ‘Essex’s techiest family’. Smart technology is now available to make nearly every job easier, so we want to hear from you if you have fully embraced a smarter way of life.

This can range from wireless speakers playing different music in each room, to controlling your heating via an app, or perhaps even talking to the postman through your doorbell. Take a moment to take stock of what digital devices you use throughout your home.

If you’re nodding along because this sounds like you, or you have a tech-savvy friend or family member with a gadget for everything, we’d welcome the opportunity for a digital chat. Get in touch with us.