Wayleave progress

Securing the required Wayleaves for the network build appears to be gaining momentum across both Dales with farmers meeting together, independently of Fibre GarDen. Farmers with adjoining land are discussing amongst themselves what the best route would be and then approaching Fibre GarDen direct.

Discussions have also been held with the Footpath Ranger who has advised where footpaths and bridge crossings can be used. This has been extremely useful and is likely to reduce network build costs.

Whilst we do have a detailed network route plan, it is not until we talk with individual land owners and start building the network will the final route be determined.

Fibre GarDen has also commissioned some professional help from ADAS who are visiting landowners in the area.

Many thanks to all involved in securing and providing advice on securing wayleaves.

Fibre Garden appeared on TechQT

John Colton of Fibre GarDen appeared on TechQT during the Broadband week last week. 
(TechQT is a newly launched online and live discussion show – think BBC Question Time but all about tech news and issues using said tech.)

The full show featuring John can be viewed on Youtube  . The TechQT channel with all shows can be found here

John joined the panel from Denmark, where his connectivity was a marked improvement on that currently available in Garsdale, which would not have allowed him to partake using the Hangout On Air technology that many now take for granted.

The TechQT team are following Fibre Garden’s progress avidly due to family and local connections with the Settle-Carlisle Railway and nearby Wensleydale, and an overwhelming desire to see more rural communities adopt FTTH rather than a copper solution to the broadband problem. 

The Build & Benefit solution as deployed in nearby Fell End, we feel, should be avoided at all costs because it does not give the advantages that a locally owned, innovative, full fibre asset using all of your available local resources can provide. To single out just one of the many skillets Fibre GarDen has available – Lucid Optical Services, one of the foremost fibre optic training companies in the UK is on your very own doorstep! 

The TechQT team wishes you the very best for 2014 in overcoming the hurdles to deliver the true, full fibre solution you have envisaged for every home, farm and business in this Dales/Cumbrian community.

(Perhaps we should invite Cumbria County Council and Fibre GarDen reps onto a show to explain precisely which policies are being used to determine whether FG may be descoped from the DisConnecting Cumbria pot?!)

Post submitted by Lindsey and the TechQT team

Digital Inclusion Strategy: helping everyone to get online

From the Cabinet Office: We have launched a strategy and a Digital Inclusion Charter to help more people get online.

Today we are launching a Digital Inclusion Strategy that aims to reduce the number of people who are offline by 25% by 2016.As part of this, we have also launched a new Digital Inclusion Charter.

 

 

The charter brings together 40 organisations from all sectors who are committed to reducing the number of people who are offline by 25% by 2016, and a by further 25% every 2 years after that.

Read the Government Digital Inclusion Strategy and sign up to the UK Digital Inclusion Charter.

CityFibre Tie up York Deal with Sky & TalkTalk

incaCityFibre has today announced a deal with Sky and TalkTalk to build out gigabit FTTH infrastructure in York with other cities to follow. 

INCA welcomes this step by major service providers to get behind the provision of alternative ‘transformational digital infrastructure’ in a major British city.  

CityFibre is a prominent INCA member and their Director of Regulation & Public Policy, Mark Collins will speak at the Transform Digital Conference on 8th May alongside Grant Forsyth of Sky. Yesterday INCA announced that Virgin Media will also speak at the conference.

This project in the City of York gives Sky, TalkTalk and CityFIbre to opportunity to fully trial the deployment and take-up of gigabit ultrafast services. It also marks a positive step to introduce infrastructure competition to the UK broadband market. 

Read the full article…

Correction to contact information

It would appear that we need to correct the contact and role information that we published in our article Dent Parish Council Meeting, many apologies to all concerned:

Jo Stephenson is the leader of the Liberal Democrat group and deputy leader of the council. Jo.Stephenson@cumbria.gov.uk 

Stewart Young is the leader of the Labour group and leader of the Council.  Stewart.Young@cumbria.gov.uk

James Airy is the leader of the Conservative Group and leader of the opposition. James.Airey@cumbria.gov.uk

Chris Dyer – email of support to Tim Farron MP

Dear Tim Farron

Connecting Cumbria states: “Our vision is that everyone in Cumbria – every resident, business, organisation and visitor – has access to superfast broadband.”

