Small steps towards broadband revolution
by Andy Sherwill
from The Link (July 2012)
A PUBLIC meeting at Itton village hall last month heard that Wye Valley communities were taking it upon themselves to solve the thorny issue of the lack of good quality broadband provision in the area.
Councillor Bob Greenland said: “Broadband plays a major part in all of our lives and without it we are in a poor position. We need to have good broadband provision throughout the county and not just in the major centres of population.
“But with broadband, it’s not a case of one size fits all and therefore we need our rural communities to come together to help themselves and the local authority. Getting broadband in this part of the Wye Valley is a priority if we want to compete with major towns.”
Deserie Mansfield, Monmouthshire’s Community Development Officer said: “We’ve been told by the Welsh Government that everywhere will have super-fast broadband by 2015. 1 think this is somewhat ambitious, but a good goal nonetheless.
“I feel that as this area is very much a rural location, high speed broadband is still a long way off.
“But with the aid of the Digital Deal using technological advances we can advance our own prospects, but we can’t do it on our own, we need an effective infrastructure to be in place.
“The deadlines for two major grant funding sources for solving broadband problems are imminent.”
David May from Penallt explained that there are around 200 homes in the village that were connected to the Monmouth or Trellech exchanges. He added: “A public meeting in May confirmed that the village was committed in obtaining broadband provision and they were looking for alternative solutions including microwave and wireless.” (1)
The Penallt Broadband Association has since looked at third party options, but the sums required were astronomical. “The result of this will be the catalyst for pulling the scheme together,” said Mr May. (2)
Ms Mansfield said: “Each community is looking at the Broadband problem in a different way and in being so local each group can identify their individual issues and bid appropriately for funding.”
Andy Williams from the Big Dig broadband group told the meeting that they were concentrating on Devauden’s greater area, which includes parts of Llanishen, Llansoy and Trellech.
He added: “As most people live a good way from the Wolvesnewton exchange, they are already at a disadvantage. Most people in the Wye Valley area receive broadband speeds at less than the government’s minimum requirement. We are already several generations behind those living in major towns or cities.”
Cllr Debby Blakebrough said: “I recognise the extreme need for faster broadband to ensure that rural areas remain connected both economically and socially.
“This is particularly important if we are to ensure successful engagement with Monmouthshire County Council and their forward thinking initiatives in delivering services through the social media of ICT information and communication technology.
“We heard at the public meeting of the outstanding work in terms of campaigning for better broadband in the area, particularly in Penallt and Devauden. The deadline for submitting bids for funding from Monmouthshire County Council and the Welsh Government is July so fingers crossed for those who have put packages together. (3)
“However we need to keep the energy and momentum up in highlighting the need for better connection in rural areas. Although other villages within Trellech United may have missed the opportunity this time we need to support each other in getting prepared, demonstrate demand and be ready in anticipation for possible future funding.
“Representatives from Penallt and Devauden have kindly offered to share their experience with others in the near future. Working together to ensure Central Monmouthshire keep connected. “.
Ms Mansfield concluded: “We have seen two different approaches to solve the broadband problem. What we need to do now is come together and create a joined up scheme for the whole area.”
Comments from David May
(1) This is an amalgamation of parts of my presentation! It probably refers to the fact that our preferred solution is for a microwave link to bring high speed broadband to the Lone Lane cabinet and that the “Trellech solution” may involve distribution by wireless.
(2) I have no recollection of any part of this paragraph!
(3) Our MCC grant bid has been submitted already, but ehere is not a July deadline for the Welsh Assembly application and we plab to submit this during August instead.