All Connect; levelling up to the internet across the generations

In searching for a solution to provide connectivity across the spectrum, I learnt that Colchester Borough Council & Stoke on Trent were only two local authorities that had benefited from Central Government Grants to connect the populations of their boroughs with the most up to date Full Fibre 5G broadband. The grant of £3 million to Colchester had been supplemented by £11 million from private investment. Work on the project had begun three years ago and the organisation was in a position to offer connectivity to Almshouse Complexes in Colchester itself & outlying communities in Wivenhoe & Stanway.
In Colchester centre, the Winnocks & Kendalls Almshouse Charity had built 9 new flats which would provide accommodation for older vulnerable people but would be served by a digital/broadband/wifi system connected to a digital Helpline service monitored and served by Tendring District Council. A digital VOIP telephone system was installed for resident’s use that anticipated the end of landline analogue phones in 2025. The capital costs of the installation were included in the overall building contract. The service charges for the use of the Careline and phone were allowed for housing benefit for those entitled to that cost in their housing provision. The system had been connected to a copper based broadband system. The Charity has an additional 34 dwellings in its portfolio. The costs of connecting the full fibre 5G broadband would be much cheaper and has a life expectancy of 40-50 years. Digital smoke alarms could be fitted to be monitored by Tendring District Council to meet the anticipated post Grenfell regulations to be set by government. A new digital CCTV system to provide security for the curtiledge of the Almshouse complex could be planned, The capital cost of the new FF5G system would be met from capital reserves of the Charity. Representations may need to be made to HMRC to allow this investment as a capital improvement.

Just as Water and Electricity are regarded as Public Utilities and should be available to all heriditaments, so too should be FF5G.

The Rosemary Almshouse Charity is at an advanced stage of applying for planning to build 31 new Almshouses at Stanway with grant aid from Homes England. The CBC project is being requested to install FF5G to the site. With regard to the 31 new Almshouses when built, the beneficiaries will be older people (over 55) from Stanway in need of housing. The Tendring Careline will provide a comprehensive monitoring system tailored to the security/safeguarding/personal care needs of each resident.

The capital cost of the digital/broadband/wifi system will be part of the total scheme costs allowable under grant payment. The weekly cost of providing the helpline & VOIP telephone will be charged as a weekly service charge payable under housing benefit or Attendance Allowance.

Wivenhoe is a self contained Community of 12,000 souls within Colchester Borough. A hub for the new FF5G system is being designed there. The Almshouses of the Wivenhoe Housing Trust together with CBC’s social housing portfolio are being assessed as part of a new centre for development of the FF5G infrastructure that will in turn link with the local Community to provide digital/ broadband/wifi links to private households. The monitoring system from Tendring District Careline will be available to all users. Currently Essex County Council provide free digital boxes through Tendring Careline for those who have health issues that can be monitored at home with direct access to the GP .the resident’s medical Consultant, a repeat prescription pharmacist or personal care provider through the Careline. Hospice at Home can be provided for people with a terminal illness.

In addition to Health issues, the Covid 19 pandemic has illustrated personal issues requiring sheltering and supply of goods to maintain the home & well being. I have a weekly delivery of groceries from my supermarket. My friendly butcher will deliver a month’s supply to my freezer. With people having an access to the internet, people’s living standards will be levelled up.

The current availability of broadband is poor. With the upgraded FF5G , people generally will be able to work from home as is encouraged during lock down. 40% of local work is London orientated. The future may herald just two journeys a week by our stretched commuter system rather than five.

Colchester is famous for its vast variety of education hubs; the University of Essex, the Hospital Universities, the Colchester University/FEI, two Grammar Schools a myriad of secondary schools and a great number of primary schools struggling to keep pace with the growth of population. Poverty is rife illustrated by the plight of Young Carers. All students need to be able to access digital/broadband/wifi technology to benefit from the free gift of laptops & notebooks from Government. To keep up with on line courses, students need affordable connectivity and not being reliant on expensive mobile phones. FF5G offers a solution.

Our grandson in Seattle, USA, researching for the next generations into virtual reality, gave us Alexa two Christmases ago. By addressing the device, we can both see and chat with him. Broadband facilitates the link. We can call up other family & friends at home & abroad. One of the issues identified with Covid 19 is isolation/loneliness/mental health issues.

Connectivity using technology could be a vital tool in combating these issues. Smart technology is being developed at a tremendous pace allowing access to entertainment, sport viewing by TV & internet, even doing household chores for we sedentary pensioners!

With a group of Colleagues, I have established/registered a not for profit company with the objects of supplying systems of connectivity across the whole spectrum of need. All Connect has as its Objects the study and provision of answers to people’s technology needs. We plan to work with private funders, Charities, Government to identify need and to work to find affordable solutions to the perceived requirements. Our pilot scheme for social housing needs in Military Road Colchester might prove a Masterplan for Levelling up connectivity across the Nation!




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