Guidance

Introduction to Community-led Schemes

Updated 22 February 2017

Guidance for community-led broadband options

Introduction

Over the past few years, a number of communities - both urban and rural - have successfully improved broadband access in their local area. The aim of the pages below is to build on their successes by helping other community groups to access and benefit from potential models, case studies, guidance and funding options relevant to local broadband projects.

The development of a local broadband project must address a wide range of issues. To assist this, a three stage approach has been set out below:

A) Check Requirement B) Agree Approach C) Local Action

A) Check requirement before you start

The government has committed to extending superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by December 2017, as well as ensuring that everyone can access a service that provides at least 2Mbps. Coverage of superfast and ultrafast broadband will also continue to develop further beyond 2017.

Your local area may be covered, or be soon to be covered, by an existing commercial broadband programme or by projects led by Local Bodies (local authorities or the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

However, not all homes and businesses are currently scheduled to be covered by commercial or public rollout plans, and communities which are not included in plans may want to consider developing their own solutions.

The following links may help you decide if there is already a Local Body or commercial programme in place to upgrade communications infrastructure in your area:

  • The Superfast Broadband Postcode Checker will help inform you if you are already able to access superfast broadband (speeds of at least 24Mbps)
  • The best source of information on broadband rollout in your area is your Local Body – a contact address for broadband related queries in your local area can be found here
  • The Government’s Universal Service Commitment (USC) means that a subsidised installation is available to everyone currently unable to receive a speed of more than 2Mbps.

If your community is not included within current plans, it would be worth contacting your Local Body to see if it is likely to be included within any future plans.

B) Agree approach

There are several different models or approaches for communities seeking to improve their broadband. The examples below are intended as a non-exhaustive list of the options open to communities, and have been limited to models that have resulted in communities successfully receiving an improved broadband service. For each model, descriptions and links to successful case studies are provided.

The list of community-led models below are organised broadly in order of the level of community organisation and commitment required, starting with the lowest. Click on each model to find out more information about case studies, funding options and access tools related to that type of solution.

Approach Description Community Requirement
Model 1. Demand aggregation Approach a national or local provider directly and register demand for an improved broadband service Local coordinator – individual(s) committed to identifying and promoting way forward.
Model 2. Buy in to existing commercial rollout Raise community funding to extend an existing commercial network rollout Local action team – more structured team with community support, and a need to raise funding.
Model 3. Buy in to existing publicly funded rollout Raise community funding to extend network rollout plans managed by a local authority Local action team – more structured team with community support, a need to raise funding, and a need to liaise with a Local Body.
Model 4. Supplier owned and operated Run a project to fund a supplier to build in the area Local development team – local team with access to some technical and commercial expertise, and a need to raise funding
Model 5. Community owned; supplier operated Build a community owned infrastructure run by a supplier Formal community organisation – formal constituted group able to manage significant resources, and a need to raise funding
Model 6. Community owned and operated Build a community owned and operated infrastructure Expert community company – formal company, with access to significant technical and commercial expertise, and a need to raise funding.

Before deciding on the community model that best suits you, we advise reading the forming a community group and deciding on the best solution page, and exploring the models for communities set out on this website.

Note that approaches which require community funding or self-financing can require significant organisation and commitment. Note also that there are risks of projects running into difficulties, and some communities in the past have invested significant time, effort and cost without achieving delivery of a functioning or sustainable broadband network.

C) Local Action

The specific actions needed will depend to a large extent on the model a community decides to use. One of the best ways to understand which of these models may work best for your community is to look at successful community broadband schemes, and see which model is likely to best suit you.

A full list of case studies can be found here. If you would like to let us know of a potential new case study, please contact us at communitybroadband@culture.gov.uk.

Further guidance and advice on setting up a community-led broadband project is also available:

Feedback and improvement

DCMS wishes to continue to improve the guidance and support available to communities on this website. If you have any suggestions for how this website and the guidance it contains could be improved or if you know of a potential new case study, please email us at the following address: communitybroadband@culture.gov.uk

Model 1: Demand aggregation with suppliers

The simplest community-led model is for a community to approach a national or local broadband supplier directly and register demand for an improved broadband service. If a supplier considers your community appropriate for this approach, it can be a simple, cheap and effective way to improve your local broadband.

A number of national and local suppliers have demand registration schemes, including:

  • Virgin Media: The Cable My Street initiative. Virgin Media typically serves suburban areas with its cable network but may also be willing to connect rural communities on the edge of their existing network.
  • Gigaclear: A demand-led fibre to the premises provider building a new ultrafast broadband network in rural areas. Case studies and registration pages can be found here
  • Hyperoptic: provide fibre to the premises services in a number of UK cities: hyperoptic.com
  • Truespeed. A demand-led FTTP service in the south west of England, primarily around Bath: truespeed.com

We will continue to update this list as we become aware of other supplier schemes. If you believe we are missing a supplier from the list please contact us at communitybroadband@culture.gov.uk

Numerous communities have already benefited from demand aggregation schemes, as set out on the links above. The more residents, businesses and institutions in a community that can register demand, the more commercially attractive it will be to a supplier. However, some suppliers require a minimum sign up rate and size of community before investing in broadband there, as well as considering geographic and technological factors.