Sadly reality falls short of the vision as Connecting Cumbria says its “project is still on track to deliver fibre broadband to at least 93% of properties, with the remaining 7% set to receive speeds of at least 2Mb/s.” I am writing as I live in Dentdale, one of the areas likely to fall into that 7% and where properties that already, in theory, get 2Mb/s over copper cables actually receive no service at all.

Fortunately there is an alternative. Fibre GarDen is a community cooperative that aims to provide superfast broadband via fibre optic cable to every property throughout Garsdale and Dentdale (not just to the nearest exchange or telecoms cabinet). Fibre GarDen is eligible to receive around £325,000 funding from Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (having already raised matching funding from investors within the community). This grant is also potentially available to BT, which is contracted by Connecting Cumbria to provide the inferior service outlined above, but only one organisation can receive the money.

The decision on the allocation of this money needs to be made by Cumbria County Council, supported by one council officer, Alan Cook. My concern is that at a public meeting in Dent on 7 April 2014 Mr. Cook said several things that mean the decision-making process is far from transparent. Specifically Mr. Cook said he would not receive any communications from residents (obviously I will be writing to him directly anyway), that the matter was entirely policy-driven and that he would determine the timescale for the process.

To date it seems that Mr. Cook has been unwilling to make clear the procedures and policies being used to make an evaluation of the Fibre GarDen project. Unless the criteria on which the allocation of this funding are made public it is impossible for residents to influence or challenge the process or to have any faith in its impartiality, particularly as the county council already has a contract with BT.

I would be grateful if you can use your position as my MP to try to ensure that the procedures and policies on which the evaluation of the Fibre GarDen project are being made are put into the public domain. This is already a David and Goliath contest, surely David doesn’t need to be blindfolded as well.

Yours sincerely

Christopher Dyer

Chris Dyer – email to Alan Cook

Dear Alan Cook

Unfortunately I was unable to be present at the public meeting that you addressed in Dent on Monday night (7 March 2014).

I would be grateful if you could make clear for me the procedures and policies being used to evaluate the Fibre GarDen and BT projects for Dentdale and Garsdale in relation to de-scoping for the purposes of DEFRA funding. Or if you can point me to where the information is set out I am happy to find it for myself. I am sure you understand that unless the criteria on which the allocation of this funding are made public it is impossible for residents to influence or challenge the process or to have any faith in its impartiality, particularly as Cumbria County Council already has a contract with BT.

Yours sincerely

Christopher Dyer

Peter Taafe – email of support to Tim Farron MP

Dear Mr Farron

I am sure you will be aware of the discussions taking place currently re the installation of broadband into Garsdale and Dent.

The availability of superfast broadband to the full communities of both valleys, rather than just a select and lucky few, is increasingly going to be critical to the families and businesses in the future. Indeed, I can’t actually envisage how a child for example can adequately do their homework which is so web dependent these days without that access. Without that access, it is self-evident that those communities not so served will be blighted in the future.

The obstacles reported by Fibre Garden to their project which must be to the benefit of those communities is to say the very least disconcerting, and contrary to the spirit and intention evidenced by HMG to the rollout of that broadband speed.

I can only encourage you to consider this carefully and lend your full and active support to Fibre Garden in their fight 

Peter Taaffe

Dent Parish Council Meeting

Thank you to all who attended the dent Parish Council AGM on 7th April. I attended as a member of the public as I don’t reside in the Parish and so was unable to speak but it was quite clear there was no need for me to do so! I am told that there was a greater turnout from the community than anyone has seen before and the strength of feeling was very evident when the subject turned to Broadband for the community.

From the outset it was good that the Chairman acknowledged the importance of super-fast broadband as the 4th utility and that Fibre GarDen “was doing an excellent job“. The meeting was attended by Alan Cook, Senior Program Manager for the Connecting Cumbria Project who had been invited to present to the meeting. Not surprisingly, many of his comments we would agree with, we were particularly pleased that he placed social digital inclusion so high on his list. By doing so, he was arguing that it is important that everyone receives the same coverage to give them the same social and economic opportunities. This is exactly what we have been working towards – to ensure that all members of our community receive superfast broadband irrespective of where they live. It is unfortunate that despite this excellent objective, not all of Cumbria will receive the same coverage and we know (and have blogged about this) that Garsdale will not receive any BT investment and that only the area immediately around Dent will benefit from the BT investment in Dentdale. Alan repeatedly referred to the scope of the project which will cover 93% of Cumbria. Unfortunately, I think those present knew full well that this did not include our communities and were unimpressed by the statistic. Neither was the announcement of an additional £17m received from central government of note because there is no sign that it will be invested to provide superfast (24mbps) into deep rural communities. Amongst those present were people who have worked in telecommunications and who swiftly dismissed the offering of emerging technologies

