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BT FTTP Rollout in Dolphinholme Continues Following B4RN Spat

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 (9:43 am) - Score 2,340

Residents of Dolphinholme village in Lancashire report that BT’s engineers have returned to resume their state aid fuelled deployment of 330Mbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband technology in the area, which is despite B4RN’s community funded 1000Mbps FTTP service being deployed to homes on one of the exact same streets.

The on-off dispute began last year after the community supported B4RN project claimed that Dolphinholme had been part of their deployment plan since 2011. But the Lancashire County Council refused to acknowledge this as part of their Open Market Reviews (OMR) and instead allowed BT to continue their rival FTTP deployment under the Superfast Lancashire project, thus circumventing EU State Aid rules that prevent overbuilding.

A spokesperson for BTOpenreach told ISPreview.co.uk earlier this year, “BT is currently planning to roll out FTTP to Dolphinholme as part of our partnership with Lancashire County Council to extend fibre to 97 per cent of premises by the end of 2015 using a mix of fibre technologies. Our fibre roll-out in the area should come as no surprise as our plans have been in the public domain for several months.

However BT’s deployment appeared to stall after LCC offered an olive branch to B4RN by proposing (spring 2014) that the postcodes for Dolphinholme and some other areas might be removed from the LCC SFBB contract with BT (here), thus if BT had wished to continue then they’d need to do so commercially. But the proposal wasn’t very confident and clear about precisely which areas would be fully de-scoped and so B4RN rejected the list in the hope of seeking greater clarity. Since then not much progress has been made.

In the meantime BT’s presence in Dolphinholme appeared to shrink until the area had effectively become quiet for all except B4RN’s deployment, at least that was the case until last week when Openreach contractors were spotted working on the road for Corless Cottages (centre of the village); this seemed to involve deploying new fibre optic cables to local telegraph poles (pictured above). The engineers were also proudly hanging a placard saying the work is supported by the EU, UK and LCC (public investment via Superfast Lancashire).

Comically B4RN’s volunteers are currently working to connect some of the same cottages, but from the rear since they can’t come in from the front as doing so would need access to the highway (more costly / complicated to arrange). Officially BT hasn’t not been told to stop, although at a certain point one has to question why public money is being used in an area where private investment is already working to upgrade.

A B4RN Representitive said:

It’s frustrating to see them expend tax payers money on an area that is quite clearly well progressed and engaged in another plan, when areas such as Glasson Dock have been omitted from the roll out.”

Not that B4RN are terribly worried about all this because their strong history of direct community funding and engagement means that locals often assist in building the network and thus feel incentivised to take B4RN’s service, which has helped to produce take-up figures that would turn the eyes of some rivals rich with envy.

As Barry Forde recently told us, “If we look at properties along the routes fully completed we have an average of over 65% registrations for connections but many routes, especially the more remote ones, are at or close to 100% take-up. The more urbanised ones tend to be around 50-60% take-up.”

Meanwhile Dolphinholme’s locals might well soon benefit from becoming one of the very few locations in the UK where it’s now possible to select from a choice of two truly independent fibre optic networks.

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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.
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