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News

Update - Hampshire Rural Gigabit Schemes

The following consolidated update has been prepared and circulated by Yvette Riley.

Dear Everyone

I hope you are enjoying the sunshine. We are again welcoming another rural broadband scheme to our group, Wonston and Micheldever, who are also in Jackie’s County Division.

Since my last email a number of us have received various communications which Jackie and Margot felt should be shared more widely, all the relevant emails are attached above and include;

  1. A response from Cllr Stephen Reid (HCC Exec Member for Business, including Broadband delivery) to Jackie’s letter on the future of HCC top up funding
  2. An FOI request to HCC by Mark Shaw asking for details about the £1m FY 20-21 HCC Top up fund and its commitments
  3. Glenn Peaceys (HCC Broadband Officer) response to Tony Whymam’s email about top up funding for the Alresford scheme
  4. Glenn Peacey’s response to me about accessing the underspend in the 20-21 budget to cover Openreaches 130% uplift target

 I think its clear from the attached correspondence that HCC’s gigabit top up vouchers – worth £1500 per property are currently unavailable to fund our schemes. The governments “Project Gigabit” places the responsibility on BDUK to procure a gigabit solution for rural communities, its therefore seems unlikely that going forward - after purdah and the elections that Hampshire will reintroduce its top up scheme any time soon.(This is my own personal view) .  Chris Priestly from Openreach, has confirmed that my scheme was not included in the list of scheme commitments given to HCC as a call on its FY20-21 budget. I am not aware that any scheme in the group was sufficiently advanced – i.e. ready to sign contracts with Openreach to have any call on HCCs 20-21 funding pot.  

 However, In better news- the block on communications with Openreach does seem to be lifting with local schemes receiving quotes, some for the first time but some revised quotes too.  Openreach appear to be supplying quotes in the hope that government voucher funding alone will support the viability of some rural schemes. The government vouchers values are £1500 per household and £3500 per SME/Sole trader, the bar to qualify as an SME for the voucher is very low and worth understanding, (see the scheme T&Cs above).

In response to the information received above, I have set about remodelling the financial impact on my local scheme of no HCC top up vouchers whilst actively searching for SME’s within my currently signed up group of enthusiasts, I still believe I can get my scheme over the line given this significant change to the funds available!  However,  I understand for some schemes the news contained here may be much more difficult to accommodate due to a higher cost per property quoted by Openreach. Jackie has repeated her commitment to continue to raise the impact these changes will have on our schemes with HCC and keep pushing for a speedy return of the top up scheme. We are both happy to chat to anyone needing more clarity for their specific scheme.

Best Wishes

Yvette Riley

Martyr Worthy/Itchen Abbas co-ordinator

ForwardedMessage.eml

Subject:

Cllr Reid's Response

Date:

25/04/2021, 08:31

 

Sent: Monday, April 12, 2021 2:00 pm
To: Porter, Cllr J
Subject: Broadband issues

 Dear Jackie

Thank you for your letter of 19th March regarding broadband infrastructure across your division.

 The current superfast broadband programme is drawing to a close. Hampshire has been included in Phase 1B of the government’s Project Gigabit with procurements due to start from June 2021. The first stage of this procurement process (Open Market Review) has started and closes on 22 April, when it is expected that the County Council will be required to review the proposals for commercial and non-commercial coverage areas following receipt from Building Digital UK (BDUK). 

Government and commercial suppliers predict 80% coverage can be achieved with private funding, so with an estimated 630,000 premises across Hampshire, this will result in 504,000 premises being upgraded commercially, with around 126,000 premises requiring some form of public subsidy to gain access to gigabit-capable connections.

 The government’s Gigabit programme is funded to reach 100% coverage with an expectation that 0.3% of premises across the UK may be too expensive to reach with conventional technology. At this stage we are uncertain how many of the 0.3% of premises across the UK are in Hampshire, but if the 0.3% average applies then circa 1,900 premises will be in this group.

