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Urban Residents of Haydock in Merseyside Criticise Slow BT Broadband

Thursday, October 15th, 2015 (1:01 pm) - Score 1,161
Ashbury drive in st helens, merseyside

Residents of Ashbury Drive in Haydock (Merseyside, North West England) have launched a new campaign to secure better broadband connectivity for the area after their complaints were turned into a game of pass-the-buck by the local council and BTOpenreach.

Merseyside is a metropolitan county in North West England. Meanwhile Ashbury Drive sits inside a similarly urban area called Haydock (St Helens). Most of the properties that surround this area are already connected to a street cabinet (e.g. Cabinet 88 on the SAINT HELENS exchange), which can deliver superfast broadband speeds using Openreach’s Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology.

Unfortunately a big chunk of Ashbury Drive sits in one of those frustrating urban pockets where poor connectivity is still the norm, with locals claiming that their broadband speeds have been getting progressively worse over the years (i.e. as the estates population has grown). It’s alleged that up to 1,200 people could be affected, although we suspect that the actual figure may be smaller.

Gavin Mitchell, Resident of Ashbury Drive, said (St Helens Reporter):

It has got to the point where the kids can’t use the computer to do their homework. At peak times you can’t get on the internet at all. I have contacted BT and the council but they just blame each other. The council says it is all under BT’s control but BT say the council won’t let them dig up the roads.

I have had enough so I have printed off some leaflets and posted them around the estate. There is a website where if you show enough interest, Virgin will come and out fibre optic cables down, so we are trying to get people to sign up to that. It is so frustrating because just yards away there is an estate that has fibre optic broadband but not us.

The story will no doubt be familiar to some of our readers and we’ve heard plenty of similar complaints before, with the common thread being that BTOpenreach blames the local authority and then the local authority blames BT. Effectively nobody wants to take any kind of responsibility.

The good news is that St Helens North MP Conor McGinn has decided to get involved after meeting with more than 100 people affected by the problems. Since then a spokesperson for the local council has suggested that the delay in upgrading Ashbury is probably “an issue with the programming of the works – over which the council has no control” and they also pledged to grant a work permit for the area if BT approaches them with one.

Unfortunately BT has said that the area is not presently covered by any publicly funded deployment schemes (e.g. Broadband Delivery UK) and as such it is the responsibility of a commercial operator, such as either themselves or perhaps Virgin Media, to deliver improved broadband speeds.

Any commercial company – and BT is only one of these firms – has to make its own decision based on solid financial and technical evidence in each case. We will continue to keep all such areas under review,” said Openreach’s spokesperson. Ah the wonderful “under review” phase, which in recent years has become the ultimate non-answer for long suffering communities.

At this point it’s worth noting that St Helens is a part of the Merseyside Connected project, which is working with BT to expand their “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) network to cover 98% of local homes and businesses (43,000 extra premises) in Merseyside by the end of July 2016 (here).

The hope is that the Government’s Autumn Statement will next month confirm a strategy and funding for connecting 100% of the UK up to superfast broadband, but there’s always a chance that those in the final 1-2% may only be given the option of a Satellite subsidy and that would seem silly for an urban area like Ashbury Drive where “fibre broadband” already exists.

UPDATE 3:15pm

Extended testing of some nearby addresses suggests that many of the properties that aren’t yet covered may eventually gain access to FTTC by 31st March 2017, but the results were a bit mixed and such dates are of course open to change. Mind you, local capacity could also be playing a part here (FTTC can only run superfast if there’s enough spare shared capacity to deliver it).

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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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32 Responses
  1. Has anyone looked at the checkers?

    Eta subject to survey April 2016 to March 2017

    Distance to either end of Ashbury Drive is unlikely to be an issue based on where cabinet 88 is too.

    • Where did you see that Andrew? I ran the usual checks but the results were typically inconsistent for an area at the edge of coverage (most said it was available, but when you tested with a specific address and it wasn’t etc.). It seems you have access to more recent / different data, where can we see that and what postcodes / numbers did you try?

