Crossed Wires Over Community Broadband Project

The chair of Muddleton Parish Council in Northamptonshire was left red-faced when a Community Broadband Project turned out to be somewhat smaller than suppliers GigaCity had hoped for.

Cllr Hugh Briss had proposed a project to connect the local BT Cabinet to the village hall with a fibre cable so that visitors to the hall could have fibre broadband and so that parish council meetings could be live streamed.

Having measured the distance from the cabinet to the front wall of the village hall, Cllr Bris downloaded the Community Broadband Expression of Interest form from GigaCity’s website and in the box marked “Scale of Project” he wrote “Approx. 25m”.  In the box marked “Contribution from Parish Council” he generously wrote “50%”.  Cllr Bris said, “I sent the form off to GigaCity honestly believing that I had completed all parts of the form accurately and correctly.”

A week later the parish council received a letter from Mr Evan Elpas, CEO at GigaCity saying that he wanted to visit Muddleton in person and was very excited to be collaborating with the parish council.  Cllr Bris said “I thought it was unusual to get such personal service from the CEO and I was surprised that he described it as a “very exciting project” when really it was just a few meters of cable.  However, we didn’t want to appear churlish, so we agreed a date for him to visit”.

On the appointed date, Mr Elpas and GigaCity’s Director of Mobile Operations, Simone Lee, arrived at the village hall with a full entourage of notetakers and press reporters.  Clerk to Muddleton Parish Council, Percy Verence, said “It did all seem rather OTT, but we made our guests very welcome in the village hall with a cup of tea and some Victoria sponge made by my wife”.

It was only when Mr Elpas asked how a parish of this size would go about raising £12.5 million that we all started to realise something had got badly lost in translation.  After an initial angry outburst about wasting his time, Mr Elpas explained that the box marked “Scale of Project” on the form meant how much money would be invested.  Mr Verence said “He thought the project was going to be 25 million pounds, not 25 metres!” and added “No wonder he gave us special treatment if he thought we were going to contribute 50%!”.

Having cleared up the misunderstanding, Mr Elpas was in philosophical mood, “We haven’t secured a £25 million project, but we have had some exceedingly good cake and quite a laugh about the mix-up.  We will install Muddleton’s cable free of charge for them and we’ll perhaps look at our forms to see if they can be made a bit clearer in the future!”

The project is set to complete in the summer.

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