 In addition to this, on 8th April 2021, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) launched (via BDUK) the new UK Gigabit Voucher scheme. This has a few changes to eligibility criteria but offers funding of £1,500 per residential premises and £3,500 per SME towards the cost of installing gigabit-capable solutions for communities that are not due to be covered by commercial upgrades.

In respect of the specific question in your note on top-up funds for the new scheme, we prioritised the County’s Council’s top-up for the previous scheme on a first-come first-served basis. The latest information from BDUK is that almost all of the top-up funding has been committed, with a huge amount of activity and applications made to BDUK in the lead-up to the deadline for submission. At the time of writing the County Council has not approved or allocated funding for the new gigabit voucher scheme for 2021/22. There are discussions taking place with officers about how we might support this work and the wider broadband challenges going forward. Any proposals will need to go through the appropriate governance and approvals after the election and be considered in the context of the very difficult financial position facing the County Council at the moment.

The County Council continues to work with communities and suppliers to help them through the process of the grant scheme and iron out anomalies where possible but ultimately the responsibility for this process lies with the suppliers, BDUK and the communities.

 Thank you for your comments on the excellent support from the broadband team - they are much appreciated.

 Best regards,

 Stephen

 STEPHEN REID


ForwardedMessage.eml

Subject:

FOI request Mark Shaw

Date:

24/04/2021, 16:12

 

From: mark shaw
Sent: 21 April 2021 11:54
Subject: RE: Gigabit Broadband

Hi Yvette

Here is the result of the FOI request I sent to HCC. It looks like most of the £1M has been allocated so hopefully that includes your scheme.

 Please feel free to share .

All the best

Mark

 

Mark Shaw
IDS Solutions Ltd

web: www.ids-solutions.co.uk

 
ForwardedMessage.eml

Subject:

Glenn Peacey to Tony Whyman

Date:

24/04/2021, 16:10

 

-------- Original message --------

From: "Peacey, Glenn"

Date: 21/04/2021 09:08 (GMT+00:00)

To: "tony.whyman"

Cc: 'Jackie Porter',  'Margot Power'

Subject: RE: South East Alresford CFP

Dear Tony,

Many thanks for your email.

The old scheme closed on 31 March and we expect all of the £1m top up fund to be allocated.

At the present time there isn’t a proposal for additional top up funding to be added by HCC to the new scheme launched on 8 April 2021.

Any decision relating to this would have to be made by Cabinet and cannot be made in the run up to the local elections in May.

Details of the new scheme as it stands currently can be seen here:

https://www.hampshiresuperfastbroadband.com/alternative-solutions/gigabit-broadband-voucher-scheme/

Best regards

Glenn

Glenn Peacey

Hampshire Superfast Broadband

Culture, Communities, and Business Services

Hampshire County Council

www.hants.gov.uk/broadband

 -----Original Message-----
From: Tony Whyman
Sent: 15 April 2021 10:50
To: Peacey, Glenn
Cc: Jackie Porter ; Margot Power
Subject: South East Alresford CFP

Glenn,

I heard yesterday from Chris Priestley that Openreach's final offer for this CFP is being prepared and he is going to try and expedite it so that we can try and push it through under the Gigabit Voucher Scheme. I am writing to you in order to get an up-to-date view on the availability of the HCC top-up.

The current estimate is for 373 properties at a cost of £387,230, or £1038 per property.

Based on responses received from the original mailshot to residents, I have a model that assumes a 60% voucher pledge rate with a 5% SME count.
This would leave a funding shortfall of £29,150 which, on last year's funding model should be readily covered by the HCC grant.

Openreach have told us that they want a 30% margin to cover drop outs.  If DCMS vouchers on their own were the sole source of funding then this would require an 85% pledge rate - which is unlikely to be achieved.

On the other hand, if the same HCC grant was available as was the case for the last funding year, then we only need a 45% pledge rate to get us over the line.