It may also be helpful to speak to local businesses and public institutions such as libraries, schools and doctors’ surgeries in your community. These can function as ‘anchor tenants’, which are more likely to purchase premium broadband connections, and therefore make investing in a community more attractive to a supplier.

Before deciding on the community model that best suits you, we advise reading the forming a community group and deciding on the best solution page, and exploring the other models for communities set out on this website.

To understand supplier offerings, we also advise reading the broadband technology options page.

Model 2: Buy into existing commercial rollout

This model relates to communities where broadband upgrades are already planned by a commercial provider in a nearby area.

The community would put in its own funding to buy into the existing commercial scheme so that it gains coverage. Various suppliers offer opportunities for communities near to existing network footprints or current rollout plans to do this.

BT Community Fibre Partnerships

BT has a scheme which allows communities to enter into direct co-funded contracts with them provided that they meet specific criteria. If approached by a community, BT assesses the costs involved in upgrading the local broadband infrastructure to offer superfast services and will invest a portion of the cost, while the community is required to raise the remainder of the necessary funding.

In addition, BT has made £2 million available via a grant scheme for community fibre partnerships that benefit a school, with eligible communities able to apply for up to £20,000 towards the cost of their community fibre partnership.

Information about starting a community fibre partnership with BT, including an online registration form and links to Spacehive, which provides crowdfunding assistance in partnership with BT, can be found here

If you would like to let us know about a BT Community Fibre Partnership case study in your area, please contact us at communitybroadband@culture.gov.uk

Model 3: Buy into publicly funded rollout

This model relates to communities which are close to broadband upgrades that are already planned by a publicly funded rollout led by a Local Body.

If a community is not included within the planned roll-out, it can seek to buy in to it (subject to the agreement of the relevant Local Body), contributing funds raised by the community to cover some or all of the cost of extending coverage to their area.

Some Local Bodies also offer a funding contribution towards part of the costs for communities in their area interested in doing this. A contact address for broadband related queries in your Local Body can be found here

Guidance on potential funding options for communities is available here. See the Cotwalton case study for an example of how BT’s Community Fibre Partnerships can also be used to buy into a publicly funded rollout.

Communities should note that buying into a publicly funded rollout involves other constraints that are not present in buying into a commercial rollout, including:

  • Additional complexity in negotiations and delivery due to needing to deal with another party – i.e. both the broadband supplier delivering the infrastructure and the Local Body managing the contract, that will be subject to its own delivery priorities and financial and timescale constraints.
  • Additional constraints arising from State aid rules that come with using public funds.
  • While other models featured on this website may involve community projects needing to demonstrate State aid compliance, use of this model will definitely require it.

Model 4: Bespoke solution, supplier owned and operated

This model involves a community working with its chosen supplier to install a bespoke broadband solution for their community. It is distinguished from the ‘buy in to existing rollout’ model by the fact that it is not an extension of an existing network nearby, and is thus likely to involve more active consideration from the community as to which supplier and technology option is likely to be most appropriate for them.

Relevant case studies for this model can be found here

Before running a process to select a supplier, we also advise reading the broadband technology options page.

Even in remote rural locations, it is possible for communities to work with service providers to bring superfast broadband to their community. This will usually involve funding from the community, and may involve the community providing other practical assistance – for example by providing cheap wayleaves.

Moreover, pursuing this model successfully is likely to require leadership from a strongly organised community group who have examined the community’s needs, evaluated the potential solutions available to them, and have the backing of a significant proportion of the community.

If the funding includes public funds (e.g. local council funds or European funds then the project will also need to demonstrate State aid compliance as well as follow strict rules on the procurement of a supplier.

Communities interested in pursuing this model may also want to read:

Model 5: community owned; supplier operated

This model involves a community selecting its broadband infrastructure itself, and then procuring both the civils work to build the infrastructure and a broadband company to undertake the network build. Once the infrastructure has been successfully deployed and connected, the community continues to own the network and contracts a supplier to operate the infrastructure on behalf of the community.

The community therefore retains ownership of the network as a long-term asset for the community, but also has the ongoing responsibility for maintenance and sustainability of the network infrastructure, including ensuring sufficient revenue from customers in the community to continue to pay the supplier.

Relevant case studies for this model can be found here.

If the funding includes public funds (e.g. local council funds or European funds then the project will also need to demonstrate State aid compliance as well as follow strict rules on the procurement of a supplier.

Pursuing this model successfully is likely to require strong leadership and expertise from a well-organised community group who have examined the community’s needs and have the backing of a significant proportion of the community.

Communities interested in pursuing this option may also want to read:

Model 6: community owned and operated

This model involves a community building and installing the broadband infrastructure themselves, either through community work, or by raising the funds to employ one or more contractors. Once the infrastructure has been successfully deployed and connected, a nominated community group will continue to operate the infrastructure on behalf of the community.

If the funding includes public funds (e.g. local council funds or European funds then the project will also need to demonstrate State aid compliance as well as follow strict rules on the procurement of a supplier.

Pursuing this model successfully is likely to require strong leadership and considerable technical and commercial expertise in broadband network delivery and operation from a strongly organised community group who have examined the community’s needs and have very strong backing throughout the community.

There are very few examples of this model in the UK. The best known and most successful is Broadband 4 Rural North. This - and other case studies for this model - can be viewed here.

Communities interested in pursuing this model may also want to read: