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Kingsmere Residents Put up Posters to Warn of Slow Broadband Speeds

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 (9:24 am) - Score 3,241

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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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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