The bottom line is that to push this project through, we really do need to have HCC underwrite the funding to a similar level as last year.
However, the actual money that will be needed in the end will probably be of the order of £30K, and may be less depending on the actual pledge rate achieved. Of course, none of these figures is certain until we get residents to pledge their vouchers.

In order to plan the next stage properly, I would very much welcome an up-to-date statement on any potential availability of the HCC top-up grant for the current financial year.

Regards

Tony Whyman

ForwardedMessage.eml

Subject:

RE: Community Fibre Partnership - Scheme Number - Itchen Abbas XX: 53929 - 00008152

From:

"Peacey, Glenn"

Date:

22/04/2021, 09:30

 

Dear Yvette,

Thank you for your email and congratulations for having gained so much support across your community for a full fibre deployment.

Openreach requires vouchers totalling 130% to create what is called a ‘Demand Led’ project. This means that Openreach will go ahead and build the solution without forming a contract with the community, this is because they estimate 60% of residents will actually complete the voucher application process.

From the details in your email the scheme is projected to cost £124,000 for 154 premises, this is a cost per property of £795. If all 154 premises signed up for the voucher this would generate £231,000 this is 186% of the total project cost. Currently you have identified 88 of 154 premises would be willing to sign up for the voucher, this is 56% of the total and therefore in line with Openreach’s 60% projection.

If Openreach is not willing to create a demand led scheme then the community can create a legal entity to contract directly with Openreach, the legal entity would be liable for any shortfall if any of the residents you have identified do not take up the voucher. The legal entity could be the parish council or you can set up another vehicle if you prefer.

In respect of the specific question in your note on top up funds for the new scheme, the commitment for the County’s Council’s top up was for the previous scheme on a first come first serve basis. The latest information from BDUK is that almost all of the top up funding has been committed, with a huge amount of activity and applications made to BDUK in the lead up to the deadline for submission. At the time of writing the County Council has not approved or allocated funding for the new gigabit voucher scheme for 2021/22. There are discussions taking place with officers about how we might support this work and the wider broadband challenges going forward. Any proposals would need to go through the appropriate governance and approvals after the election but we all need to be mindful that they would be in the context of the very difficult financial position of the County Council at the moment

The County Council continues to work with communities and suppliers to help them through the process of the grant scheme and iron out anomalies where possible but ultimately the responsibility for this process lies with the suppliers and BDUK.

Best regards,

Glenn

Glenn Peacey
Hampshire Superfast Broadband
Culture, Communities, and Business Services
Hampshire County Council

www.hants.gov.uk/broadband

-----Original Message-----
Sent: 21 April 2021 23:25
To: Peacey, Glenn
Subject: FW: Community Fibre Partnership - Scheme Number - Itchen Abbas XX: 53929

Dear Glen

We now have an accurate initial estimate agreed with Openreach, we also have high levels of community buy in. Last week Chris Priestley instructed our final offer to be prepared.  Our funding plan is to rely on government vouchers only to cover the cost of the scheme, which is £124K for 156 properties.  We have identified £132K worth of vouchers which more than covers the base estimate, these are firm commitments by home and business owners. However, the higher level of voucher funding required by Openreach's, with the 30% increase for a directly funded scheme takes us to £161K , meaning  we have a  shortfall of vouchers to the tune of £30K.

A recent FOI request indicated that there is approximately £95K remaining of HCC £1million budget. Could I therefore bid for our scheme to access the fund to cover our voucher shortfall of £30K?.

The reasons why I think HCC should look on this request favourably are;

1.We are asking HCC to "underwrite" our scheme by less than £200 per property, significantly less that the £1500 value of the previous HCC top up voucher 2. At £200 per household this represents good value for money compared to previous schemes approved, where the average support from HCC was higher
3  Given the level of commitment here to take the service, I think it unlikely that the 30% buffer required will be needed, we have a local plan to ensure those that have committed go on to pledge their vouchers. The 30K is in effect an insurance policy which is unlikely to  be called upon, so in effect is likely to remain unspent.
4. It would be beneficial for HCC if our properties were excluded from the Hampshire phase 1b procurement as more properties overall would ultimately receive the enhanced service.

