Connect8 – the campaign for fast broadband in our area
What have we achieved so far?
The answer is quite a lot in a comparatively short time. Following first discussions in October/November of 2014, the objective for December was to create an awareness of our campaign to find a way to bring fibre broadband to areas of South Oxfordshire that would be excluded (3%) from the coverage proposed by the Better Broadband for Oxfordshire programme. We have tackled this through our web site, which gives a considerable amount of detail and will grow as the campaign progresses, a leaflet drop and initial media publicity.
At the same time we have been engaging with a number of key stakeholders in respect of studying potential solutions including BT, both from a consumer relationship and technical delivery aspect and other companies involved in alternative technologies who might provide certain pieces to our complicated puzzle. More latterly we have made contact with Thames Valley Police in respect of the potential of sharing mast facilities to provide all important starting points for distribution.
Our campaign has produced responses from almost 200 people so far, within the area defined on our site and representing a wide cross section of residential and business requirements. We are looking to widen the locations to take on board other neighbouring areas, as we have received extensive reporting of poor and sometimes non-existent broadband causing considerable hardship and even loss of business. From barristers to IT consultants, from retired folk to students and a large number of key creative and support people, the story is one of utter frustration and despair that our requirements are being ignored and a belief that Connect8 can navigate a way through the levels of bureaucracy and politics that are ever apparent.
We are fortunate to have some dedicated people leading the campaign and our February meeting gave us enough details to plot a specific course not made easy by a failure by BT to realise that the subscription take up in our area would probably be at least four times the national average with many of the respondents working from a home based business.
Connect8 started as a request to extend one of the key objectives of the Howe Hill Community Led Plan to a wider area – fast broadband to give our communities the chance to grow with up to date technology as opposed to the inevitable shrinkage that is the alternative. Property values are affected, young professionals forced away and everyone else totally frustrated through a lack of online connectivity. The natives are more than restless – local authorities are certainly aware of Connect8 and further steps are now needed. A local councillor suggested that these things are best left to those who are elected but the outreach areas and neighbouring communities have been badly overlooked and Connect8 has taken the lead.
Peter Richardson – Campaign Co-ordinator February 2015
visit www.connect8.org – join up and spread the word!!