The life of a digital champion
By Simon Wilkinson -Blake
I became Digital Champion for Holwell in August 2014, when the deployment plans for Contract 1 were starting to take shape. A few months earlier, I had already convened a residents meeting about broadband and so was pretty clear on what we wanted. Holwell is a small rural village in the Melton District of North East Leicestershire and at that time, we were on long Exchange Only lines with resulting download speeds of 2-3Mbps maximum. The Contract 1 deployment plans looked encouraging for fibre in our area but were not yet formed on the detail.
As Digital Champion, I attended regular Superfast Leicestershire Stakeholder Forum meetings at County Hall, learning a little of how fibre was deployed and reporting back to residents on developments. I kept a village website online blog, still available here: https://holwellvillage.wordpress.com/broadband/latest-developments/ and copied these posts into our village Facebook group.
In October 2014, I met with the BT Project Manager and one of the County Superfast team, who confirmed that Holwell would get its own fibre cabinets. Thereafter, it was mostly a case of managing residents’ expectations, as our deployment schedule slipped a few months for understandable reasons. Our build started in November 2015 and we went live in April 2016. Many in the village upgraded in the following months and are now benefitting from download speeds in excess of 50Mbps, twenty times faster than was previously available.
We held a well-attended Digital Skills session in the village in May 2015, at which resident speakers addressed topics such as online security and setting up home wifi.
I would strongly recommend each community having a Digital Champion; that person will enjoy plenty of support from the Superfast team and will perform an invaluable task in communicating to community residents when and how super fast broadband will be coming to their area.