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Kingsmere Residents Put up Posters to Warn of Slow Broadband Speeds

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 (9:24 am) - Score 2,945
kingsmere_bicester_bovis_homes_uk

Residents of a new Bovis Homes development called Kingsmere, which is located adjacent to the busy market town of Bicester in Oxfordshire (England) and claims to be “well on its way to establishing itself as a new modern village“, have become so frustrated by the slow sub-2Mbps state of local BTOpenreach based broadband speeds that they’ve setup posters to warn potential buyers.

The issue appears to impact residents of some 400 homes, which forms part of the wider Kingsmere project that ultimately aims to provide 2,468 new homes. Over the next few years the Government generally intends to build 13,000 new homes around Bicester, thus turning the area into a so-called “garden city“.

But in a disturbingly familiar tale, one we’ve seen plenty of times before from other new-builds across the United Kingdom, those moving into the area have been shocked by the poor state of local broadband connectivity. A report on the BBC also suggests that some homes aren’t even able to get a working phone line, let alone broadband.

The local Bicester telephone exchange (SMBI) is actually quite well equipped, including support for plenty of LLU providers and superfast FTTC + FTTP connectivity; Virgin Media’s cable network is even present in the more urban areas. But despite all that, and the development being quite nearby, connectivity to the Kingsmere area is still significantly lacking.

Matt Maunder, Kingsmere Local, said:

I’m a home worker, and I need good broadband to do my job. I can’t carry out my job effectively, I can’t take advantage of services like Skype – my family live abroad so I can’t get in touch with them as easily as I would like.

We’ve actually got residents who moved here in August who still don’t have a phone line – that’s just unacceptable. Unfortunately we have got people now saying they wish they hadn’t moved here because of the way the service is and that’s a real shame.”

Curiously BTOpenreach has apparently said that it is willing to share the estimated £45,000 cost of connecting up the area to faster “fibre-optic broadband“, although it’s unclear who would foot the bill. The Government’s Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, said: “You wouldn’t move into a brand new house in 2014/2015 and not expect to get superfast broadband. It is unacceptable.”

Openreach has no legal obligation to provide good broadband connectivity and thus this is something that the developer should have sorted out before (it appears they only agreed to a bog standard copper network in 2010), although clearly Openreach are still partly at fault since they do have an obligation to provide a working phone line.

In the meantime some locals have decided that enough is enough and have begun slapping up posters around the development in order to highlight the problem for other prospective buyers. As usual it’s hard to know precisely what’s available before moving into a new build, not least because many checkers will not recognise the new address until some months after the development has completed. Meanwhile checking nearby postcodes could be misleading because the same services may not be available.

Interestingly today’s story follows only a few short weeks after the Home Builders Federation (HBF), whose members in England and Wales deliver around 80% of the new homes built each year, warned that a new requirement for all new buildings to be “high-speed broadband ready” from 2017 onwards could “seriously damage” future construction (here).

But sadly the new build broadband policy will be of no use to existing projects like Kingsmere, although the Government has been very vocal about the need to ensure good broadband connectivity for new builds. Indeed the best time to build new infrastructure is during the early development stages as this can save a lot of money.

The good news is that a bit of media pressure appears to have made all the difference. ISPreview.co.uk notes that an update has recently been posted by the Kingsmere Community.

Kingsmere Community Update

We would like to acknowledge Bovis’ generous agreement to fund the upgrade of Cabinet 53 to superfast broadband, which will serve their own and Taylor Wimpey’s customers on Kingsmere. This has arisen following engagement with the KRA over the past few months. This engagement will offer the residents on Kingsmere some reassurance that at least one of the companies who have made significant profits as a result of their purchases on Kingsmere, are acknowledging their poor experiences with landlines and broadband.”

However several other developers, such as David Wilson Homes and Bellway, are also involved with different parts of the project and thus it remains unclear whether all of the new builds will eventually benefit from “superfast broadband“.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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23 Responses
  1. Pete Woods

    This seems to be par for the course. Here’s a search on a random address from the new build estate I’m moving to where there will be 194 new homes:

    http://i.imgur.com/ICLtE7k.png

    Although at least it will get 6 Mbit. Not great, but at least just about usable.

    This really puts me of mind of BT’s original ADSL rollout where they demanded a certain percentage of households registered interest before they’d deploy to a new area. It’s a shame there’s very little competition for OpenReach, or new build sites might actually be seen as lucrative spots for businesses to fight over, rather than places for BT to drag their heels.

    • MikeW

      That’s exactly what does happen with some developers, who do make arrangements with other suppliers.

      No problem there – good fibre access is available – but it can lock you in to a monopoly supplier (including TV) without the ability to get broadband connectivity as part of a bundle, such as with Sky or TalkTalk.

      There are articles (including at least one on this site) where the occupiers are complaining about the cost from this lock-in. For some, the ability to get cheap bundles overrides the need for speed.

    • Pete Woods

      Well you say that, but in reality I’m just going to have to wait a year or two for BT to finish “evaluating” the cabinet. It could be worse – in my current location, the BT line syncs at 750 kbit!

      There are indeed fiber providers. There’s even a local-ish one in Morcambe, but they don’t cover my area. The same goes for Virgin. I also tried contacting Gigaclear, but never even got a reply saying no.

      We’re actually only a few miles from Quernmore, which is covered by B4RN, maybe they’d show more interest?

    • X66yh

      @Peter
      you do realise how Gigaclear work don’t you?
      Just contacting them and expecting a reply yes/no is not really their mode of operation.
      First you need to get lots and lots of people in your village to register interest via their website.
      Then, if your village meets their criterion (ie will make a profit for them)they will approach the community with a view to getting the formal necessary committed sign ups necessary for them to commit to build the network.