Alan eventually reached the core of the matter which is that Connecting Cumbria Project hold a contract with BT for this area, which includes the use of public funds. These can only be used once in an area for the same purpose and therefore in order for the Fibre GarDen project to proceed using public money, a de-scoping exercise need to be undertaken that will remove the use of public funds in this area from the Connecting Cumbria Project. He made it clear that Fibre GarDen “are doing a fantastic job” and are “very professional” so that the de-scoping exercise is no reflection on Fibre GarDen. The County Council needs to be confident that Fibre GarDen is sustainable and will evaluate the two contracts (BT and Fibre GarDen) to decide on the most reliable service (This prompted a lot of comment from the floor about the poor service experienced from BT and that BT had just been named as the telecommunications company with the worst customer service record!). In the event that the Council decide this then an impact assessment would be required to be undertaken by BT at modest cost to the Council. The initial decision would be taken in June and the result of any impact assessment would be presented to Cumbria County Council for a decision by its Members, probably in September.

Alan Cook made it clear on several occasions that the Council has absolute right to veto any decision to release public funds to Fibre GarDen and stated that it was a condition of the funding award made by DEFRA. This is factually incorrect. Amongst the many conditions placed on that award, this was not one of them.

It is fair to say that this information caused considerable frustration, even more so when Alan made it clear that he would not receive any communication from residents, that the matter was entirely policy driven through an assessment of the contracts and that only he would determine the timeframe of seeking an impact assessment from BT. The fact that the decision took no account of the quality of service (fibre to every home) caused further frustration and disappointment and the Meeting urged those present to write to Tim Farron supporting Fibre GarDen and to ensure the right decision was made.

Perhaps it is inevitable that there were some things I was disappointed with. Alan Cook said that work was ongoing with Fibre Garden and that he was in regular communication with us. What he failed to say is that he has consistently refused to answer our emails about which procedures and policies are being used to make an evaluation of the Fibre GarDen project. This was consistent with the fact that he was unable to answer the challenge that Cumbria County Council is no longer independent in its decision-making because it has already entered into a contract with BT.

It is very clear that the next battle we face is a political one! This really is an area where we would value support from the community and the more community members that write to express their views about the importance of superfast broadband, their scepticism about the contract which has been awarded to BT and who challenge the decision-making process within Connecting Cumbria, the better. The greatest risk we face is that because we are an isolated community which is a long way away from County offices in Carlisle, we will be dismissed as irrelevant and forgotten. If you wish to write, the following email addresses may prove useful:

Alan Cook – Alan.Cook@cumbria.gov.uk Senior Program Manager for the Connecting Cumbria Project

Gillian Elliott – gillian.elliott@cumbria.gov.uk Alan Cook reports to her

Tim Farron – tim@timfarron.co.uk MP for Dentdale and Garsdale

Councillor Nick Cotton  Nicholas.Cotton@cumbria.gov.uk Lib Dem South Lakeland

Councillor Stewart Young, CCC – Stewart.Young@cumbria.gov.uk Leader of Labour Party in the Council

Councillor Jo Stephenson, CCC Conservative – Jo.Stephenson@cumbria.gov.uk Leader of Conservative Party in the Council

Councillor Ian Stewart, CCC Lib Dem – Ian.Stewart@cumbria.gov.uk Leader of Lib Dem Party in the Council

But above all – thank you so much for all your support!

 

 

Dent Parish Council Meeting

Thank you to all who attended the dent Parish Council AGM on 7th April. I attended as a member of the public as I don’t reside in the Parish and so was unable to speak but it was quite clear there was no need for me to do so! I am told that there was a greater turnout from the community than anyone has seen before and the strength of feeling was very evident when the subject turned to Broadband for the community.

