Thursday, 10 March 2016 By Tom French in Community News
THOUSANDS of homes across Dartmoor National Park are to be connected to superfast internet through ambitious plans to deliver England’s biggest wireless broadband scheme.
The Connecting Dartmoor and Exmoor programme, led by the Connecting Devon and Somerset Partnership and delivered by Airband Community Internet Company, is on track to connect 5,800 homes, farms and businesses across Dartmoor National Park and Exmoor National Park using wireless broadband technology.
Airband’s fixed wireless network offers a solution which minimises disruption and provides value for money. There is no need to dig up roads and lay cables to connect with the exchange points and fixed wireless also has the added advantage of quick deployment times and low install costs.
Jo Rumble, communities officer for Dartmoor National Park Authority, said; ‘We have been working closely with Airband since the summer to develop the superfast broadband network for Dartmoor in a way that respects the wonderful landscape and special qualities that Dartmoor offers while bringing all the benefits of superfast broadband to its most rural residents and businesses.
‘It is exciting to see the network taking shape and how it can realise the community aspirations for good broadband access on Dartmoor.’
For Dartmoor the network will consist of about 60 to 70 transmission sites, around a third of which are outside the national park.
Of the 40 or so transmission sites located on Dartmoor, many are on existing masts or buildings and only 20 or so require planning permission.
Most of the applications have now been submitted and are expected to be determined in the next few weeks. The applications are for transmitters mounted on timber ‘telegraph’ poles, none of which exceed 12 metres in height.
Proposed sites for these masts include Gidleigh, Peter Tavy, Mary Tavy and Yelverton.
Penny Mills from the Devon branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has welcomed the move as long as the impact on the landscape is kept to a minimum.
She said: ‘CPRE welcomes superfast broadband for homes, farms and businesses as long as the impact on the landscape of the masts is acceptable.
‘But we hope visitors to our national parks will take advantage of the natural beauty and tranquility by turning their iPads and phones off!’
It kick-starts phase two of the publicly-funded Connecting Devon and Somerset broadband programme which aims to provide 95% of Devon and Somerset with download speeds of 24Mbps by the end of 2017.
The Connecting Dartmoor and Exmoor programme for the South West’s two national parks is due to be completed at the end of 2016, one year ahead of the Government’s 95% target.
Progress on the project is weather dependent and following a challenging December, January and February has seen lots of progress with the installation of sites outside the national park nearing completion. Until all sites have been approved, the network may be subject to alteration; it is only once the network has been finalised that residents and businesses will be able to sign up for a high speed broadband service delivered through the new wireless open network.
The installation of the network in Dartmoor National Park will proceed immediately following the determination of planning applications.
Airband, Devon and Somerset Councils, Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks and land owners have been working to ensure that the works to the network cause the least disruption to communities and the environment, but will provide a substantial benefit to the residents and businesses of Dartmoor and Exmoor when in place.
Dartmoor National Park said that community support for the programme was evident during the series of evening sessions held across Dartmoor at the end of last year; especially for local residents and businesses when the overwhelming response was positive.