      As for BY4S/B4RN again its not so matter of them “showing an interest” as you put it but is of YOU doing the work. These are community fibre projects where you the community does the digging/connecting up sorting out problems etc.

      As for new developments generally – I’d told that GC don’t really favour them as dealing with developers is a nightmare – amongst other issues no doubt like unadopted roads and the rest….. Probably explains why such altnets shy away from what might at first sight be priming hunting ground for them.

  2. Matthew Williams

    It’s sad but I won’t even consider moving to an area where I don’t know how good the Internet connectivity is these days. Thankfully my second house is finally getting sorted under the connecting cheshire project currently 2-3 mbps is top speed there.

    It’s good to see that this has been resolved it’s terrible that developers don’t consider this a priority on new builds wherever the builds are Internet isnt just something for a select few.

  3. Steve Jones

    It’s about time planning regulations for significant housing developments mandated a minimum broadband speed. After all, the costs per premises would insignificant in such cases, and it’s much cheaper to do it at build time. (And builders are often required to contribute to other aspects of infrastructure, such as local roads and even schools).

    Also, it needs to be made absolutely clear by Ofcom that MPF needn’t be supplied to developments serviced by a new fibre network. As it stands, the position is ambiguous and I cannot find any definitive statement on the subject.

    This is surely pretty simple to do and it would be relatively easy to define guidelines for planners over developments where mandated NGAs must be provided. This one is all down to the politicians to get their fingers out.

    • MikeW

      The end of the USO for BT to provide phone lines and dial-up?

    • @MikeW @Steve Various forms of derived voice, including mobile are all subsitutable for PST, if not increasingly preferred so why not.
      BDUK could champion this, provided they get the transparency they need on costs and the ambition for direct fibre can be re-set towards what it was when the £2.5bn was the actual budget.
      I think FTTrn (or indeed G.FAST) will really struggle given the power costs and so pushing fibre onto manifolds on DP where customers should be obliged pay the final drop costs is sensible. Transition periods for all customers to migrate should be tested as part of existing rural rollout.
      Ofcom’s FLAMR includes FTTP/ATA within its defintion for a fixed ‘analogue’ fine so for cost recovery purposes so it is not unreasonable.

  4. They just want to get in touch with gigaclear, I am sure they can provide much better broadband than a poxy old copper cabinet could. Heck, a network can make a profit with 500 extremely rural customers, a housing estate would be a doddle. They could have real fibre not superfarce. They are mad if they put money into a cabinet when they could have real fibre.

    • Matthew Williams

      Sadly a lot of companies prefer go with something they know. A lot of development companies might not even heard of Gigaclear and might not know difference between FTTC and FTTP.

    • You would’ve thought so but Gigaclear were less than enthusiastic in my discussions with them – they discounted it out of hand.

  5. Walter G M Willcox

    One crucial aspect is that the developers should install multiple ducts of their own supply. All too often we see developers accepting “Free” BT duct to bury but it remains BT Property.

    • Bob

      Pretty daft installing multiple ducting. The real problem comes back to BT owning the local loop. It is the biggest handicap to really moving the UK forward to a full Fibre system

  6. No Clue

    Wow BT not even meeting obligations of having to install phone lines now, what a nice follow up story for watchdog.

  7. Bob

    Typical shambolic Broadband infrastructure in the UK. When new estates are built there is no requirement to provide HS Broadband. All new estates should really be Fibre ready. It costs next to nothing to put in when estates are built. It is the typical short sighted UK approach of make do with what there

  8. dragoneast

    Sadly I think there will never be sensible planning in this country, for the simple reason that more of us want to stop things than make them happen. As a consequence we always get the lowest common denominator of what can be done, rather than what should be done.

  9. FibreFred

    Yet another short sighted developer 🙁

    Cat6 the house and fibre the streets and get a telco in to provide the connectivity off-site, its a massive selling point for not much money

  10. New_Londoner

    Most of the above comments miss the point, the issue here is with short-sighted developers not wanting to install fibre. And of course house buyers not asking what is available before committing to buy – or being misled if they did (perhaps MarkJ could check?).

    This really isn’t anything to do with Openreach or any other network providers, as it is the developers that decide what is installed on their sites.

    • FibreFred

      Correct… but its a good opportunity to slag off BT 😉 after all they are the only operator that can provide broadband and are required to provide great broadband to all homes new or old*

      * Not true 🙂

    • No Clue

      They are however the only operator required to provide a phone line and they have failed in that so yes they deserve another slagging off.

    • TheFacts

      Does not say the area cannot have a phone line.

    • No Clue

      Learn to read…
      ” A report on the BBC also suggests that some homes aren’t even able to get a working phone line, let alone broadband.”

      “We’ve actually got residents who moved here in August who still don’t have a phone line – that’s just unacceptable.”

      “…clearly Openreach are still partly at fault since they do have an obligation to provide a working phone line.”

      Theres a good dumb dumb.

  11. Build_It_Yourself

    It’s like so much that is wrong at the moment it is down to the Civil Engineering industry simply not being fit for purpose. They fuelled the financial crisis by being unable to deliver enough new houses at a sensible price, they give us the most expensive railways in the world, we can’t afford to maintain the roads they are incapable of building properly, we shall have blackouts because we have not succumbed to their extortion over power station building costs, we complain about energy costs but half of it is delivery cost them again. You can go on forever, cost of hospitals, cost of schools. It’s easy to criticise BT in this case but surely more responsibility lies with the developers?

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