In his statement this week on the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Chancellor George Osborne announced that the four market testing projects for next generation access will be in Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Herefordshire and Highlands and Islands in Scotland.
The announcement raised many more questions than answers. But while Broadband Delivery UK, the government body that made the selection, has been coy about details, the MPs that championed these project proposals have spilled the beans online.
Here’s what I managed to find out:
The Cumbria project will bring superfast broadband to the Eden and Carlisle districts. Project champion, MP Rory Stewart, said the region was selected because “it is the most rural and the most sparsely populated constituency in England and because we have recently taken a national lead in broadband development.” Cumbria also boasts nationally renowned community broadband projects including Cybermoor in Alston and Great Asby Broadband, and hopes to take advantage of Cumbria Lancashire Education Online (CLEO) to provide backhaul connections.
The pilot in North Yorkshire will hit the ground running, according to Julian Smith, MP for Skipton and Ripon. The North Yorkshire County Council proposal is based on Market Town initiative of NYnet – using the local authority fibre network to provide backhaul connections to community service providers. The villages of Newton-on-Radcliffe and Stape are already benefitting from a wireless network installed by NextGenUs CIC and serviced by Beeline Broadband, which could provide a template for further expansion.
For MP Jesse Norman the win is the result of a three-year local campaign for better broadband in and around Hereford. “I am absolutely thrilled at the news,” he said. “This could be the greatest thing for Herefordshire since the invention of cider!” Norman published a postion paper on wireless broadband options back in 2008, and organised a Broadband Summit in August 2010. Payment merchant Allpay, which is headquartered just outside Hereford, is providing wireless broadband using relay points on church spires.
The Highland and Islands bid was backed by Peter Peacock MSP, who has been lobbying in Westminster, and urging communities to show their support by writing to Jeremy Hunt. The Highlands and Islands Enterprise has been working with local authorities to develop a plan to boost broadband across the region, building on the PathFinder North network, which connects 800 local authority sites such as schools, libraries and Council offices. The £35 million project will connect “20 towns in the Highlands, including Wick and Thurso” according to news reports.