At the end of 2010 we applied to DEFRA for a Rural Community Grant through LEADER, which is administered by the Derby and Derbyshire Economic Partnership DDEP. The grant prospectus offered equal funding for any qualifying cause, which could tick all the boxes. Ever since we launched W3Z 8 years ago we have been totally self funded so we felt justified in asking for a 50% consideration of the £300,000 we would have to provide to upgrade all our microwave links in order that we could offer: SUPERFAST BROADBAND to Derbyshire well ahead of the competition.
£300,000 was only half the story, as this would only upgrade the microwave links that couple our hilltop radio sites, via our Alport Heights and Highoredish Radio Masts to W3Z Network Centre at Ripley. There was as much expense again to be incurred re-equipping the local Access Points which serve each community and then new equipment for each of our existing customers’ replacement connection equipment and new equipment for every potential new customer, as in truth, understandably, nobody would want to pay for it! The total bill for 2011 then has been in excess of £500,000 and when the grant appeared it was a disappointing £40,000 and not the expected £150,000. Needless to say, despite being very disappointed, we did not send it back, we said “thank you very much” before approaching our Bank Manager for the difference. In our 33 years of business with the NatWest never once have they proved to be the monster all those bankruptcy cases claim. The response came – a big smile and the comment “if you need a grant you shouldn’t be doing it – get on with it!”
Before applying for the grant we upgraded our Ripley Access Point to Superfast during 2010. Since this is on our Ripley mast no link upgrades were necessary. We loaded the new Ripley AP with a hundred or so existing / new customers and made development progress by trying various new equipment in ‘our own back yard’ before installing the final selected equipment throughout the Peak District. By the time we applied for the grant we were 100% confident that our new development would fly.
By February 2011 the financial jousting was complete and the first tranche of High Speed Microwave Link equipment from our suppliers in Latvia was delivered 6 weeks later and then the hard work really started. It was vital to roll out the upgrade in a manner that would not leave some areas wanting while others were being provided for, as this could have led to a revolution amongst our loyal customer base and we would have been snarled up handling enquiries which we could not adequately answer “What about us?”
The Almighty must also have his Mortgage with NatWest as during the summer and autumn we have been blessed with some of the best weather we could have hoped for. During the year our own two teams of certified mast climbers have performed magnificently and as we close for Christmas all the microwave links are now installed ahead of the program we submitted to DEFRA.
The W3Z area is now 95% SUPERFAST offering our 10Mb/s service. If you have not yet upgraded then you may not have been reading our website. Check out the ‘SUPERFAST’ bright blue link on the Home Page at www.w3z.co.uk. The areas remaining to be upgraded with be completed by March.