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      I chose a random house number (54) in the middle of Ashbury Drive in Haydock and it says that FTTC is available from cabinet 88 with a speed of up to 74mbps. Number 1 should get 80mbps whilst 83 should get 55mbps.

      However, ADSLmax is less than 1mbps. I’m wondering if this is a complaint about ADSL services from the exchange which will be very poor. Perhaps some of the LLU operators don’t offer the service from that cabinet as yet. It might also be that the BTW checker is wrong of course.

      This is the post code WA11 0FA. Put it into the BT Wholesale checker and see what you get.


    • Avatar Steve Jones

      I’ve also tried #7 Wendover close and that says 78.9mbps max.

    • One of those I tried was no. 45 (WA11 0FA), which said “commercial fibre” was available via the Merseyside Connected site, but when you ran it through BT’s checker the result was ADSL only and no date for FTTC.

  2. Avatar Steve Jones

    Big mistake on my part – I didn’t notice the date it’s available. 31st March 2017…

  3. Avatar TheManStan

    Interesting Avery Square (using VM postcode checker) which is across Haydock Lane from Ashbury drive is VM terrritory, so cable is within spitting distance. If BTOR is reticent then there appears to be plenty of people who would sign up to cable my street with VM…

  4. Avatar Paul

    The part in Gavin Mitchell’s quote where he says:

    At peak times you can’t get on the internet at all

    suggests the problem is as much to do with excessive loading at the exchange as anything else.

    • Avatar DTMark

      Maybe they should use Talk Talk, who have unlimited capacity.

      I know this from looking at their website this morning – it says so. “We’ll never slow you down at peak times”, so it’s a cheap consumer service which will run at full speed 24/7. The degree of false advertising in this industry is rampant.

      For this area, it must have fallen within BDUK as residents are getting less than 2Mbps. And so by the end of this year, either they all get 2Mbps, or, this local authority’s BDUK project fails spectacularly as well.

      Unless, of course, the houses all got up in the night and walked somewhere else after the planning was done, which could not be foreseen and would be a reasonable excuse for failure.

    • Avatar fastman

      So a cp might have unlimited capacity but might have a high contention ration and be cheap so you get what you pay for !!!!

  5. Avatar Clark

    “…with the common thread being that BTOpenreach blames the local authority and then the local authority blames BT. Effectively nobody wants to take any kind of responsibility.”

    Another reason to split them, stops the ‘it’s not my fault’ game.

    • Avatar fastman


      so the fact you that address cant have it is the reason to do what you so — you think that would make it more viable as an openreach stand alone business — – — scary

      so what do you say to where its been provided and the CP who offers FTTC has refused to advise the service provider its available for 3 years – found one of those yesterds

      oh sorry — that’s a a commercial decision for the CP !!!! — wonder how many people in that estate who can get FTTC have actually been offered it by their CP or actively sold it

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @Clark – how would a split change that?

    • Avatar Clark

      “@Clark – how would a split change that?”

      I am sorry but most of your post prior i could not understand particularly the first 2 paragraphs, the best i could do is guess because (not being rude) it appears the wording is jumbled. Example the very first line “so the fact you that address cant have it is the reason to do what you so” i have no idea what you are trying to say.

      The one clear part was ‘wonder how many people in that estate who can get FTTC have actually been offered it by their CP or actively sold it’

      If it were available im sure they would notice a big green cabinet thats popped up, along with “fibre is here” posters plastered on it. I would also imagine those that do want it have regularly been checking availability dates (if any) for their area and probably recieved BT spam all about it.

      Splitting Openreach would help in the concept i picked up on, they would no longer be able to blame other BT divisions or local authorities. Finances and where they are spent would also not need to be secret anymore if they were a separate entity that had to answer to ALL ISPs.

    • Avatar TheManStan

      Errr… no… newco private OR would still play the same blame game as oldco private OR in these exact same circumstances. Finances would still be as secret as they currently are for a publically listed company. You’re thinking nationalisation to make full visibility of costs.

