Rotherhithe suffers from very poor broadband connection speeds, in some patches as low as 1.5Mbps. This is mostly due to the history of the area as a dockland area with surrounding warehouses. Most people who worked on the Surrey Docks lived elsewhere particularly in neighbouring Bermondsey. The installation of a fibre infrastructure has been hampered by the lack of street-side green cabinets which normally act as the jumping off point for lower-capacity copper wire links to individual properties. As a result, many broadband connections in Rotherhithe depend on copper wiring for the whole distance to the Bermondsey-based exchange.
With no prospect of BT installing a new fibre network in Rotherhithe, other options have been explored. Hyperoptic have begun bringing their fibre cables to blocks of flats and wiring up the whole property to deliver up to 1Gbps connection. However for most of the low-rise properties in Rotherhithe this model is just not available. The arrival of Relish – a 4G data service run by UK Broadband – has sparked interest but has yet to be available for most of SE16 and will face the same problems as other 4G services that as numbers of users grow, so the service is shared between them, reducing over time to speeds that do little to address the current poor service levels.
A Community Enterprise
As a result of these circumstances, a small group of local residents have come up with a plan. The newly formed Rotherhithe Community Broadband is proposing to build a fresh fibre network itself and to offer residents and local businesses a cheaper service, at higher speeds than BT can achieve and within the next two years. The Group has researched a feasibility study that shows the idea is possible but they now want to move on to developing a comprehensive business plan for the new enterprise. And still more intriguingly, they want the whole thing to be owned by the Rotherhithe community, ploughing profits back into the local area for everyone’s benefit.
An Opportunity for Rotherhithe
This is an opportunity for Rotherhithe not only to tackle one of its most serious problems but also to create a new independent source of investment targeting the key issues for the community itself. Employing local people wherever possible, training apprentices up in a growing industry and making Rotherhithe more attractive for future investment could help to stimulate the local economy in fresh ways. If we can build a strong firm committed first to high quality broadband services but also to the improvement of the area, we will have increased the capacity of the area many times over.
Finding Resources for the Plan
To build the business plan will take expertise and money. The Group are inviting local people to join us in challenging the local authority to come behind the plan both with some money to help the plan get off the ground but also with practical help, their influence and connections. The Group is asking the Council to join in with the community vision and to make Rotherhithe a place families can grown up in with affordable high quality connection to the wider world and firms want to relocate to because they can get excellent, cheap broadband at attractive speeds.
Get in Touch
If you want to help, you can find out more at www.energise16.co.uk. If you want to see this idea go further, then please email Cllr Mark Williams – executive member for Regeneration, Planning and Transport – who is leading on the Council’s response to our proposal; his email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can tweet him at @markwilliams84 . Let us know if you do contact Cllr Williams by copying your email to email@example.com or including @broadbandSE16 in your tweet.