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Working together means that communities can access better broadband

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 15, 2013

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Superfast Cornwall, a partnership programme between the EU, BT and Cornwall Council, will make Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly one of the best connected places in the world by the time the programme completes in 2014. Although we are focused on this global objective, our day to day work is very local. We are working with Cornish communities on an individual basis, finding the best solution for each. And the issues we face are different in just about every community, so tailor-made solutions are being created. When it comes to superfast broadband, it certainly is not a case of 'one size fits all'.

Within the last month, engineers from BT's local network business Openreach overcame a number of infrastructure challenges to bring superfast broadband to Coombe, a village which previously had limited access to broadband.

The village of Coombe is served by a telephone exchange 7km away at the other side of Grampound Road. Around 20 years ago, the demand for more telephone lines in the village was met by installing a point-point microwave radio link from a pole on a hill north east of the village, linking directly back to the exchange building. However, the microwave link prevented some villagers from receiving broadband services as broadband ADSL requires a copper line from the exchange to the customer. While it was possible to provide a small copper cable to Coombe from an existing location nearby, it only had enough capacity for about 50 customers. Providing a bigger cable along the narrow lane back to Grampound Road would have required several kilometres of new underground duct, and the small number of customers who would benefit could not support the high cost of this work. Those who could get broadband using the copper cable were limited to slow speeds because of the long distance back to the exchange building.

Openreach explored a variety of routes to get to the village and, ultimately, 17km of fibre was installed, of which 1km consisted of brand new poles for aerial fibre. The project took 11 months of intensive work to complete involving no less than 14 different departments.

Openreach engineers' perseverance in troubleshooting against a multitude of infrastructure challenges such as this one is a key factor in why we are able to achieve so much progress.

The Roseland Peninsula is another area that now has superfast fibre optic broadband. As one of the most rural and poorly served parts of Cornwall, the Roseland has traditionally been a "notspot, with little or no access to acceptable broadband speeds. Residents and businesses in parts of the Portscatho and Gerrans area are now able to order fibre optic broadband with downstream speeds of up to 80 Mbps. This represents a transformation for the network on the Roseland Peninsula. Using cutting edge technologies and a new fibre cable crossing at the King Harry Ferry, we are aiming to deliver a new fibre optic broadband infrastructure which will benefit hundreds more homes and businesses.

On the Roseland, we have worked with an online community, Roseland Online, which reaches out to residents across south central Cornwall and throughout the world. We have worked closely with Roseland Online over the past year to gauge levels of local interest in faster broadband and to ensure that the local population was kept informed regarding build progress. The outcome is a testament to the constructive partnership between Superfast Cornwall and this local community.

These two recent successes echo the great partnerships we developed earlier with the local community in Blisland, a remote village on Bodmin Moor, and also the community in Trispen, a notorious 'not spot'. In both these places, businesses and residents can now experience superfast broadband speeds. Here too, we worked closely with the local communities to gauge demand and the engineers were able to come up with ingenious solutions. In many areas, for example Whitstone, Kilkhampton and Leedstown, the community involvement goes as far as developing volunteers to teach ICT skills. Right across the project team, everyone is determined to overcome any obstacles. And, when you combine that with the enthusiasm and focus of Cornish communities, you have a winning combination that is quite unique.

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