      But, it’s plain that there is something happening with the line from the council saying programming of works beyond their control, which likely means someone else has 1st dibs at digging up the road and council has said BTOR cant dig when they wanted to. So these poor folk end up at the back of the queue while resources are deployed elsewhere…

    • Avatar Clark

      If they were separated they would no longer be part of BT Group which is the only PLC when it comes to BT.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Therefore Openreach would become a separate PLC. Why could they not blame a local authority?

    • Avatar themanstan


      A separated OR would be floated in the same way as was for O2, when BT divested itself of mobile telephony.

      Shares in newco would be created and given to existing shareholders… the new company would have the same requirement to look after the interests of the shareholders as any other publically listed company.

      So…. no change in blame game in the same circumstances.

    • Avatar Clark

      “Therefore Openreach would become a separate PLC. Why could they not blame a local authority?”

      No it wouldnt you buy shares in BT Group not Openreach, id had thought a couple of shareholders would of known that, thus it is not and would not be a PLC.

  6. Avatar themanstan

    So pray tell, how would Openreach be spun out (i.e. what kind of company) and the owners of BT Group (the shareholders) be given their dues as owners of Openreach?

    • Avatar Clark

      Why should you get anything as a shareholder? BT group what you have shares in not Openreach and BT Group would still exist. You either want those shares or they can be bought back off you at current market rate or the rate after the separation.

      NO Different to what happened with another BT Group company of long ago called Cellnet.

      I can appreciate though that common sense is not the first priority when it may affect your personal pocket.

    • Avatar TheManStan

      You do realise that BT cellnet was rebranded as O2, all the BT Group shareholders got shares in that company (mmO2 PLC) when it was split off from BT Group… which means they all got a share of the £18BN that Telefonica paid when they bought it outright?

      When PLCs demerge the newco has new shares issued, which are given to the existing shareholders…

      Much like when British Gas PLC split into Lattice, Centrica and BG PLCs, shareholders got shares in all 3 PLCs.

      When PLCs merge, the shareholders of both companies surrender their shares and receive shares in newco only, so if someone had shares in both they would receive 1 share for every 2 that they surrendered. e.g. Southern Electric and Scottish Electric to form SSE (Scottish and Southern Energy), and National Grid and Lattice (Transco being the main division of Lattice) becoming National Grid Transco PLC.

      Tell me you understand now, it only takes a little common sense…

    • Avatar FibreFred

      This is deduction we are talking about so no assume he doesn’t realise and he is winging it on a post by post basis

    • Avatar Clark

      “You do realise that BT cellnet was rebranded as O2, all the BT Group shareholders got shares in that company (mmO2 PLC) when it was split off from BT Group… which means they all got a share of the £18BN that Telefonica paid when they bought it outright?”

      Erm no they did not. You got your share of cellnet when BT bought out the 40% securicor owned back in 1999. The rest of your post is superfluous based on this single point. Unless you are going to try and state a shareholder in the organisation got given shares more than once.
      In fact telefonica do not even own o2 now.

      The sheer bitter hatred to me all because Ofcom may shake the BT love nest is highly amusing.

  7. Avatar TheManStan

    No hatred, just amusement in pig ignorance…

    So O2 isn’t the trading name of Telefonica UK Ltd a subsidiary of Telefonica SA?

    So the the shares I got from British Gas PLC splitting into Lattice, Centrica and BG Group where a figment of my imagination…

    The important bit.
    “MMO2 is no ordinary company. It was de-merged from BT in 2001, with all BT shareholders receiving shares in MMO2.”

    Please tell me the world is flat….

  8. I am lucky still to be connected to 3’s (no longer available) One Plan on my mobile which allows me to tether my 4G wirelessly (average 30meg) but i obviously have to be at home for the family to benefit. We’re lucky to get 0.4meg on our ADSL in Saunderton Close

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