Bringing superfast broadband early to Axford – dig your own trench

Sometimes you can wait a long time for broadband to be delivered. Firstly you need an enabled exchange. Then the connections in the ground or on poles to provide your connectivity to the Internet. In the case of the rural Wiltshire village of Axford, they’ve been waiting for a while. So long that local landowner (and boss of the H&M store chain) decided to do something about it. Waiting for wayleaves to be granted for a traditional BT route takes time. These typically are alongside and across roads, so require local councils permission. As the owner of the Ramsbury Estate, Persson could offer a wayleave over his land. And labour to dig and deliver a duct to connect the village of Axford to the BT network. He achieved this with the help of the local community, the villages 77 houses putting up about £600 to fund the connection. It would appear that the rest was provided by the estate, or by Wiltshire Online. (The original reporting isn’t clear who finances the link).

But it wasn’t wholly altruistic. Stefan Persson, son of the founder of Hennes and Mauritz, has businesses on the estate that need good internet connectivity, just like the rest of us. The Ramsbury Estate has a brewery, distillery, smokehouse and oil press, as well as farming and foresty over the 19,000 acres of managed property.

“We have got appalling speed on our broadband. We have got a brewery business, a smokehouse and the farm and everything is done online and it is awful. So we approached BT along with a couple of guys in the village who were pretty proactive and we asked what it would cost to put a system in.” – Alistair Ewing, Estate Manager, Ramsbury Estates.

A 3km trench was dug across the estate, and ducting laid to receive the necessary fibers from Openreach. This will allow Axford to connect to the local exchange at Aldbourne, 8km to the north. This reduced the original quoted cost from Openreach of £170k to £90k, nearly halving the cost of the delivery. Broadband doesn’t just have a duct in the ground. It also requires equipment at each end and connections to each home. So Axford doesn’t yet have instant broadband, with final installation planned for later in the year.

“As part of this partnership the estate management team has self dug around 3km of duct and installed the relevant footway boxes in readiness for the Open Reach engineering to commence. We are currently working with all parties in this partnership to successfully bring superfast broadband to these communities as quickly as possible.” – Spokesperson, BT Openreach

“Without the Ramsbury estate, we would never be here. Without their help, we would never have been able to have Broadband in this village. The fibre will go straight into the homes. We will have a faster scheme than the rest of the country come the end of the day.” – Nick Swan, Axford resident, quoted by The Telegraph newspaper.

The Telegraph reports this on a slow news day in their article “Staff of billionaire H&M boss roll up sleeves to bring broadband to local village.”