From strangers to good neighbours in a few months – thanks to a poor internet connection!

by Christine O'Grady

Case Studies > From strangers to good neighbours in a few months – thanks to a poor internet connection!

Adam and Sarah live in the same Dorset village of Affpuddle and until recently had only met once over a parcel delivery. Despite leading quite different lives – Sarah is a retired shop owner and Adam works from home as an IT Infrastructure and Server engineer – they had one thing in common that would eventually unite them and their neighbours. A poor internet connection to their respective homes.

Sarah, who has lived in Affpuddle for 15 years said: “We’d each had dreadful experiences with our home internet. Adam was talking to a friend in nearby Tincleton who’d already been connected to full fibre broadband by Wessex Internet and spoke highly of them. Coincidentally, around about the same time I received a leaflet from Dorset Council which explained about government funding opportunities for people living in rural areas like us experiencing insufficient internet connectivity.”

Along with another neighbour, they set about investigating how to get their village better connected. Sarah produced leaflets and dropped them through people’s doors to gauge interest, whilst Adam researched internet providers who covered their area.

By acting as “Community Champions” for their village, the pair quickly became familiar with their neighbours’ needs - as well as gaining knowledge about internet connectivity where they lived. More importantly, they discovered that they could collectively form a community scheme to show there was a demand for superfast broadband – and get government support to fund the installation.

Sarah, a self confessed “non techie” focused on knocking on doors and spreading the word, whilst Adam’s research into service providers enabled them to respond to any questions that arose. Next, they approached Wessex Internet and were immediately introduced to Minna - their dedicated Community Engagement Manager. From then on, Minna helped them with everything from frequently asked questions about how to set up a community scheme, to providing leaflets - and how to go about getting government funding for the cost of the full fibre installation.

Adam explained that the entire process from there was relatively quick – taking just 8 months. Once they had finalised the list of all those who were on board (the funding is dependent upon a minimum number of interested parties) – Minna took care of everything. This involved submitting the village’s funding request to the relevant central government department, keeping everybody informed of progress and confirming when the request was approved. Now, everyone can get full fibre connectivity direct to their properties.

We asked Adam and Sarah what they would say to other rural communities in the same position as they were. They said that it was worth contacting the local council to find out what help was available for homes and businesses. Neither had heard of the government funding scheme before but found that Rachel and the Digital team at Dorset Council were extremely helpful in the early stages. The biggest challenges? For Adam it was finding the time outside his day job to get involved; Sarah’s was battling the weather! Both agreed wholeheartedly that they’d got to know more neighbours as a result – helped as well by the creation of the village WhatsApp group. Now that they’ve been connected to ultrafast broadband with speeds of 100 Mbps and more, everyone has noticed a real difference.

Adam said: “I no longer suffer from buffering; working from home often meant that I had to go to my Dad’s in Osmington to get a decent connection.” One of our neighbours, when first approached by us summed it up: “Great news – I’ve waited 20 years for someone to connect me!!”

Minna, who has helped hundreds of communities in rural areas to get free installations to ultrafast broadband via government funding added: “Sarah and Adam did a fantastic job bringing the village together - with the common aim of getting connectivity on par with that of towns and cities. Having people like this who are actively behind their community makes it so much more straightforward and quicker for everyone to get up and running. The success of this initiative is all down to them – which is why we always encourage and support Community Champions in all the areas we work in.”

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