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Connect 8 Campaign Hopes to Bring Fast Broadband to South Oxfordshire

Friday, January 9th, 2015 (11:37 am) - Score 1,543
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A group of eight rural villages in southern Oxfordshire (England), which includes Howe Hill, Britwell Hill, Cookley Green, Greenfield, Park Corner, Pishill with Stonor, Russells Water and Swyncombe, have clubbed together in order to launch the Connect 8 campaign that hopes to persuade BT to improve their broadband connectivity.

At present the local state-aid supported Better Broadband for Oxfordshire project is already working with BT to extend superfast broadband access (24Mbps+) to 90% of the county by the end of 2015 and this could rise to 95% under a planned extension to the umbrella Broadband Delivery UK programme.

On top of that altnet provider Gigaclear are also working to deploy a 1000Mbps capable fibre optic network to some other parts of the county and the separate Cotswolds Broadband project is similarly focused on covering the whole of West Oxfordshire (Chipping Norton).

But so far most of the Connect 8 communities appear to exist outside of the primary ‘Better Broadband’ project, while the Henley Standard notes that many of the affected locals receive sub-1Mbps speeds or suffer from generally unreliable broadband connectivity, which is despite claims that 50% of people in the area are home workers.

Liz Longley, Chair of Swyncombe Parish Council, said:

We are deeply concerned at the level of our current broadband speeds, which are at the levels of anything from zero to 2Mb per second. This is useless for all residents, whether they are working from home, wanting to download films or data, research for home study for students of all ages as well as recreational use.

One parishioner recently lost an important business deal because the speeds were so slow. Fast broadband will just touch the outskirts of our collective parishes, i.e. Christmas Common, Britwell Salome, Bix and Watlington, so our question is: when are we going to get fast broadband?”

The campaign, which has so far received support from 50 people, is well timed to coincide with the on-going review for how the next round of public funding from the BDUK programme should be spent. But that is no guarantee that the affected areas will benefit because the current “fibre broadband” coverage goal is 95% and not 100%.

At the same time we hope that Connect 8 will also engage with altnets like Gigaclear, which can often help to provide a viable solution for such isolated locations.

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Mark Jackson
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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42 Responses
  1. Avatar gerarda

    A part of their blog sums it up nicely “In rural Shropshire, people seem to be as fed up as local who are contacting Connect8. They too see government money going to subsidise people who already have a functioning broadband service, not to those who have barely any or no service at all and are in the most need.”

    The impact of a policy based on the lie of “universal” adsl availability is now being shown.

    • I’ll relate this to the locals on this estate who’ve gone from 300kb-(rarely)2Mb to FTTC.

      50% home workers in an area that’s never reached even 2Mb. Interesting.

  2. Avatar tonyp

    Although rural, there will be quite a bit of wealth in the Henley-on-Thames hinterland! Will money talk?

  3. Avatar DTMark

    Let’s have a look at the Oxfordshire project documentation and contract.

    That way the residents’ fears could be alleviated immediately.

    We’re looking for the line that commits BT to deliver a minimum 2Mbps actual performance speed to all residents.

    If that’s there, then some form of upgrade is guaranteed at some point.

    Unless some high level “put a pin in the map and check what the BT Wholesale checker says it can have” approach was taken which suggested the “area” was already 2 Meg capable so it was skipped over.

    As we all know, Ed Vaizey has publicly stated that these residents will be getting superfast speeds anyway, because the money has been found for 100% of the UK to have those speeds.

    • Avatar gerarda

      The BT response to OMRs seemed to be exchanged based without reference to line lengths and likely attainable speeds.

      If they are outside the BDUK intervention area there is no obligation on BT to provide the USC

  4. Avatar X66yh

    The villages are coloured ‘white’ on the OCC BDUK intervention map.
    So either they are now above 2Mbps already or work will be done under BDUK to raise them up to that level.
    The map is done to cabinet service area level of resolution.
    Blue is cab to be upgraded under BDUK to FTTC
    Grey is areas already served for superfast BB either under the commercial part of BT’s FTTC roll out or by third parties like Gigaclear and Virgin
    See link to map half way down on page at
    http://www.betterbroadbandoxfordshire.org.uk/postcode-map
    Click of map for download of hi res version

    • Avatar No Clue

      Wonderful except when you click on that map, choose district from the area drop down list and then look through the area name list half those mentioned in the news item are not even listed so how you know they are upgraded let alone have 2Mb or more who knows. More BT idiot PR spiel no doubt.

    • Avatar X66yh

      Well indeed @Noclue.
      That is why I helpfully pointed out those those not knowing the area that all the villages and smaller hamlets mentioned in the text are classified as “White” area of the OCC BDUK map.
      No data has been released by OCC as to which sub areas of those white sections are already above 2Mbps – so will get nothing and those parts of the white areas currently below 2Mbps which are being given something to get them above this level.

      FYI I am in a white area and currently above 2Mbps so ‘my’ area is not having any extra funds spent on it under BDUK.

      Remember though that there is the SEP extension to BDUK, the funds for which are only being approved at the moment by OCC in conjunction with the District Councils. I would expect a new map to be produced when OCC/BT have agreed which additional areas are going to have the cabinets upgraded to FTTC and which sadly will still be in a revised smaller “final 5% white areas”.

