The following are the current options (as I understand them) for improving the broadband service in the village.
BT Community Fibre Partnership
This option is now turning into a reality, see https://goodleighparish.org.uk/fibre for more details.
Connecting Devon & Somerset (CDS) - Airband
Airband have taken over the service that was initially implemented by WildWestNet. The service is a wireless line of sight solution (I believe it is based on microwave links). I was in dialogue with WildWestNet several years ago (starting in Feb 2013) and facilitated a conversation about fitting a signal box on the church tower. The installation was approved by the church, but Airband have declined to progress the option, I suspect (though I do not know) it is because they plan to use the radio mast proposed for the top of the hill behind the church.
Airband has been awarded a contract by CDS for our area to provide super fast broadband to all places that do not already have it (enter your post code here to see an 'announcement' that states it will be done by the end of 2019). I contacted Airband, but failed to get any insight on timescales, however CDS have subsequently provided the following information:
- Goodleigh is scheduled for phase 3 (of 4), which is (quote) 'assumed to take place towards the end of 2018, approximately'. Phase 1 timescales are not 'concrete' yet and there is a possibility of some sites moving forwards or backwards between phases.
- Airband will be replacing WildWestNet infrastructure as part of the rollout, the replacement infrastructure is described as 'future proofed'.
- Residential tariffs will provide up to 30Mbps, business tariffs can generally provide up to 100Mbps (at additional cost).
- The technology can in theory provide up to 1Gbps, but the cost associated with this is likely to be high and there has been no demand for such speeds in the CDS area yet.
A parishioner made us aware that in 2016 they had been successful in gaining funding via the Connecting Devon and Somerset broadband voucher scheme (see link below). I have previously checked this out and based on my post code we were not eligible for the scheme. The funding is currently on hold, but it might be worthwhile checking again in the future, it could well be that there is a split in the village between those eligible and those who are not!
I believe Loxhore residents collectively used the voucher scheme to fund an improvement to their broadband provision, I don't recall whether their solution is dependent on the Airband service or whether it manages to hook directly into the BT Openreach network.
Mobile Broadband Option 1
There is a company called Exmoor Technology that can install an external antenna that may be able to pick up a 4G signal and send it to a router inside the house. This uses the same technology as mobile phones, but the antenna is bigger so it can pick up a signal more effectively.
I have had a survey here (so middle'ish of the village), which has indicated the potential for around 25Mb/s download speed, although up to 40Mb/s is theoretically possible depending on location.
The downside is the cost. Installation is approximately £600 and the monthly cost is £37.50 for up to 100GB with an 18 month contract term with EE. The monthly cost has had a 50% discount applied, i.e. it would normally be £75, and if I have understood things correctly this discount is specifically available to rural customers.
Mobile Broadband Option 2
A planning application for a mobile mast at the top of the hill behind the church has been submitted, which if approved has the potential to provide fast broadband via a mobile signal. This could be good enough for some people, it will be fast and reliable, it can become expensive depending on usage, but definitely worth considering.
What follows about the planning application is a little vague because it is an area I know little about!
Under normal circumstances telecommunications companies have a right to erect masts etc. The telcos notify planning authorities with a prior notification application, in these scenarios the telco can then erect the mast, however if the planning authority consider there is a siting or appearance issue they can reject the prior notification application and the telco will need to submit a prior approval application instead.
I believe that is the reason the initial application for the mast in Goodleigh has been refused, my assumption is that this is normal and the operator will subsequently submit a prior approval application, though obviously this is conjecture on my behalf!
Implementing a purely community-led broadband provision is a significant undertaking. I have considered it often, but I simply do not have enough time, if anyone feels they have the skills and time to take something like this forward I would be happy to assist.
Also please remember that the parish council, has little income and is made up of unpaid volunteers, the majority of which have a day job, so taking on a major infrastructure project is not a realistic expectation and there are no other organisations that would be able to manage this.
Lobbying BT Openreach
There have been suggestions that sending over 200 emails to BT Openreach requesting fibre broadband will make them consider installing it. I am highly doubtful that a multi-national commercial organisation that services all the houses in the area will fail to notice that there are less houses than emails. While I will not try to dissuade any one from trying this, equally I will not spend time on it because I think ultimately it will be wasted effort, sorry.
Longer term the theory is that places that miss out on super fast broadband will be top of the list when fibre to the premises is rolled out. I am sceptical and the timescales are years rather than months, but if it does happen it is likely to provide amazingly fast access (300Mb/s).