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Trouble for Altnets as UK Village Gets Annoyed by Lack of Broadband Choice

Friday, Sep 20th, 2013 (10:46 am) - Score 1,322

Altnet schemes are often praised for bringing faster broadband into areas that previously could not receive a good service. But what happens when their performance suffers and residents feel trapped by a lack of ISP choice. Could the situation with Rutland Telecom in Essendine (Lincolnshire, England) be a harbinger of things to come?

Back in 2010 Rutland Telecom, a Gigaclear ISP, announced that the small rural village of Essendine would soon become the next to benefit from its “super-fast” unbundled (SLU) up to 40Mbps FTTC broadband service (here), which offered speeds that would be well above the previous best of 0.5Mbps via BT’s platform. The service went live and everybody seemed happy.

But Rutland Telecom’s investment also meant that Rutland County Council (RCC) had to exclude Essendine from its £3m state aid supported Digital Rutland / Broadband Delivery UK scheme, which isn’t allowed to overbuild an existing “superfast” fixed line service by using state aid money. Now Thinkbroadband has spotted a council statement from May 2013, which claims that “there is much disquiet within the village“.

Essendine Parish Council – May 2013

Essendine Parish Council deplores this decision [to exclude Essendine] – we consider this to be discriminatory and contrary to the “competition” mantra, giving Rutland Telecom a virtual monopoly. British Telecom currently has no plans to extend its Broadband coverage to Essendine, and Rutland Telecom seems reluctant to share its cabinet with other UK ISPs.

This leaves Essendine few alternatives other than to lobby other ISPs, Rutland Telecom themselves, and to take the matter up direct with BDUK and Ofcom … Rest assured that the Parish Council will fight this injustice vigorously, and appreciates the wholehearted support which residents have already expressed.

Strong stuff and no doubt a concern for other Altnets, especially those that will be looking to spend a significant amount of their own private investment. The irony of a village also using a similar “monopoly” argument against a smaller altnet provider, that’s often levelled against BT’s dominant use of state aid funding through BDUK, is surely not going to be lost.

It’s presently unclear precisely why, other than the lack of ISP choice, locals are so riled up about Rutland Telecom’s service but another new community led rural broadband project for South Lincolnshire, FibreLincs, suggests that the Rutland Telecom may have been suffering from some “ongoing service issues” (e.g. slow speeds perhaps?).

The good news is that Rutland Telecom appears confident that they can resolve the local service issues within the next couple of months. But in the meantime it’s a situation that other altnets could face going forward. On the other hand we should remember that Essendine does still have a choice, locals could go back to BT’s much slower network, but it would be a tricky switch.

Rutland Telecom’s parent company, Gigaclear, has also recently partnered up to adopt Fluidata’s Service Exchange Platform (SEP) that should give those covered by the operators network a greater choice of around 50 ISPs. But it’s unclear whether or not this extends to the service in Essendine or how much choice people really get.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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