High speed internet with free installation coming your way!

Wessex Internet is accelerating plans to bring fibre broadband to dozens of villages and hamlets across the Blackmore Vale in 2022.

A total of 34 rural communities will be connected to high-speed broadband this year, with fibre direct to the home for the first time.

And the company is planning its first foray into towns, with 8,000 premises in Sturminster Newton and Blandford set to be fibre- connected this year or next. The Milldown area of Blandford is the first target.

“Our rural rollout will continue but the towns are a new area of build,” said managing director Hector Gibson Fleming. “It was always the plan to serve the whole community.”

The company’s ambitions are supported by Dorset Council and Local Enterprise Programme (LEP) funds are available to top up government grants. Residential homes are eligible for a total grant of £2,500, while businesses can receive £6,000.

A moleplough in a rural network build

Free installation

The money goes to Wessex and means there is no installation charge to home and business owners, other than a £49 activation fee and monthly rental fees from £29.

“We can make projects work within that funding,” said Fleming, who plans to double his workforce by the end of 2022 as the Shroton-based company expands. It is also launching an apprenticeship programme. Landowners across the Vale are now queuing up to allow Wessex to run the fibre cables across their land.

Rather than dig up roads, a mole plough cuts a slit across fields and through gardens and buries the fibre 3ft deep. “We work with landowners and build in an efficient way,” said Fleming. Some landowners are not convinced, while bodies such as The National Trust, Church of England and Forestry Commission are resistant. But Wessex has grown adept at finding new routes. “We are more confident we can work around villages,” he added.

The landowner is not paid but gets cut rate, high-speed connection which could prove vital in the growing agri-tech industry, while homeworking becomes more practical for the community.

Faster fibre connection

Download speeds with fibre will be up to 18 times faster than the national average of 54 megabits per second for rural areas – although many parts of the Blackmore Vale have a far lower figure than that at present.

The existing network largely consists of fibre to a junction box, then copper wires to the premises. Half of Wessex Internet’s existing customers also receive their broadband wirelessly, via a network of 150 masts.

Only 20% of properties in Britain currently have full fibre. Wessex’s plan is to eventually get everyone connected to its own fibre network, with speeds from 100- 900 Mbps.

Its target area is a 50km radius of Shroton, which covers south Somerset and Wiltshire, and parts of Hampshire.

The 34 Blackmore Vale communities in line for fibre in 2022 are predominantly those with no connection or the lowest existing download speeds, and/or those who have expressed the most interest in getting connected.
Homeowners elsewhere are still encouraged to express an interest via the company’s website. But Fleming added: “These days, we know the communities well enough to know what the demand is likely to be.

“We are trying to build pipelines in a number of areas which can then link off to other communities.”

For example, Wessex is in the final stages of connecting fibre to tiny hamlets like Eccliffe and Bugley near Gillingham – but can then loop off that link to larger villages nearby such as Buckhorn Weston and Kington Magna, which have an average 20 Mbit/s speeds at present.

Moving into Somerset

Wessex is also busy with two publicly funded projects to bring fibre to South Somerset, while connecting community buildings between Blandford and Sherborne:

• Network construction is under way to connect fibre to 3,618 homes and businesses in South Somerset. Work began in Woolston, near North Cadbury, in May and the first homes went live last month, followed by fibre to homes in North and South Barrow, Babcary, Queen Camel and Marston Magna.

• Dorset’s Council and the Local Enterprise Council are funding fibre connection to 60 community buildings between Blandford and Sherborne.

The first connection was made to Durweston Village School.

The 36 Blackmore Vale communities to be connected to fibre in 2022:

  • Bapton
  • Bayford, Riding
  • Gate,
  • Leigh Common
  • Blandford
  • Berwick St John
  • Binghams Melcombe
  • Buckland Newton
  • Charlton Horethorne
  • Chilmark
  • Corton
  • Donhead St Andrew
  • East Knoyle,
  • Upton & The Green
  • Fifehead Magdalen Henbury & Partyfield Henstridge Airfield
  • Hilton
  • Hinton St Mary Horsington
  • Huntingford
  • Middlemarsh
  • Milborne Wick
  • North Cadbury
  • Ryme Intrinseca
  • Sedgehill
  • Semley
  • Shroton
  • South Cheriton • Stockton
  • Stowell & Wilkinthroop
  • Sturminster Newton
  • Tarrant Keynston, Monkton, Rawston & Rushton
  • Tollard Royal
  • Turnworth
  • Tytherington
  • White Lackington • Woodminton
  • Yenston

By: Steve Keenan

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