From the outset it was good that the Chairman acknowledged the importance of super-fast broadband as the 4th utility and that Fibre GarDen “was doing an excellent job“. The meeting was attended by Alan Cook, Senior Program Manager for the Connecting Cumbria Project who had been invited to present to the meeting. Not surprisingly, many of his comments we would agree with, we were particularly pleased that he placed social digital inclusion so high on his list. By doing so, he was arguing that it is important that everyone receives the same coverage to give them the same social and economic opportunities. This is exactly what we have been working towards – to ensure that all members of our community receive superfast broadband irrespective of where they live. It is unfortunate that despite this excellent objective, not all of Cumbria will receive the same coverage and we know (and have blogged about this) that Garsdale will not receive any BT investment and that only the area immediately around Dent will benefit from the BT investment in Dentdale. Alan repeatedly referred to the scope of the project which will cover 93% of Cumbria. Unfortunately, I think those present knew full well that this did not include our communities and were unimpressed by the statistic. Neither was the announcement of an additional £17m received from central government of note because there is no sign that it will be invested to provide superfast (24mbps) into deep rural communities. Amongst those present were people who have worked in telecommunications and who swiftly dismissed the offering of emerging technologies

Alan eventually reached the core of the matter which is that Connecting Cumbria Project hold a contract with BT for this area, which includes the use of public funds. These can only be used once in an area for the same purpose and therefore in order for the Fibre GarDen project to proceed using public money, a de-scoping exercise need to be undertaken that will remove the use of public funds in this area from the Connecting Cumbria Project. He made it clear that Fibre GarDen “are doing a fantastic job” and are “very professional” so that the de-scoping exercise is no reflection on Fibre GarDen. The County Council needs to be confident that Fibre GarDen is sustainable and will evaluate the two contracts (BT and Fibre GarDen) to decide on the most reliable service (This prompted a lot of comment from the floor about the poor service experienced from BT and that BT had just been named as the telecommunications company with the worst customer service record!). In the event that the Council decide this then an impact assessment would be required to be undertaken by BT at modest cost to the Council. The initial decision would be taken in June and the result of any impact assessment would be presented to Cumbria County Council for a decision by its Members, probably in September.

Alan Cook made it clear on several occasions that the Council has absolute right to veto any decision to release public funds to Fibre GarDen and stated that it was a condition of the funding award made by DEFRA. This is factually incorrect. Amongst the many conditions placed on that award, this was not one of them.

It is fair to say that this information caused considerable frustration, even more so when Alan made it clear that he would not receive any communication from residents, that the matter was entirely policy driven through an assessment of the contracts and that only he would determine the timeframe of seeking an impact assessment from BT. The fact that the decision took no account of the quality of service (fibre to every home) caused further frustration and disappointment and the Meeting urged those present to write to Tim Farron supporting Fibre GarDen and to ensure the right decision was made.

Perhaps it is inevitable that there were some things I was disappointed with. Alan Cook said that work was ongoing with Fibre Garden and that he was in regular communication with us. What he failed to say is that he has consistently refused to answer our emails about which procedures and policies are being used to make an evaluation of the Fibre GarDen project. This was consistent with the fact that he was unable to answer the challenge that Cumbria County Council is no longer independent in its decision-making because it has already entered into a contract with BT.

It is very clear that the next battle we face is a political one! This really is an area where we would value support from the community and the more community members that write to express their views about the importance of superfast broadband, their scepticism about the contract which has been awarded to BT and who challenge the decision-making process within Connecting Cumbria, the better. The greatest risk we face is that because we are an isolated community which is a long way away from County offices in Carlisle, we will be dismissed as irrelevant and forgotten. If you wish to write, the following email addresses may prove useful:

Alan Cook – Alan.Cook@cumbria.gov.uk Senior Program Manager for the Connecting Cumbria Project

Gillian Elliott – gillian.elliott@cumbria.gov.uk Alan Cook reports to her

Tim Farron – tim@timfarron.co.uk MP for Dentdale and Garsdale

Councillor Stewart Young, CCC – Stewart.Young@cumbria.gov.uk Leader of Labour Party in the Council

Councillor Jo Stephenson, CCC Conservative – Jo.Stephenson@cumbria.gov.uk Leader of Conservative Party in the Council

Councillor Ian Stewart, CCC Lib Dem – Ian.Stewart@cumbria.gov.uk Leader of Lib Dem Party in the Council

But above all – thank you so much for all your support!