Broadband Champions Step Up to Support Communities
7 January 2022
A series of broadband webinars held by West Devon Borough Council to coach volunteers in how to support their local communities has been a resounding success. While there will be a large rollout of fibre across the region, there will still be some communities who are left behind in more rural areas, which the Council is determined to help overcome.
A broadband community champion scheme has been set up to support the communities of West Devon. So far, 45 community champions have volunteered to support the initiative from across the Borough. With the support of the champions, as the eyes and ears locally to identify issues, they will work alongside the Council to help identify solutions to improve their community's digital connectivity.
There is a wide range of broadband solutions available from a number of providers. However, access in some rural areas is problematic and understanding what is available, suitable for your needs and how to access it is not always easy to understand.
That is why the Borough Council has bid for unique funding through a government grant to secure a Community Digital Specialist for two years to support communities through the obstacles. The Specialist's role will improve digital connectivity and broadband coverage across the Borough, while engaging with communities and aim to secure grant funding for ultrafast gigabit-capable infrastructure.
The live webinars are just one way the Council are supporting the communities. Led by the Council's Community Digital Specialist. The webinars had 26 volunteers in attendance, along with representatives from town and parish councils and elected Borough councillors. Along with Connecting Devon and Somerset, a number of broadband providers were also at the informative session to answer questions, in attendance were representatives from; Airband, Skylight Broadband and RadioFibre.
The webinar provided the attendees with information on how they would support their communities and what their role would involve. They found out how the Council is working with Connecting Devon and Somerset to ensure that West Devon has wide-ranging broadband provision and how the champions could help fill the gaps. Attendees also found out the differences between the broadband technologies and had a detailed look at broadband rollout across the Borough.
West Devon Borough Council's Lead Member for Economy, Cllr Peter Crozier, said: "These webinars have been really successful in showing how these valuable champions will work within their communities to support the rollout of broadband in hard to reach areas. It is so very important for the economic and social wellbeing of the Borough's communities, so that they can connect easily with the wider world.
"It is a key commitment for the Council and one we're determined to achieve with the help of our champions and we thank them for their support."
Councillor Rufus Gilbert, CDS Board Member and Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economic Recovery and Skills, had this to say.
"Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) aims to provide broadband access to as many homes and businesses as possible. Rural and hard to reach areas are often not covered by commercial providers. CDS has already helped provide broadband access to more than 300,000 homes and businesses in the region - that's more than any other broadband programme in the country. We know there's a huge appetite across the region for faster broadband speeds, and it's encouraging to see that interest reflected in West Devon and the South Hams through the support of their volunteer champions. We're already working closely with South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council and will continue to do so throughout our current fibre rollout."
The Council is supporting communities in a number of ways. In March last year, a community team in Sydenham Damerel, successfully signed a contract worth £174,200. The team were underpinned and supported by the Council every step of the way.
The scheme will provide 29 rural businesses and 70 homes with fibre broadband delivered by Openreach using government vouchers.
To find out what options you have to improve your broadband, contact your local broadband champion. You can find out who that is here:
If there is not a champion listed in your area, you can ask your Parish council how they can help.
If you are interested in becoming a broadband champion, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org