Image taken from Devon Communities Together
We’ve all been there. Ready and eager to get online – to work, make a payment, book a holiday or just surf the internet – we confidently click on our browser, expecting to immediately connect to the web. And then: nothing! Maybe a flicker of life on the screen, sometimes an actual connection, but then a slow, mind-numbing wait as very little actually happens. How can this be, you ask yourself, when the service provider promised at least 50Mbps speed, and you are barely getting 2–3Mbps?
For rural communities this is a very common experience of life on the internet. While many urban users take connectivity and relatively decent speeds for granted, the experience of those in remote parts of the countryside is often different. The government had pledged that all homes and businesses, no matter their location, would be connected to gigabit-capable broadband by 2025, although this was later reduced to 85% of all homes and businesses.
Remote communities deserve better
Aylesbeare is a village in rural East Devon. It is not atypical of many villages in the Southwest of England. Like most rural communities in the UK, it comprises people from different walks of life, with different interests and careers. It also has a high percentage of self-employed people – double the average in the UK, according to recent figures – united by a common need: a good online connection. This is doubly the case since Covid-19 accelerated the trend of working from home (WFH). Seamless connectivity is the lifeblood of rural communities – and, in this, Aylesbeare has recently triumphed.
A village community stirs
So, what happened to bring Aylesbeare up to speed?
It all started in the village hall. One evening in late 2019, the village hall was packed. The local attendees were outwardly calm but inwardly restless. They had been failed by continuous hints and half-promises that, one day, Aylesbeare would have fabulous connectivity. Yet up to that point, this had not come to pass. Without better broadband, Aylesbeare would remain what it was: a pleasant but remote East Devonshire village, where one sensed that life was happening elsewhere. However, the assembled company were determined to get what they wanted.
The appeal was fortunately heard by Jurassic Fibre, a full-fibre network developer and operator in Southwest England owned by a fund managed by Octopus, which had a similar mission: to connect rural communities to an internet service far faster than had been previously experienced. The demand was there, and Jurassic Fibre had the solution. It began to take steps to fulfil this aim, and soon letters were sent out to every resident in the area to gauge interest in the service.
Aylesbeare welcomes careful drivers and full fibre
A further meeting was called in early January 2020, at which the company unveiled its plans for the community, with the work commencing soon afterwards and the first stage completed in June of that year. The response from the community regarding the new service has been overwhelmingly positive. The tortoise had become a hare. Download and upload speeds were liberated – at last, a service that was fit for purpose had arrived. The take-up of the full-fibre service has been strong and Jurassic Fibre ensured the village hall is connected and provided with free internet for a year.
A full-fibre future
It is full marks to Jurassic Fibre – it moved quickly to resolve the issue, communicated well with the residents at each stage of the process, and, most importantly, delivered on its promises. As CEO Michael Maltby said: “We’re keen to work with communities to future proof them for the 21st century. The demand for an improved service that’s reliable and fast, backed with good local customer service, is undoubtedly there. We’ve had great support from the community and the local parish council and are thrilled that so many people have pre-registered for the service.”
Jurassic Fibre describes its service as providing “the digital plumbing” for households and businesses in the Southwest of England, so that everyone can benefit from high-speed and seamless connection. The company talks of its mission to empower rural communities, so that geographic remoteness does not exclude anyone from being where they want to be online. It is busy replacing old copper lines with full fibre across the towns and villages of Southwest England, delivering a minimum 1Gbps speed, which is far superior to existing services. And the company plans to build a full-fibre infrastructure for more than 300,000 homes. All of which means people can potentially fulfil their dreams of living in the countryside but not feeling cut off from mainstream life.
This is a mission that Octopus Investments wholeheartedly supports and promotes. Octopus has committed nearly £1 billion of investor money into four different full-fibre networks, including the one Jurassic Fibre is rolling out in the Southwest. We are passionate about this cause but not just for altruistic reasons. We firmly believe that our clients will benefit from the investment that we are making in both Jurassic Fibre and other full fibre-related enterprises.