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Somerset village part-funds its own superfast broadband rollout

Wednesday, May 20th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The residents of a Somerset village finally have access to superfast broadband after partly funding the expansion of a local network themselves.

Villagers in Claverton, near Bath, have been working with BT for the past three years to bring connectivity to the village’s 70 homes.

The project involved laying four kilometres of overhead and underground cabling as well as installing two new green street cabinets.

One cabinet delivers superfast fibre broadband and the other carries standard telephony services such as phone calls and standard broadband over copper lines.

It is thought to be the first time a village has privately co-funded both types of cabinet and a new network infrastructure alongside BT.

Dr Rodger Sykes, a parish councillor and chief executive of a technology company, has led the local residents’ campaign.

He said: “We realised the high costs involved meant Claverton would not be upgraded as part of BT’s normal commercial fibre broadband roll-out for some time, so we set about working with the company to jointly solve the problem.

“It has been hard work over three years to get to where we are today both for the residents of Claverton and the BT people involved, but we have worked together very well."

Dr Sykes said it is significant that almost every household in the village made a contribution to Claverton’s superfast broadband fund, adding that residents’ internet experiences had been “transformed” by the upgrade.

'Trail-blazers'

He added: “Rather than just complaining and waiting for someone else to solve the problem, I’m very proud of the way the community got together and with BT’s help found a way forward. This is truly Big Society in action.”

“We have always been quite a tight knit community, but this initiative has involved almost every resident in the village and so we have been able to reach out to people with whom we previously had relatively little contact.”

He said the success of the project could lead to other community initiatives including providing wi-fi at the village church.

Bill Murphy, managing director of next generation access for BT, said: “The people of Claverton are true national trail-blazers and are setting the pace for rural communities through their collaboration with BT.

“Elsewhere, we’re working in partnership with local authorities and communities to make high-speed broadband available in the more challenging areas of the UK.

“There are many examples of us doing so, but this is the first village to work with us on creating an entirely new broadband network for the local community.”

Openreach CEO Joe Garner said: “I am thrilled that Openreach has successfully collaborated with the community of Claverton to deliver fibre broadband.

“As Openreach continues to bring fibre to more and more of the UK, this innovative community partnership is a leading example of how we are building Britain’s connected future.”

A spokesperson for Bath and North East Somerset Council said the project was a good example of a business and a community working together to achieve a set goal.

Openreach is investing more than £3bn in rolling out fibre broadband across the UK either through its own commercial programme or through government-led programmes such as Connecting Devon and Somerset, which is rolling out fibre broadband across the two counties.

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