Connecting North Yorkshire Update
Broadband North Yorkshire has invited North Yorkshire County Council’s Connecting North Yorkshire team to provide a full update on the work being done on broadband. Here is their December update – you can find out more and ask any questions at www.northyorks.gov.uk/broadband
Connecting North Yorkshire Update
As many will be aware, North Yorkshire and York have been selected by the Government to be a pilot for the rollout of superfast broadband. This is in recognition of the rural nature of North Yorkshire and York and the fact that the market alone is unlikely to deliver the necessary broadband to ensure that people, communities and businesses have access to good quality broadband. This is increasingly important and we have put our case to Government in the Connecting North Yorkshire Vision and Approach.
In order to make sure that we have the best possible response and success in delivering the pilot we have created Connecting North Yorkshire which pulls together North Yorkshire County Council, City of York Council, the seven District Councils of North Yorkshire, NYnet (a company wholly owned by the County Council), Broadband Delivery UK, key local community organisations, the national parks and businesses through the Local Enterprise Partnership and the Federation of Small Businesses.
This update is part of an on-going approach to keep the public of North Yorkshire up to date with developments. I hope that you find it useful and please do come back to us with any feedback. It will inevitably restrict itself to general updates so more detailed enquiries are likely to need some further communication.
Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) Procurement
BDUK is a part of Central Government set up to deliver the national broadband strategy.
North Yorkshire has been awarded £17.8m by BDUK in order to carry out a procurement to identify a broadband supplier to rollout high quality broadband to the parts of the County and York which currently do not get the kind of service we are looking for. Connecting North Yorkshire has had considerable success over the past few years in developing broadband access and we have forged a strong relationship with BDUK
The aim of the procurement is to identify the best possible supplier to provide a fit for purpose broadband network which delivers to as many households in North Yorkshire as is possible. We are also trying to secure additional European funding from the European Rural Development Fund (ERDF) so that we can stretch this money further. We hope that we will therefore have approximately £30m available to support this initiative.
You may have seen some adverse publicity from the Countryside Alliance in the last few weeks. The Countryside Alliance claimed that whilst Government has launched the 4 pilots there has been little progress. Whilst we acknowledge that this particular procurement exercise has not yet delivered any broadband connections, the procurement started in the Summer and is due to complete in June 2012. We are very much on track and are pleased to report that discussions with potential bidders is going well. We will obviously keep everyone updated and the successful bidder will want to communicate to people on how the rollout will be addressed. I am sure that we are all looking forward to that outcome and we can then reap the dividends of our work.
We will not know the fine detail of where superfast broadband will be delivered, or indeed how, until all bids are lodged with the County Council and the successful bidder has been chosen. However, we are expecting that all bidders will concentrate on the County’s key market towns. We are pushing to ensure market towns are used as stepping stones to wider communities so that all can benefit from the investment. We do know, however, that some communities are unlikely to be reached by this procurement as our geography is particularly challenging. Where this is the case, further investment will be required and we may need to accept that the broadband services delivered in some of the most remote parts of the County will not be up to the same level of standard as that enjoyed by some key market towns. Nevertheless, we believe that all should be able to get access to the internet and to be able to do the business that they wish to. That is why Connecting North Yorkshire is committed to supporting community broadband schemes.
Community Broadband Schemes
While the BDUK intervention will make a substantial difference to North Yorkshire, we are not waiting for the outcome of the procurement to address the gaps outlined above. These gaps are often known as the ‘final 10%’.
Delivering this last 10% of our broadband vision is one of our greatest challenges and is something we have been working on for some time in North Yorkshire. We have made good progress on identifying and plugging these gaps ahead of the main works.
Connecting North Yorkshire has pulled together circa £1m to stimulate and introduce community based broadband. A major part of this is the Performance Reward Grant (PRG) funding the County Council, the District Councils and other partners secured from Government. Defra have also just announced their Rural Community Broadband Fund.
We are working with communities and smaller internet service providers and have already supported the development of 10 community based broadband schemes. These schemes draw their broadband from NYnet and you can see some interesting case studies on the NYnet website. We are continuing with this positive programme and are on target to identify and develop 10 or more schemes over the next year.
Our first seven schemes were in Newton & Stape and Farndale, followed by Vale of Mowbray, Bradleys Both, Barlby, Nun Monkton and Robin Hoods Bay.
