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Gloucestershire Villagers Need to Raise GBP30K for BT Broadband Upgrade

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 (8:25 am) - Score 1,548

Villagers in the rural Gloucestershire (England) communities of Chalford and Bussage are attempting to raise £30,000 from their own pockets after BT refused to upgrade two local street cabinets, which together serve around 370 homes, with superfast broadband (FTTC) because they were deemed to be “commercially not viable“. Meanwhile other areas could soon get 330Mbps FTTP.

At present the local £56.6m Fastershire project is already working with BT to help make “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) services available to around 90% of local premises in Gloucestershire by the end of 2015 and the same for Herefordshire by the end of 2016; with everybody also being promised speeds of at least 2Mbps by the same date. The longer term goal is to make “superfast” speeds of 24Mbps+ available to 100% by 2018.

However, despite the above commitment, many of the 370 homes mentioned earlier have been shunned by the Fastershire project because they reside on the edges of a supposedly “commercial” area that has thus been deemed not eligible to receive state aid funding (i.e. a location that BT has already upgraded through its own separate commercial investment). Obviously this is a bit silly since BT’s own engineers appear to say it’s NOT commercially viable.

A BT Spokesman said:

Due to the current network topography and the economics of deployment, it is likely that some premises within an upgraded exchange area will not initially be able to get fibre-based broadband.

Naturally, we want to make fibre broadband as widely available as possible and we welcome the opportunity to work with other organisations and local communities to find a viable solution.”

A quick look at the local area does indeed reveal that most of the premises, which are connected to the Brimscombe telephone exchange, have already been upgraded to support FTTC and there’s also a good selection of unbundled (LLU) providers (TalkTalk and Sky Broadband). But clearly some locals are stuck at the edges and as a result the Bussage and Chalford Broadband Action Group (BCBAG) was setup in order to try and find a solution.

BCBAG Situation Statement

You may be aware of neighbours and friends who have been able to receive greatly improved internet speeds of up to 55 or even 60 Mbps over the last year through BT Infinity or other ISP providers. About a year ago BT Openreach upgraded most of the telephone/broadband cabinets in the area to fibre connections. This enables far greater speeds than old fashioned copper cables.

Unfortunately there are two cabinets left unchanged because BT decided their upgrade was not commercially viable. These cabinets are cabinet 17 (Bussage, top of Old Neighbourhood) and cabinet 9 (located near Sawyers). Due to the distance between these cabinets and the exchange at Brimscombe their speeds are very poor over the copper cables, the average speed for residents on cabinet 17 being 0.6-0.9 Mbps.

Individually, numerous local residents as well as the Parish Council, County Councillors and Neil Carmichael (MP for Stroud) have taken up communications with BT, Openreach NGA (right to the top) and Fastershire (Government funding for rural broadband) to challenge the decision not to upgrade the cabinets in question. Unfortunately, due to various factors, we seem to be left only with two ways to go: Wait for at least another three years for the chance to be considered for funding in a new round of government investment, or pay our own way.”

According to a report on StroudLife, the BCBAG campaign has decided not to wait several more years to see if additional funding from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme will fix the problem and have instead obtained a quote from BTOpenreach for the upgrade of the two local cabinets.

Apparently Openreach has agreed to fund part of the development from its own pocket, although BCBAG would still need to raise around £30,000 from the local community in order to match-fund with BT’s commitment and this works out as around £80 per home (assuming all 370 premises contribute). An initial leaflet campaign has already generated commitments of over £10,000 and that still leaves £20k to find.

In the meantime BCBAG will continue to campaign for improvements via state aid, although they might want to hold off a little longer since the local councils are currently debating how best to spend an additional £10.98m that has been allocated to the area by BDUK; this is intended to help raise UK fixed line superfast broadband coverage to 95% by 2017.

So far the local Fastershire project has already helped to connect a total of 34,307 premises via 154 new street cabinets, 35 upgraded telephone exchanges and 300kms of new fibre optic cable ducts (note: total project completion currently stands at 28%). The next telephone exchange areas to benefit can be found on the roll-out page.

It should be noted that some parts of the Fastershire project have also faced delays due to blocked ducts and issues with positioning of the new street cabinets (e.g. some locations needed to be changed due to the presence of high voltage cables that weren’t on any plans). But there are some positive signs too, with locals in Westbury-on-Severn and other areas looking set to benefit from access to BT’s ultrafast 330Mbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) service.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
17 Responses
  1. Peter Ford says:

    Stories like this are so dipressing and make the blood boil! But unfortuantely we come across stories like this day in day out. BT should be ashamed of themselves. Asking each houshold to find nearly £1,000 to get a service and then charge sevice fees on to get the service.

