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Owner of overlooked Devon holiday cottages proposes own fibre broadband network

Monday, May 18th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

The owner of an estate of holiday cottages is appealing for help solving his broadband problems.

Ralph Rayner, director of Ashcombe Country Cottages, near Dawlish, Devon, wants to build a fibre optic broadband network to bring faster and more reliable speeds to people who live in and visit the area.

But he has been told the only solution is to pay for a leased line from BT as it will not be possible to build his own.

He is now hoping someone who has built their own network in a similar way can help him find a solution.

After being told there are no plans to roll fibre out to the area, Mr Rayner started looking into building his own network, using local expertise and income from a solar farm on the estate.

But when he spoke to BT, he was told that the local exchange in nearby Dawlish could not support the infrastructure they hoped to put in place.

“We run a holiday cottage business here, with about 136 beds, so for people staying here it’s a year-round operation and obviously very busy in the summer,” he told Cable.co.uk.

“We have people coming from all parts of the country to come and stay here, which is lovely. It’s a getaway, but people do like their connectivity.”

Mr Rayner can get 1Mbps download speed and 0.27Mbps upload at his home, which is four miles from Dawlish, but he said it is “extremely unreliable” and suffers when large volumes of people try to use it.

“My office, which is 2.5 miles from the exchange, is near to 2-3Mbps depending on which way the wind is blowing and that’s not that reliable.

“Again when you add in a huge number of extra people on holiday here plus we have four to five businesses operating from properties within the area, then you have a serious problem.”

'Plans for the area'

Local MP Anne Marie Morris (Con – Newton Abbot) and councillors are aware of the issue, but the size of the community makes it difficult, Mr Rayner said.

“When I rang BT and said what are the plans for this area, they said we don’t have any plans for the area. Nothing.

“That was a shock, it’s not a case of, ‘let’s wait and do it’, they aren’t going to do it at all.

“They don’t seem to acknowledge the 4,000 visitors per year who come here. Tourists bring in £1m a year in the local area, we employ 30-40 people.

“It’s a good local economy that is self-sustaining. The next logical stage is to make it better and having something that works for everybody.”

While they search for a solution, they have installed 10Mbps satellite broadband for the main complex cottages on the estate to use.

But Mr Rayner said he did not want to delay sorting out the issue, with the growing need for more bandwidth and increased reliance on the internet for everyday life.

“The longer we delay in sorting our problems out, the bigger the problems are going to be.

“What I was trying to do was build an infrastructure as a one-off cost and then run it as a normal broadband network.”


His dream is to provide build a network from one ‘superspeed’ connection, encouraging people to use Voice over IP (VoIP) for calls, and saving them money on their individual bills.

“That’s my nirvana. It’s a case of which process is going to work.

“We are really, really interested in hearing from someone who says, ‘no, they have got it all wrong, there is a way’.”

He said the solar farm would bring in around £6,500 a year for 25 years, but he hoped that would not all have to go on broadband.

“What I’m trying to avoid is an ongoing contract each year which is going to eat up all this community funding.

“We would end up paying that for 25 years and then after 25 years when the community fund ceases to be, we’re back where we started.

“That £6,500 a year we could spend on all sorts but this is the most pressing one. But I would rather not spend that ad infinitum for 25 years.”

A spokesperson for BT told Cable.co.uk: “Unfortunately Mr Rayner’s property is too far away from the nearest fibre broadband cabinet to deliver superfast speeds.

"We are happy to explore other options and have suggested that a leased line may be the most cost effective solution for him.”

Mr Rayner said the area goes without police presence, street lighting, and gas in some cases but connectivity is a priority.

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