Through the PRG fund, we are now working on three new ones in Rosedale, Marton cum Grafton & Great Ouseburn and Darley to Appletreewick and more schemes are in development. In addition we are undertaking a mapping exercise to identify potentially viable clusters of communities to help us get a better understanding of existing schemes, those currently being worked up, and those remaining. The outcome of this work will be a publicly available, internet-based map which covers the whole County and shows residents and businesses what is being delivered in their area. This will compliment the maps we have already made available showing not-spots and slow-spots at www.northyorks.gov.uk/broadband
The development of community schemes relies on gathering together or ‘aggregating’ the needs and wishes of the community for better broadband. Sometimes this means bringing communities together where they otherwise would not have thought of doing so.
This is key in order to make schemes sustainable in the future and stretch the coverage and the public funding. Community Champions play a central role in bringing communities together and collecting the evidence to support and demonstrate the demand. This is vital in gaining the interest of internet service providers and, where appropriate, support from the public purse. Anyone wishing to become a volunteer Community Champion and join our growing network should first make contact with their District Community Coordinator – details are on our website at www.northyorks.gov.uk/bbgetinvolved
Whilst grant funding is available for a limited number of schemes, we are keen to ensure that schemes that can be delivered commercially are explored first. That way, we can make sure that the money available goes further and we reach more communities. Whilst communities are therefore welcome to approach Connecting North Yorkshire we will firstly try to explore options at little or no cost to the public purse.
Originally we intended to deliver approximately 14 community broadband schemes across the County by next Summer. We now realise this is unlikely because there is insufficient capacity with some of our community internet service providers to deliver schemes at this speed. Obviously this is disappointing and we are therefore trying to see if we can bring more providers to North Yorkshire so that we can increase the pace and coverage. You may therefore see some activity in establishing a framework contract of community based internet service providers – please don’t confuse this with the larger BDUK procurement exercise.
The companies will bid to design, build and operate a local broadband network for each of the clusters of communities we are currently mapping. Due to the level of potential public investment this needs to satisfy European regulations and this does take time. We intend, however, to run the first mini competitions in early Summer 2012.
Go ON North Yorkshire
Having good quality broadband is something that we strive for. Broadband is simply a means to an end though and it is the use of broadband which brings further quality to all of our lives. We are therefore going to be embarking on a campaign in the New Year to stimulate demand for broadband and encouraging people to use the web more. This will be done through a campaign in conjunction with the BBC called Go ON North Yorkshire.
It is hoped this will encourage more people to use the benefits but we do know that there are many parts of the County where access to the internet is either not available or too frustrating an experience. Nevertheless, we want to encourage the public and businesses to register their aspiration for better broadband. Then our procurement exercises and discussions with broadband suppliers are more likely to be successful where we can demonstrate that there is a large demand for broadband in all parts of the County. If we are successful then companies are more likely to invest some of their own funds and we can again stretch our coverage.
The single most important tool in gaining this understanding is the ‘Need for Speed’ demand tool. We need as many people as possible across North Yorkshire to complete a simple survey and broadband speed test. The survey can be found at www.northyorks.gov.uk/broadbandsurvey
We are asking people to go on line, fill it out and encourage friends and neighbours to do the same.
Further news will be brought to you on the Go ON North Yorkshire Campaign in the New Year and we would hope that many of you will be able to play an active part.
Business Benefits of Broadband
Connecting North Yorkshire is working with the York, North Yorkshire & East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to identify and support the benefits of broadband for businesses. The LEP are business inspired, business led and have a simple aim: To help businesses start up, grow and become more competitive.
The LEP have already identified broadband as one of their six priorities for 2012. The focus of the LEP’s work is on ensuring business benefits as much as possible from the opportunities provided by the Connecting North Yorkshire project. Winning new customers, reducing costs and improving customer service are three things that all businesses are interested in. Technology (enabled by high speed broadband) can help with all of these.
The LEP is working alongside the Connecting North Yorkshire team on developing and piloting a business engagement plan to enable businesses to benefit, develop and grow through better use of technology. This work is part of the ERDF application and it is hoped it will bring £3m for business support.
A practical example of this approach begins in the New Year with the LEP and Connecting North Yorkshire piloting a project working with businesses on small, already well connected, rural business parks to ensure they take full advantage of their high speed connections. The LEP is also well placed to communicate the key messages to businesses about both the opportunities available to them and about the wider Connecting North Yorkshire project.
This is the first in a series of updates to keep you up to date with developments. We intend to produce information on a monthly basis although we may choose to do so more regularly as events pick up pace. Please feel free to look on the Connecting North Yorkshire website where you will find additional information.
Merry Christmas and a high speed future,
Chair of Connecting North Yorkshire