Over a thousand properties in four rural Forest of Dean district villages have gone from being the worst connected in the country in terms of their internet speeds to being among the fastest in the world.
Families and businesses in Highnam, Maisemore, Tibberton and Upleadon now have access to broadband speeds of up to 1Gbps as a new full fibre to the property (FTTP) network installed by Gigaclear has gone live. Built as part of Gloucestershire County Council’s Fastershire project, the futureproof ultrafast network will connect 1,274 properties in the area to the best broadband speeds in Britain.
Upleadon Village Hall is one of those already benefiting from the connection. Built in 1906, the old school building was revived several years ago and opened as the village hall serving over 60 homes in the community. In September 2019, Gigaclear connected the hall to its service for free as part of its Village Hub Scheme. The launch coincided with a ‘pop up pub’ event held in the hall where residents were invited to test the internet speeds for themselves, socialise and enjoy a drink.
Phil Cooke, Chairman of the Upleadon Village Hall, said: “Thanks to Gigaclear, the hall now has upload and download speeds of 900Mbps. We previously suffered from very poor broadband, with some residents unable to even send emails as a result of speeds under 1Mbps. Today, the village hall is a thriving hub of the community where we host monthly social events, coffee mornings, WI meetings and much more.”
Plans are already underway to make the most of the new ultrafast connection and increase the hall’s revenue stream. Phil Cooke explains: “Many of the residents in the village are aged over 60 and don’t have the expertise to use computers or smart technology safely and effectively. We are considering holding computer courses that will help them browse the internet safely, use online banking and take advantage of all the great services available by getting online.
“In addition to using the venue as a central base for the community, we hope to revive the hall by hiring it out to businesses for away days and meetings. It’s an old building and one that holds many fond memories among locals, some of which remember it from when it was a school. The additional income will ensure we can continue to refurbish the hall and enjoy its history for many years to come.”
Peter Pentecost, Regional General Manager at Gigaclear, said: “The village hall is such an important amenity for people living close by, which is why we offered to connect the property for free. Our Village Hub Scheme aims to support the key meeting places in the areas where we’ve built our ultrafast network. It’s something we now plan to roll out in all the villages that we’ll be setting live over the coming weeks. We’re extremely proud to be serving these villages and are looking forward to reaching more areas in the Forest of Dean soon, empowering rural communities with better broadband.”
Gigaclear installed a total of 82,667 metres of fibre optic cabling to connect the four villages, which were previously considered too remote to reach with a network of this kind. This is the distance from the Forest of Dean to Weston-Super-Mare.
Peter Pentecost continues: “We’re committed to providing a reliable, futureproof broadband connection to thousands of families, farms and businesses in some of the most rural regions of the UK. There have been some challenges in digging the infrastructure, including needing to re-route our cables between Maisemore and Highnam to avoid a bat colony on the Over Bridge. Despite these, with dedication and perseverance, we have achieved our goal.”
Councillor Patrick Molyneux, Cabinet Member for Economy, Education and Skills and responsible for Fastershire, said: “This is fantastic news and particularly pleasing that we’re now bringing much needed access to faster broadband to more properties in the Forest of Dean.
“As Fastershire’s rollout with Gigaclear continues to build out across the county more and more properties will benefit from ultrafast broadband and ensure that our communities can thrive.”
Rt Hon Mark Harper MP, Member of Parliament for the Forest of Dean, said: “I welcome the work that Gigaclear are doing as part of the Fastershire project and I was pleased to visit Tibberton recently to see the progress that has been made to provide ultrafast broadband to my constituents living there.
“As well as Tibberton, the service is live in Highnam, Upleadon and Maisemore, and I know residents are already seeing the benefits.
“I will continue to fully support the roll out across the Forest of Dean and I am pleased to hear that progress is being made to connect communities in Minsterworth, Longhope, Littledean and Cinderford over the next few months.”
Residents can check the Fastershire website to see if ultrafast broadband is available or planned at their address. Visit www.fastershire.com and use the address checker. Those interested in getting connected to the network can contact one of the internet service providers available on the Gigaclear network via www.gigaclear.com/our-partners.