Stage 1 – Project Initiation and Administration

Starting a Project – What you should know

There are a number of stages to be taken by any community or project leader seeking to implement a rural community broadband initiative.  These stages apply to any community or business located in an area where broadband speeds are below that required to operate basic services such as:

  • IPlayer or other equivalent video services
  • ITunes or YouTube
  • Large file downloads e.g. remote download of PC programmes or applications

A successful project will have identifiable  milestones:

  • Formation of your broadband action group – registration of your project
  • Survey your community – determine community broadband demand
  • Supplier Engagement – broadband delivery types for community projects
  • Establish Funding
  • Contracting with the supplier
  • Project publicity – community and others

Stages may operate consecutively whereas others eg. contracting with the supplier, would naturally be reliant on outcomes from an earlier stage.

Action Group – Key Roles and Responsibilities

Rather than defining roles it can be more effective to have defined responsibilities as follows:

  • Project Leader – Community Champion
  • Funding coordinator – looking at what funds are available and how to apply.  Forms the business case and model.  Produces the funding requirement document.  (see Stage 4 Obtaining Project Funding)
  • Supplier identification – local supplier capability, track record, successful projects
  • Survey team – selects the survey template, arranges for distribution and collection, analysis of results.

To create balance  the team should consist of residents and business owners within the community.

A note on Project Leaders

A successful rural broadband project needs a Project Leader or “Community Champion”.

The project leader does not have to understand all the technical aspects of broadband delivery but should have the passion to reach a successful outcome, have the time to take the lead, be respected by the project team members and ideally have local knowledge.

A project leader does not have to be the person who identified the initial need.

The project team should concentrate on a successful project delivery and avoid unnecessary complication.

There are a number of successful rural broadband projects across the United Kingdom using tried and tested technology and or suppliers. Try to agree on a common approach for the team to adopt as there is seldom any benefit in “reinventing the wheel”

First Discussions: General Tips

The project team should concentrate on a successful project delivery and avoid unnecessary complication.

Find out whether there are plans for improved broadband in your area.  When asking BT or a cable company ask for specific timescales of delivery.  Separate sales hype from reality remembering that so far these suppliers have failed to provide a quality infrastructure to support high-speed broadband delivery in your area.  If quality broadband is available in the nearest town this does not mean that a supplier has plans to extend to your community in an acceptable timeframe.

We suggest that an acceptable timeframe is less than 2 years.

If there are no plans in place, first look at some case studies of previous community projects, to see what you can learn.

There are a number of successful rural broadband projects across the United Kingdom using tried and tested technology and/or suppliers.

Getting Started

Successful projects require local support and enthusiasm.  The steps to achieving a successful broadband action group meeting include:

  • Project endorsement by the Parish or Community Council – ideally a Councillor should be invited to join the team as a liaison representative.
  • Organise a public meeting. – The Parish Council may be able to assist in meeting the venue costs.
  • Publicise the meeting, venue details and main objective(s).  Sample content for posters and village magazines/bulletin/web site entries are located here
  • Use the public meeting to identify and recruit willing volunteers to fill the key roles and responsibility roles
  • Avoid choosing the type of technology solution at the public meeting as this will come later
  • Ensure someone records the meeting minutes and attendee names and contact details.
  • Define the outline project objectives in simple measurable terms
  • Set realistic expectations.  Projects can take up to 12 months before the first user is connected.
  • Always pitch the aim of the project in terms of providing community gain and benefit for all.
  • In most rural cases once the service is implemented then the wider community engagement programme will generally conclude.  This will be the case for a wholly supplied (or managed) solution.
  • Identify and approach a legally trained individual to join the action group ready for the contracting stage.  A solicitor who lives/works in the community would be ideal.

Parish or Community Council

Obtaining endorsement for your project from a Parish Council (or Community Council) is highly recommended and can have positive impact on your wider discussions with Local Authorities, funding agencies and will be essential in most cases when the project reaches a contractual stage.

Benefits that a Parish or Community Council bring to a project include:

  • They have a legal status in the administration of a community and are democratically elected without party political motivation
  • Whilst elected they are also community volunteers and often possess the experience and skills required to implement community projects
  • Parish Councillors are local people possessing local knowledge often of a diverse nature
  • Being an elected body they generally have established routes and communication paths to the relevant Local Authority.
  • They have budget responsibilities for the community and can raise funds by various means e.g. setting the community precept, access to the Public Works Loan etc.
  • It is likely that increased powers will flow to the Parish and Community councils under the evolving initiatives collectively referred to as the “Big Society”
  • May have already endorsed a Parish Plan that sets out the strategy for the community which may include the implementation of high speed broadband.
  • Parish Councils have access to county and national association support and access to diverse information sources relevant to local communities

 

Don’t forget to register your project on this site at www.ruralbroadband.com/register/