This is a small amount of funding for HCC to make available for 156 houses to be upgraded and and I hope you will view this request positively.

 With Best Wishes

Yvette

Yvette Riley

Some good news

Yesterday, I received an update from Openreach letting us know that they are progressing the proposed FTTP upgrade for South East Alresford to a Final Offer. This is so that we have an opportunity to use DCMS funding for the scheme before Project Gigabit Phase 1b applies in Hampshire. I am assuming that Phase 1b will be from end June 2021. The advantage of using the DCMS Voucher Scheme to fund the project is that there is then a good chance that the upgrade will be put in place by the end of this year. Project Gigabit could well result in an 18 months to two year, or more, delay.

As yet I do not have a date as to when the Final Offer will be available. Hopefully, this will be before the end of the month. I have also written to Hampshire County Council in order to confirm that the HCC grant will still be available.

This is the point at which the Openreach portal should become available for us to pledge our vouchers. We will also need to leaflet the 370 properties in the scheme area in order to maximise their support. Once I have a date for the opening of the Openreach Voucher Portal, I will be contacting those who have kindly offered to distribute leaflets so that we can get this underway. At least with the ending of lockdown restrictions, there should be no problem leafleting the area.

Community Fibre Partnership Update

There have been two things that have happened in the last week. The first is the good news that we have now received an updated quotation from Openreach to include the Sun Hill Crescent area. The second is that at the HCC Policy and Resources Select Committee met on the 4th March 2021 and received an update from Openreach on FTTP rollout.

1. Updated Quotation

This quotation brings in the Sun Hill Crescent area and Appledown Lane. It results in a scheme covering 373 properties at an estimated cost of £387,230. That is £1,038.15 per property and in line with our expectations. Assuming that the current funding levels are maintained once the DCMS have announced the follow on rural voucher programme, this scheme requires that only 130 (35%) of properties need to pledge their vouchers in order to cover the costs of the installation. In practice, Openreach demand a 30% margin to cover the risk of "drop outs". However, we still only need to achieve a 45% pledge rate in order to cover this margin. The scheme now looks very viable.

The big issue is the shape of the follow on scheme. We know that it will be limited to Ofcom area 3 only. However, all of Alresford is in area 3, so that should not be an issue. What we do not know is the actual funding level and how HCC will respond to this. Hopefully, all will be clear by next month.

The website has been updated to include the updated quotation which can also be downloaded from:

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2. The HCC Policy and Resources Select Committee

This was a 2 hour+ meeting largely devoted to the subject of the Hampshire Broadband rollout. It includes presentations from HCC's own project team (Glenn Peacey) and Openreach's Partnership Director for Wales and the West of England (Connie Dixon) and supported by the local area Partnership Manager (Steven Harris).

The presentations are well worth listening to in order to understand the current process.  Openreach also explained their view of how "Demand Led" schemes are managed. This is where the DCMS/HCC funding covers the cost of the installation. The Q & A is also worth listening to. However, it is also clear from this discussion that everything is on hold until we get the details of the updated voucher scheme from the DCMS. Plans can be made, but they are subject to change.

A recording of the meeting can be found on YouTube at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYeMEkcHNPI

The relevant time codes are (format of codes is (hh:)mm:ss):

19:16 The actual start of the meeting (after all the admin bits)

21:45 HCC Presentation Broadband rollout in Hampshire. Lasts to 45:10:00 and followed by questions.

01:07:30 Openreach Presentation on their FTTP rollout. Lasts to 01:35:00 and followed by questions.

01:58:10 Jackie Porter asking questions focusing on our issues.