    Given 3G service in the area seems okay, why not consider a product such as the RangeXD WiBE or WiBE Extreme, which ISPReview reviewed some years ago, at a fraction of the cost and deliver sufficient speeds for Youtube, iPlayer and may other apps.

    1. Peter Ford says:

      So angry my maths failed me … obviously approximately £100.

    2. Andy says:

      Openreach should be nationalised. It’s completely unfair to deny access to sections of the community based on one companies projected profits, decent broadband access is becoming more of a necessity every year, 3G / 4G access is fine speed-wise but with all the mobile operators imposing data usage limits, a family that want to stream video will find themselves out of luck way too quickly.

    3. fastman2 says:

      its circa 290 premises so your maths is a bit off !!!!

    4. FibreFred says:

      Andy you are right, maybe they should get quotes from other suppliers?

    5. Peter Ford says:

      Once again apologies to all. As per my previous post my anger at the story temporarily blocked my math skills. If anybody from Bussage and Chalford Broadband Action Group (BCBAG) does read these comments, we are a local company and would like to see what we can do to help residents get access to faster broadband today and also help BCBAG meet its fund raising target. Email me at peter.ford@rangexd.com

  2. GNewton says:

    Maybe they’d be better off raising funds to get a long-distance wireless provider to cover this village. VDSL in rural areas simply isn’t the right technology.

    1. fastman2 says:

      do you know whhat they will get in speed or is this your incorrect assumptions

  3. gerarda says:

    It would appear they are not only the victims of BTs “exchange enabled equals commercial area” approach to OMRs but also of the councils failure to commit to a 2Mbps USC for their counties by restricting this commitment to the “project” area. I think there are a few councillors and officials who need to be hauled over the coals for this.

    1. fastman2 says:

      Gareads so what if they are above 2 meg already

    2. gerarda says:

      “the average speed for residents on cabinet 17 being 0.6-0.9 Mbps.”

    3. DTMark says:

      Was the 2 Meg for all an “aim” or a plan? I don’t remember now..

      If the former, then this result is predictable.

      If the latter, then the scheme would not appear to be operating inside BDUK/within the BDUK framework and rules.

      But then BDUK signed off the contract so it must be fine.. just an “aim”, then?

    4. gerarda says:

      The problem is not helped by the BDUK contract being awarded to the same company that promised superfast coverage to these areas. Thus it heads they win, tails the villagers lose. I suspect BT may have taken a different approach to what was “commercial” if it opened the door to another operator

    5. DTMark says:

      The concept of ‘commercially viable’ was probably the greatest blunder in the whole of the farce that has been BDUK in the failure to realise that analysing that aspect needed to consider BT’s monopoly position, and it did not, it was as if BDUK believed that a ‘market’ and competition existed when no such thing ever did in half the country at the infra level, which is what’s important.

      Likewise, as I have always argued, if the monopoly player is certain to get most or all of the funds, then the idea that you can meaningfully separate ‘commercial’ and ‘subsidised’ is hilarious.

      Seeing the people involved in the decisions trying to actually operate in a business world would be like watching the children’s edition of ‘The Apprentice’.

      But, did BT “promise” anything? Accountability to the residents here is with the LA who spent their money on other areas, who have so far failed to deliver anything to that area so now they have to pay twice in effect, and secondarily with BDUK.

      What did the LA “promise”? We’ve been promised super-fast broadband with a tiny little caveat that “a few properties might be too far from the cab to get “superfast broadband” and I think a lot of people are going to be bitterly disappointed after those promises and Ed Vaizey’s confirmation that everyone in the country is going to be getting superfast speeds because the money side has been resolved now.

    6. Raindrops says:

      “Gareads so what if they are above 2 meg already”

      Oh christ now you can not spell or read the news item.

  4. fastman2 says:

    DT Mark

    Its fact -whether you like it or not as there has been clear / strict guidelines around what is or not commercial and what is BDUK and that is not and there are strict rules aorund that — so hillarious fraid not — lear and detailed and articulated — absolutely

    1. Raindrops says:

      Its clear you can not read, punctuate or spell.

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