- Internet speeds could increase by more than 300 times in Hampshire’s Test Valley
- 12 villages have till 31 December to sign up to be part of plans for better broadband
Ultrafast broadband is now more likely than ever in the Test Valley, thanks to an innovative scheme set up by local residents which could see internet speeds increase by more than 300 times.
Need4Speed Test Valley, a group of community champions, approached Virgin Media about bringing fibre broadband to homes and businesses within the Test Valley and parts of Wiltshire. These discussions have now reached a crucial milestone.
The agreement reached between the campaign group and Virgin Media is the first of its kind in the company’s history. Virgin Media’s investment decisions are usually based on proven demand and proximity to the existing network – factors which meant Test Valley was not planned to be part of the company’s broadband rollout. Following campaigning from Need4Speed, Virgin Media set the group the challenge that if 30% (1200) of premises in the area could register their interest in ultrafast broadband by the end of 2016 the company would begin detailed planning. This milestone has now been passed, with 1261 premises registered on www.virginmedia.com/cablemystreet.
Virgin Media will now begin advertising broadband in Test Valley in early 2017. If 1,000 local residents sign up to buy services, Virgin Media will launch a multi-million pound investment to bring speeds of 200Mbps to Test Valley homes, and 300Mbps for homeworkers and small businesses.
This will make a major difference to the community because while high speed broadband has become an essential enabler of people’s working and social lives, speeds in the Test Valley fall well below acceptable levels. Many households currently receive broadband speeds of under 1Mbps, less than a quarter of the average speeds in Zimbabwe. Ofcom, the communications regulator, states that speeds of at least 10Mbps are necessary to deliver an acceptable user experience.
Sheridan O’Shea, a spokesperson for Need4Speed Test Valley, said:
We are thrilled to have exceeded the target and believe this is a once in a generation opportunity. With data usage increasing by 50% every 18 months, within six years those currently receiving 20Mbps, let alone those with 1Mbps, will be totally left behind.
Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North, said:
I am delighted that the community-led partnership with Virgin Media has now achieved its goal of 1200+ registrations. I have long recognised how difficult it is for rural communities to manage with little or no access to the internet and I am therefore very pleased that Virgin Media has been working with the team – led by residents of West Tytherley and supported my community champions in villages across Test Valley – to look at the possibility of installing Fibre To The Home in these villages.
Community projects such as these are sometimes essential to achieve an outcome which wouldn’t necessarily be otherwise possible.
As part of the deal negotiated between Need4Speed and Virgin Media, local residents will need to pay an additional contribution to support the cost of building the new infrastructure. Contributions will vary based on residents’ council tax bands (with those in the lowest bands paying nothing) and the cost of building the network to their homes. Homeowners’ investment is likely to pay for itself, as a recent survey shows that fast broadband can increase house prices by 11%.
Each village in the Test Valley must demonstrate sufficient interest to be included in Virgin Media’s investment plans. While most villages have reached the 30% threshold on Cable My Street, the villages of King’s Somborne, Goodworth Clatford, Stockbridge, Firsdown & The Winterslow’s are still short of the target. Need4Speed is mobilising the local community to encourage households to sign up before the 31 December deadline.
Hugh Woolford, Regional Director for South West, Virgin Media, said:
We are pleased to be working with the Test Valley community on this innovative project to deliver ultrafast broadband. We would encourage people living in the villages which haven’t yet reached the threshold for investment to sign up on our Cable My Street website.