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https://dcmslibraries.blog.gov.uk/2022/10/05/blandford-library-connecting-a-community/

Blandford Library – Connecting a community

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Case study, Outcome: communities, Outcome: digital
Woman seated at a desk using a computer with a woman standing next to her looking at the monitor
Louise Butcher, Library Manager pictured at Blandford Library as part of the Building Digital UK scheme.
Picture by Ryan Hiscott/Stella Pictures Ltd

Blandford Library in Dorset is a hub for the whole community, and much more than simply a place to borrow books.  Already a valued and important local resource, it has been boosted still further with a gigabit-capable broadband connection.  This connection upgrade was made possible by Project Gigabit funding, a government programme investing £5 billion to help connect rural and hard-to-reach areas to the fastest broadband.

The library, sitting right at the heart of the community, hosts digital skills and computer basics courses, and provides computers and high speed wifi for public use. Its facilities prove incredibly popular.

Improved connectivity at Blandford means the town now has a Digital Champions Programme, working to improve local digital skills.  This in turn has made online services, like booking doctors appointments or filling in job applications, much more accessible for local people.

No Limits with Improved Connectivity

Before gigabit-capable broadband, systems at Blandford were slow and often dropped out or did not load at all.  This would have a knock-on effect on the public computers, as users often had limited time to complete work and faced infuriating buffering issues.

Since the broadband upgrade, the library has been able to offer a range of digital services including a computer basics course.  This course is delivered by the library's Digital Champion and teaches the community online skills that are essential to keeping them connected online. It no longer takes half an hour to start up a computer and people are not limited by problems with technology.

Better internet connections result in better personal connections. By expanding the digital skills of the local population, Blandford has enabled users to get connected at home and in the library.  The public wifi attracts people to stay in the library for longer, and supports the use of tablets to catalogue and find books quickly for customers.  The library also hosted a talk from a film editor, offering a virtual link to the local nursing home and residential homes for them to join online, which is something they could have never done before.

Libraries Levelling-Up with Project Gigabit

Blandford Library was upgraded to a gigabit-capable network in May 2021 through the Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) programme. The project was managed by Dorset Council and the connection supplied by BT Openreach, thanks to the Government's investment. Nationwide, LFFN has provided 2,700 kilometres of lightning-fast full fibre broadband to more than 5,000 public buildings, including schools, hospitals and libraries.

In total, more than 340 libraries across England have been connected with gigabit-capable broadband through LFFN.  Full fibre connections provide speeds in excess of 1,000 megabits per second which give vital public services the speed and reliability needed to operate at their full potential.

Boosting broadband in rural and other hard-to-reach places is a Government priority.  The £5 billion pledged to Project Gigabit has improved connectivity meaning people in these areas can have the freedom to live and work more flexibly, helping businesses to grow and vital public services to thrive. Through one of the fastest rollouts in Europe, two in three UK households had access to gigabit speeds by the end of 2021 – a huge leap from just one in ten in 2019.

Learn more about Project Gigabit

The government is committed to delivering lightning-fast, reliable gigabit-capable broadband to everyone in the UK as soon as possible, working hard with broadband providers to accelerate their commercial development plans.

For hard-to-reach areas where broadband is more costly to build, the government is investing £5 billion to ensure places are not left behind. More than 740,000 premises have already been connected.

How can people help bring gigabit to their communities?

The Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme.

If you and your community are not included in any commercial rollout plans and you do not want to wait for your area to be connected through the Project Gigabit rollout, you can apply for UK Gigabit Vouchers through this scheme. Homes and businesses in rural locations which meet the criteria can use vouchers to support the cost of installing new gigabit-capable connections when part of a group project.

Visit gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk to find out more.

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