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Gloucestershire Villagers Need to Raise GBP30K for BT Broadband Upgrade

Wednesday, Oct 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.

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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