Robin Hood and Nottingham Castle are two icons of the county. Credit: Arran Bee / CC BY 2.0
Broadband connectivity is important for everyone from preschoolers to seniors. It provides the means to access key public services, such as information on housing, benefits and local transport. It allows communication with friends and relatives around the world, helping to combat social inclusion and loneliness.
It underpins public services such as schools and libraries, not only in terms of provision of information and advice online, but also for daily activities. It is essential that local businesses compete nationally and internationally and that organizations of all sizes grow and develop.
In Nottinghamshire, a scalable digital network also plays a central role in our ambition to develop the county's 1.75 billion-pound economy and is essential to making our region a place to stay and visit. attractive. It is now an essential factor alongside other public services when looking to invest in the housing market, for example.
In Nottinghamshire, there are 31,535 businesses and 817,851 residents, all of which can benefit from improved connectivity. That's why the Nottinghamshire County Council has invested more than £ 30 million in deploying very high speed connectivity across the country since 2012, thanks to a combination of our own funds, central government funding and initiatives of the European Union. The county now enjoys a super-fast coverage of 97.8%, the highest coverage in the East Midlands, and is positioned as the second most connected county in the UK.
However, it is still not a small amount of money and any major investment in such an infrastructure can only be justified by its use.
To gain the benefits associated with improved connectivity, the use of these services must be maximized. which means that individuals and businesses should be encouraged to sign up for ultra-fast connectivity packages.
In addition to ensuring a positive impact for businesses and residents, it also has significant benefits for local authorities that optimize their use.
Once more than a threshold percentage of premises in an area are subscribed to very high speed services made possible by the subsidy of the public network – in our case, it was 30% – a local authority receives revenue from the network provider which, in Nottinghamshire, is Openreach.
This is called "surplus value" and protects the public treasury from excessive subsidies granted to the supplier. Once the threshold is crossed, a portion of the profits generated by Internet service providers selling very high speed packages is distributed.
The larger the participation, the more funds like those of Openreach are transferred, and the more they in turn return to the local authorities who funded the network infrastructure.
Up to now, Nottinghamshire has received £ 4.8 million in shared earnings since the start of its initial investment in 2012. This profit-sharing also applies for a period of seven years from the end date of the contract, which represents a significant source of funding. reinvested in our county's broadband infrastructure.
This means that local authorities are encouraged to maximize the use of very high speed after deployment: on the one hand, the range of social and economic benefits and, on the other hand, the concrete reinvestment possibilities on the part of shared capital.
At the Nottinghamshire County Council, we initially used a range of standard community outreach methods that will be familiar to other boards. We sent emails and letters containing details about the new service and often included letters and information in folders for children, for example. We have also organized community engagement events and held meetings in villages and towns.
To go further, we also turned to FarrPoint, a digital connectivity advisor with particular expertise in assisting local authorities with the provision of broadband networks.
FarrPoint has collected data from various sources, including internet providers, and produced an interactive mapping tool covering the entire Nottinghamshire County Council territory. It allows individuals and businesses to identify if very high speed is available – not just at the postal code level, but at the individual premises level.
"More than half of Nottinghamshire residents enjoy a wide range of practical and social benefits, and we have received as a substantial share of our initial financial outlay"
By creating such a detailed mapping tool, businesses and residents can now check their own availability and record their contact information on our website, from which we can send automated updates on service deployment to them. broadband, as well as reminders asking them to register. .
This has proven extremely effective. We have now reached a broadband participation rate of 60%, making us one of the top five local authorities in the country. This means that more than half of the inhabitants of Nottinghamshire enjoy a large number of practical and social benefits, and that as an authority we have received a substantial share of our expenses initial financial benefits under the Shared Gains Program.
In recent years, many local authorities have benefited from funding from the central government and the European Union to bring broadband connectivity to their region. However, further efforts are needed to ensure the use of services across the country. The creation of the infrastructure is clearly the first step, but the motivation is equally important to take full advantage of the improved connectivity for the local authorities themselves and for the whole of the community we serve.