About 100 people attended an event at Morland Village Hall on Wednesday evening that was both educational and interactive. Through some informative speeches and a clear, concise slide presentation there emerged a clearer understanding of the issues and of residents’ options on the matter, and also a clear mandate for the group to investigate the establishment of a Community owned broadband project.
Freddy Markham, Chair of the LLBG introduced the meeting with some essential general background information about the need to connect the final third (our rural communities) through a community driven project because the large providers are preoccupied with the cities and the rural areas would be too expensive to connect without spirited cooperation of the community and the granting of free wayleaves by landowners. He introduced Louis Mosely, aide to Rory Stewart MP for Penrith and The Border.
Louis introduced the idea of the Eden Declaration as an important statement of desired service and talked about the possibility of long-term low interest loans from the Big Society Bank.
Tom Lowther, our Cumbria County Councilor then explained Cumbria County Council’s desire to get the best value for money for Cumbria as a whole and said CCC was working with Mike Kiely of Broadband Development UK to seek the best way of serving a great number of people and organisations, he admitted that though the FTTC approach with BT didn’t match the specifications demanded by Champions through the Eden declaration, it could happen with the assistance of public funding from Broadband Development UK and by going through thorough public procurement procedures.
Lance Greenhalgh then delivered a concise and comprehensive slide presentation offering an overview of technological options for digital services – he emphasised that there was more to this subject than broadband itself .
He didn’t rule out satellite, wireless and fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) as each service may suit certain circumstances, but reinforced the position that Fibre to the home/premises (FTTH/P) was the best value future-proof solution available to us at this time. (NB because it’s future proof we can proceed with confident belief that it isn’t: likely to become obsolete / likely to be superseded anytime soon).
The Great Asby Group advised the retention of at least one normal phone line with plain ordinary telephone per village for emergency use in power outages. Lance mentioned the Femtocell solution for getting mobile signals into our homes via broadband and the usefulness of wireless service for Caravan parks and for remote outliers. He briefly covered who might deliver our services and finished off with a speedy overview of the considerable anticipated benefits of fast broadband.
Questions from the floor followed: how would video on demand TV work over FTTH? Extra equipment would be necessary : A YouView set-top box could be connected via ethernet cable and thence to a TV.
There was a question about whether way-leaves had been agreed yet. Mr. Markham answered that he had contacted, and was awaiting responses from, various parties.
There was a question about the sort of structure necessary to provide the Community service, Community Interest Company or Industrial Provident Society, but this was agreed to be a subject that would be better explored after establishing the extent of demand.
Our collective response to various questions, using Cumbria County Council’s electronic voting system brought the event to a conclusion. The voting system allows public opinion to be expressed collectively with anonymity.