02:17:45  Discussion on Funding

UK Government announces "Project Gigabit"

On 19th March 2021, the DCMS announced Project Gigabit. This includes the extension of the existing voucher scheme, but also introduces direct funding for those areas where commercial deployment is not deemed viable.

In principle, this may be better than the current scheme as it should focus vouchers on small groups of properties where some degree of self-funding is required.

The good news is that Hampshire is in Phase 1b of Project Gigbit where "We are commencing work on a number of other areas where additional procurements can be brought forward to help build pace for the programme while still supporting the learning phase." and "We will provide further information on these areas in a further update in June 2021." At least we are not in phase 2.

However, this does introduce a degree of uncertainty for us and the big question is: do we press ahead with voucher based schemes or do we, or have to, stand down and wait for Project Gigabit to deliver.

I am currently trying to clarify the situation along with the other local FTTP projects. My initial guess at the answer to my question is that we will have to stand down at least until June. There could also be a significant delay while Phase 1b is defined and before we have any dates. I would also predict that South East Alresford could be marginal between direct funding and commercial funding, while rural schemes, such as in Ropley may still have to get voucher funding.

We shall see how this pans out. However, while the Government has arguably improved the scheme from the point of view of the whole country, it may put back the date that we get FTTP until well into 2022.

A copy of the Project Gigabit document is available below or from the DCMS. This article on ISP Review is also worth reading.

Cannot find the layout Standard Files Layout

Community Fibre Partnership - We have a problem

Some of you may have seen Jackie Porter's tweet on Thursday  worrying about the status of Rural Broadband projects. This was prompted by an EMail sent last Tuesday from Openreach to all Community Fibre Partnerships. The EMail did not contain good news.

You can find a copy of the original EMail here. The summary is that a new deadline has appeared out of nowhere. This deadline is the 19th February. The Government (DCMS) through Building Digital UK (BDUK) has stated that the current broadband voucher scheme will now close to new submissions on 19th February rather than the end of March - which was what everyone had been expecting. Indeed, we expected the scheme to simply roll forwarded at that date. It is unlikely that our CFP will be submitted by that date.

A new scheme is promised for April 2021 - but no details are forthcoming. We have no idea as to whether the funding will be the same. All we know is that the replacement scheme will be limited to "OFCOM Area 3 Postcodes". The one piece of good news is that SO24 9xx is in OFCOM Area 3.

This "news" has caused considerable anger. We are not the only affected project and everything now seems to be up in the air again. I have written to Openreach to try and clarify our position - but they have not responded. If we knew that it was just a six week hiatus then that would be OK enough as we could still finalise the project with Openreach in that time. But no-one knows.

I tried to clarify the situation via HCC, but they have not got back either.

Yesterday I contacted Steve Brine, our MP, and he got back immediately and is now on the case. He will be trying to clarify the situation on our behalf with the DCMS and Openreach. I have also today seen a copy of a letter sent by Yvette Riley who is co-ordinating the Martyr Worthy CFP and sent to the Secretary of State. This is good letter and sums up the anger felt at this sudden moving of the goalposts. I have also posted a copy of the letter on the website.

I hope that Steve Brine will get some movement out of the DCMS, if only to clarity on the next steps and to make them realise how important the voucher scheme is. I also hope that he will echo my point that there should be some threshold when it is so obvious that a CFP (such as ours) is viable that it gets automatic approval rather our having to jump through hoops and get all these voucher pledges. I doubt whether the Government's COVID vaccination programme would be successful if you had to apply for a voucher before getting a jab.

I sense a danger that the Government may be back peddling on rural broadband. They may need to be reminded that this is a key part of national infrastructure and important to so many - far more important than, for example, HS2. If you want to make your views known to our MP or to the Secretary of State, then there is no reason why you should not.

For now, I will keep pushing ahead and hopefully we will soon get clarification on the future.

Tony Whyman

21 Orchard Close