      The map is a little out of date in places as it is from the BDUK award date of August 2013 and since then Gigaclear have expanded into some of the “white” areas which should therefore be coloured grey.

    • Avatar No Clue

      The areas mentioned have nothing to do with that map, website, or criteria at all. I have no idea why you even posted it apart from it being BT related.

  5. I hope the ‘significant savings identified from phase 1’ comment at the EFRA select committee DEC 10th is pursued. I have not seen any of the counties challenge the milestone payments (premises past payments). This was the primary means of divorcing actual costs from the payment process. Full on reconciliation of BT invoices including evidence of BT’s capital contribution should release more monies from Phase 1

    I also hope that the term ‘gap funding’ does get applied. These contracts subject to state aid rules although there is little to show those rules being enforced. Those cabs in Oxford would suggest no gap funding would be needed. This is tied up in the clawback measure.

  6. Avatar TheFacts

    Ideal area for a B4RN type solution?

  7. Hi william here from connect8. Thanks for the comments. The villages are more hamlets on the south end of the chiltern escarpment. the population density is very low and the communities strung out along roads. they are best seen on bing’s OS map http://www.bing.com/maps/#Y3A9NTEuNTkxMTA1fi0wLjk2Mzg3NyZsdmw9MTQmc3R5PXMmZW89MA== or look around OX49 5HD

    It’s a highly rural area that yes, is generally prosperous in the Henley on Thames hinterland. A lot of people do do some form of home working – there are also many rural businesses from vineyards (seriously) through to pig growers. BT can’t serve me a line with any digital signal on it. quite a few people locally have also recently reported losing a former 1mbs connection degrading to 0.4ish or nothing. there is a tiny bit of a 4G signal if you are on the right part of the ridge. we also have several huge telecoms masts locally (police, MOD, BT, Arquiva) on the ridge but they are either served by elderly circuits or use microwave for backhaul.

    we would like to work with altnets – gigaclear have already said no – and it seems that the low population density and tricky topography make a wired solution for all unlikely in my view. we are talking to AB internet to see if they can get the numbers to work for a a microwave solution. BT/Openreach could well be part of the solution if they can bring bandwidth closer to us. OCC have informally said we are in the last 2% that they are unlikely to subsidise – like many here i think their policy is back to front. i am confident that we can raise money locally and that OCC or SODC will come up with some more cash with a sufficiently strong campaign and case.

    we are at present in an information gathering phase – it is confusing working out where the superfast thing will stop and Openreach are clearly overloaded on the community funded side.

    any advice or learnings from elsewhere welcome

    • Avatar nga for all

      @William If your capable of orchestrating the demand it would interesting to calculate all fibre runs needed. Overlaying fibre on Bt poles and duct is £3 per metre.
      If BT were forced to comply with an affordable Fod for residential, then in the absence of anything else it is worth making clear your interest to Occ. Savings will emerge once the invoices are fully checked against the milestone payments.

    • @ngaforall what is a Fod? those cost numebrs are very helpful. what’s your source?

      at present I am 4000 metres from the nearest cabinet that will be upgraded. we have asked openreach to look at providing a cabinet at the britwell hill police masts (you can see them on a map close to 0x49 5hd) where there is power and we think direct ducting to the exchange in Watlington that goes via a shorter route about 2750m. obviously this should be fibre. as is often the way this old ‘security’ infrastructure isn’t on the openreach retail map unless you push. we expect opernreach to revert with a gap funded cost in the next few weeks. this then brings fibre much closer to our group of hamlets. but they are still a couple of km away over delapidated rural lines lost in hedges etc.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      If the 2 cabinets at OX49 5HR and RG9 6EL were FTTC enabled how would that help the area?

    • Avatar nga for all

      @William Fod fibre on demand, but Bt changed positioning once bduk contracts were won increasing wholesale rates from £30 per month to a £100 without apparent challenge. The average of £40k+ subsidy per cab should cover 13km of cabling. if the learnings from Cornwall were published this would be more widespread. I will email you. The biggest challenge is bt’s lack of resource. The second is folk coming clean on incremental costs.

  8. @thefacts – the ox49 5hr cabinet at christmas common is a hokey cokey one at the present – sometimes in sometimes out of the OCC plans. i suspect in, in the end. that is the one i am 4,000m from. some of the houses in our group would benefit a little from that, the majority too far away. interestingly for altnets and microwave, christmas common has two telecoms masts – one huge MOD microwave relay tower and a more normal arquiva mobile tower. the mod mast is redundant. the arquiva one uses microwave for backhaul but is about 200m from the cabinet. if that mast were modernised to connect to the network through fibre then we might get more 4G. both these could then have potential for microwave broadband.

    rg9 6el is bang in the middle of our area of interest but is well off plan from OCC as i understand it – it’s too far from anywhere. i think it goes back to the watlington spring lane exchange via a very long route – but i am not sure.

    @ngaforall – thanks – look forward to hearing from you

  9. Avatar No Clue

    First link loads nothing but a blank page

    Second link only demonstrates postcodes mentioned thus far. Also will not let me check others for some reason, says ive reached my limit on searches for today or words to that effect for some reason.

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