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Buckinghamshire village pools broadband vouchers to fund full-fibre dig

The village Lillingstone Lovell in Buckinghamshire is helping to fund an Openreach broadband network dig using vouchers pooled through the government’s Rural Gigabit Connectivity scheme

The village of Lillingstone Lovell in rural Buckinghamshire will shortly be able to access some of the fastest broadband speeds in the UK following completion of an Openreach-led network build being part-funded by the villagers themselves

Residents of the village of 55 properties – including five farms and around 20 other small businesses – clubbed together to pool vouchers provided through the government’s £200m Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme, a scheme being run under the auspices of Building Digital UK (BDUK).

The vouchers are worth up to £1,500 for a home connection and £3,500 for a small business.

The network build itself will be run as part of Openreach’s Community Fibre Project (CFP) – which has already helped more than 930 communities around the country, with 100,000 homes “passed” with a full-fibre service.

The CFP was designed to address the needs of the smallest and most remote communities that currently receive average broadband speeds of under 30Mbps, and would likely never have been in line for a commercial full-fibre roll-out, by splitting the cost of the infrastructure build between Openreach and the community.

“The whole village has been struggling with really slow speeds for years. Using the internet for anything is a daily battle,” said broadcast media consultant Alison Walsh, who led the efforts on behalf of her neighbours.

“We have a number of young families here and the kids find it difficult to do their homework because so much of it is done online. You can forget things like Netflix and Amazon Prime, they’re just beyond us at the moment. Even just paying for things online can take several attempts.

“There are a number of farms in the community and more than 20 businesses, including an equestrian event business, a picture framer, a design consultancy and a B&B. The working farms now do a lot of their business online – from registering their animals to doing their accounts and selling farm produce, so having ultrafast broadband will be a huge boost for them.

“A lot of other people also work from home, but before being able to get faster broadband, many were on the verge of giving up. We’ve already had one lady move away with her family because her husband was trying to run his own business from home, so they moved to another village where they had better speeds.

“There’s lots of families that have been here for a long time, children who’ve grown up here and started their own families. Hopefully having the ultrafast speed will help sustain the life of the village for many more generations,” she said.

Following completion of the dig, residents will be able to order a broadband service through the communications service provider (CSP) of their choice, not only Openreach partner BT.

Openreach said that, to date, the CFP had generated around £800,000 worth of benefits to each community, with average property values rising by about £1,700.

“Lillingstone Lovell is a fantastic example of how our UK-wide Community Fibre Partnership programme is bringing fast, reliable broadband to some of the UK’s most challenging areas, where other providers struggle to reach,” said Kim Mears, Openreach managing director of strategic infrastructure development.

“We’ve been clear that we’ll never say no to any community that wants better, fibre broadband connectivity – and we’ll work with them to find a way forward even if the costs don’t stack up for a commercial or government-backed upgrade. We hope that the success of this programme will encourage even more communities to work with us.”

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