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Leicestershire villagers show the power of community action

Press Release   •   Feb 24, 2016 10:37 GMT

A small group of residents in the Leicestershire village of Coleorton have joined forces with Openreach, BT’s local network business, to make high-speed fibre broadband available in their village.

People living on Coleorton Hall estate, a Grade II listed building converted into residential apartments, approached Openreach as they were not included in local fibre rollout plans. They agreed to work together to jointly fund the installation of a new fibre broadband cabinet and underground cables

The agreement represents a major milestone nationwide, as Coleorton becomes the 50th community in the UK to be connected to the fibre broadband network after taking positive community action and working directly with Openreach.

Across the country, there are dozens more similar contracts in progress, which when completed will have made fibre broadband available to around 25,000 homes and businesses.

David Baston, one of the Coleorton Hall residents that raised funding, said: “Broadband speeds are more important now than ever before and particularly so in a rural area such as ours. We knew that we might have to wait for some time before receiving fibre broadband and so decided to take matters into our own hands. We approached BT directly and are delighted with the end result. Having access to superfast broadband has opened up many opportunities and we can do so much more online now than before.”

It’s not just those living in Coleorton Hall estate who benefit. Around 120 homes and businesses across the wider village can also sign-up to fibre broadband thanks to the newly installed network.

Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director for next generation access, said: “We’ve been very clear that we’ll never say no to any community wanting to work with us. The residents of Coleorton Hall have shown great vision in joining together with Openreach to secure access to the fibre broadband network. It’s a major step forward for the village and fibre opens up endless opportunities for people living and working locally. It’s a really important day in the history of Coleorton village.”

All of the work in Coleorton has been carried out by Openreach with download speeds of up to 80 Megabits per second (Mbps) now available. Previously, speeds were around 1-2Mbps.

Kim Mears, Openreach’s managing director for infrastructure delivery, said: “We are committed to working with communities like Coleorton to help them achieve their goal of a fast fibre connection. Rural areas often present the most difficult and complex challenges but working together gives us the best chance possible of finding a suitable and affordable way forward. We have a dedicated team focussed on helping people understand what can be achieved in parts of the UK not already covered by existing rollout plans.”

Coleorton Hall is a 19th century mansion, formerly the seat of the Beaumont baronets of Staughton Grange. It was sold in the late 1990s to be converted into residential apartments.

A new roadside fibre broadband cabinet was installed just outside the entrance to the Hall, as previously each property at the Hall was connected by ‘exchange only’ telephone lines. New underground cables were also laid by engineers.

The contract between Coleorton Hall residents and Openreach is separate to the Superfast Leicestershire programme between Leicestershire County Council and BT.

Superfast Leicestershire has already provided more than 60,000 homes and businesses with access to fibre broadband, installed more than 280 green roadside cabinets and laid over 400kms of new fibre optic cables.

It builds upon BT’s commercial rollout in the county which has already made fibre broadband available to around 290,000 homes and businesses.

Fibre broadband has many advantages and whatever you can do online you can do it much faster with fibre. Upgrading not only provides faster download and upload speeds, it also makes it easier for many people in the home to go online at the same time, each able to enjoy high speed connections thanks to superfast broadband.

For more information about entering into a community fibre partnership with BT and Openreach, please visit www.communityfibre.bt.com. For more information about Superfast Leicestershire, please visit www.superfastleicestershire.org.uk.