Published: 15 March 2022

Apologies for the long silence and thank you for your patience….

Based on our survey last year, around 70 of you expressed interest in taking part in a potential community fibre broadband scheme in/around Ecchinswell  that built on similar schemes being developed in Wolverton Common, Ibworth, Burghclere etc.  Government grants from the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) were a critical part of making this work.  Given the number expressing interest and the grant scheme then running, we expected that we might have a viable scheme leveraging the successful Hampshire Community Broadband (HCB) experience and expertise.  We laid out a map of our potential participants and had a number of discussions with HCB with a view to getting a first-pass network design and financial feasibility prepared.

However, during the last 6 months, the whole DCMS grant scheme and process has been upended and many projects a bit more advanced than ours stopped in their tracks awaiting clarification of a new scheme.

DCMS now seem to be setting up a tender for letting contracts for grant supported fibre roll out in areas of Hampshire not already connected – timing is not certain and there may be no bids for lower-population rural areas.  We have been told that each tendering company (Openreach , Virgin , Gigaclear and City Fibre) can bid for the parts they want to build. There is no requirement to quote for all of Hampshire…  This may leave all or some of us as we are.

There is a combination of options open to us all at this stage are:

a)                Wait and see what happens in the above process…..our near-term expectations are not high.

b)               Individuals take steps to improve their broadband access via wireless 4G/5G connections run by Vodafone/O2 etc or a satellite system like Starlink that is now being rolled out.  We are aware that a number of residents have gone down these routes with useful uplifts in speed.  Costs are higher than phone line based systems but all those we have heard from find it worthwhile.

c)                Efforts are continued to progress a community scheme but grant support may be very limited and/or hard to land and only a very limited number of residents might want to commit to an expensive, complex high risk scheme.  We do not recommend this.

Sorry not to be able to bring better news – we will bring you updates as and when we hear something and can put you in touch with other residents who have taken option b) above if you want explore these.

Feel free to come back with any questions

Ed, John Rupert