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Staffordshire community split in two by access to fibre broadband

Wednesday, November 4th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

A Staffordshire community is literally being split down the middle by access to superfast broadband.

The villages of Tixall and Ingestre form a joint parish but while the majority of Ingestre residents can look forward to getting superfast broadband in 2016, their Tixall counterparts remain in the ‘final 5%’ of the country that is unlikely to form part of any rollout.

According to one resident, it means one half of the vibrant rural community has no choice but to wait on the “funding lottery” to see whether residents get “reliable, let alone superfast, broadband”.

The situation in the joint parish – which is already fighting the HS2 high speed rail project as the route will run through the villages – was highlighted recently at a public meeting.

Tixall resident Martin Ansell chaired the meeting, which was attended by local MP Jeremy Lefroy, and representatives from Staffordshire County Council and BT.

He said: “The bottom line is it’s good news and bad news.

“Half of our joint parish, Ingestre, are going to get superfast broadband.”

Ingestre is expected to be included as part of the Superfast Staffordshire rollout, which covers those areas not already covered by a commercial rollout, with fibre hoped to arrive in June 2016.

“However, the other half of this joint parish, Tixall, will remain amongst the national 5% deprived of reliable and superfast broadband,” Mr Ansell added.

The area is served by four different telephone exchanges, with many homes close to the furthest distance possible for reliable broadband delivered by copper cables.

“Residents explained that there are 60 businesses in the joint parish and in addition numerous individuals who depend on a reliable internet connection to work from home,” said Mr Ansell, who has resorted to using a nearby café’s superfast broadband to upload files in the past.

“It was also recognised that students in this community are being seriously disadvantaged if they cannot undertake their online studies from home.”

'Cut in two'

He said they had been told that the arrival of superfast broadband for Tixall would not only depend on the availability of funding, but on how the village ranks on BT’s “cost-per-premises” model.

“Unhappy residents of Tixall were advised that they would have to wait until the end of the year to discover if the calculated return on investment was justified or not.

“In the meantime a joint parish, which is likely to be cut in two by superfast HS2, is looking at a future where superfast broadband will pass it by too.

“All we can now do now at Tixall is wait on the funding lottery and see if the return on investment formula shows that we deserve reliable, let alone superfast, broadband. “

Mr Ansell said residents were told that some form of community funding programme might be possible – with cash raised by local residents and businesses – or they may have to resort to wireless or satellite broadband.

BT said that although Tixall has been upgraded via its commercial programme, the length of the lines from the exchange means some residents do not get superfast speeds.

Ingestre will be upgraded to superfast broadband by the end of the year, as it is part of the local BDUK project, while various options are being explored for Tixall, including community funding and BDUK funding.

A BT spokesperson said: “We’ve been talking to the community regularly about the various solutions we’re exploring to provide them with superfast speeds.”

Picture courtesy of Bill Boaden

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