Summary of the meeting on Wednesday 30th May in Pelham Hall.
Some 60 or 70 residents turned out and many others had sent apologies too, so it seems that there is good support for the project.
David May opened the meeting by giving the background to the village broadband project and by explaining just why Penallt had such a poor provision and what potential solutions were in the market place. More information on this background is also available on this website here.
He related that a small group of residents had already approached four potential providers and that one of these, Cardiff-based Spectrum Internet, was the current preferred option.
Claire Brown, of Spectrum Internet, gave details of the company and described how they had been involved with a similar project at St Brides, between Newport and Cardiff. Their solution was to beam broadband via a microwave link directly to the existing BT cabinet at St Brides, thereby effectively bringing the main exchange into St Brides.
Spectrum's solution for Penallt would be to use microwave links to bounce the broadband "signal" from the Monmouth exchange to a new cabinet in Lone Lane via a mast on the ridge between The Kymin and Redbrook. This would shorten the distance from all those connected to the Monmouth exchange by approximately 4.5 km and would thereby produce a dramatic increase in broadband speeds for these users.
The situation for those in e.g. Tregagle is different, in that they are connected to the Trellech exchange and so would need a separate solution. Exactly what solution would be viable depends on how many residents wish to proceed with the upgrade - the more there are, the more applications for the Welsh Assembly Grant there would be and the larger the budget which would be available.
Two solutions for the Trellech exchange households were mentioned. If there were only a few households wishing to take up the upgrade, a large scale wireless network could be provided by Spectrum. If this number became substantially larger, then a "microwave to the cabinet" solution, similar to that proposed for the Monmouth exchange residents, would be affordable.
Bill Jackson then gave details of two funding sources, the Welsh Assembly Broadband Support Grant of £1000 per household and the Monmouthshire County Council award of up to £45000 to four villages in the county. He mentioned that Penallt was in a strong position with respect to this grant and that, in order to make the application, we needed to form a properly constituted charity. So, a group called the "Penallt Broadband Association" has now been formed in order to progress this funding application. It is now necessary to demonstrate to funding and provision partners just how strong is the intention of Penallt residents to commit to taking part in the scheme.
Delyth Harris then explained that we are now at the stage where we need firm data regarding residents' current broadband situations and what they are prepared to pay for a future provision. She had prepared two questionnaires, one to be filled in at the meeting and returned to her on the spot, the other, which required a little home research including details of present broadband providers and contracts, should be returned separately.
The meeting ended with an extended Q and A session.
A copy of the all the presentation slides and the two important questionnaires are available below. All those who are interested, but who weren't able to complete the two questionnaires at or after the meeting, are urged to download them and complete them as soon as possible, and by June 15th at the latest. Details of where to send them are contained on each questionnaire.