» ISP News » 

Village Networks in Illegal State Aid Complaint vs Aylesbury Vale Broadband

Monday, November 16th, 2015 (9:31 am) - Score 2,866

The publicly funded Aylesbury Vale Broadband project, which is deploying a Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) network across the rural Buckinghamshire (England) villages of North Marston and Granborough, is facing an official complaint from a nearby wireless ISP.

The new ultrafast broadband network, which is supported by public investment from the local New Homes Bonus Fund (a somewhat unusual source), officially began its deployment phase in August 2015 (here) and the first customers in North Marston (home to around 800 people) are expected to go live today or sometime this week.

Early subscribers can expect to pay from £30 per month for an unlimited 30Mbps service (symmetrical), which rises to £38 if you want the top 100Mbps connection (more expensive business options are also available) and the first month of service will be FREE. On top of that there’s a £150 connection fee, which offers a rather unique self-install package (here).

But since the start AVB has been dogged by unhappy grumbles from two local fixed wireless broadband ISPs, Village Networks and Rapid Rural, both of which claim to either have the area covered with superfast speeds or be planning to do so. However AVB disputes this and claims that its network will be much more future proof and capable, which is almost certainly true given the use of FTTH.

The situation has now taken another turn after the boss of Village Networks, Roger Carey, decided on Friday 13th November 2015 to lodge a formal complaint against Aylesbury Vale District Council, which among other things alleges that the local authority shunned their alternative proposals (Carey says it would have required less public funding to build).

Furthermore Village Networks alleges that they were “discouraged” from developing existing proposals to roll-out wireless broadband to the two villages by individuals that have since taken up senior position(s) in AVB. ISPreview.co.uk has seen a copy of the letter and we’ve pasted the key list of allegations against AVDC below.

The Village Networks Allegations

Specifically, but not exclusively, our complaint identifies that:

1) neither the Council, nor any of its agents, undertook a market analysis of the proposed territory which proved market failure.

2) The Council and its agents were clearly aware of the presence of at least two established, independently funded local enterprises who were willing, able and planning to deliver superfast broadband not only to the proposed pilot area, but beyond it, but engaged in no appropriate consultation to inform its decisions.

3) Prior to launching the venture, no competitive tendering process was undertaken.

4) Prior to announcing the venture, at least one commercial provider was discouraged from continuance of its plans to deliver superfast broadband to the communities in the pilot area. Member of the Internet Services Providers Association.

5) The application of funds, the amount of which do or will exceed any de minimis exemptions from state aid rules, from the New Homes Bonus constitutes illegal state aid, given that it confers an economic advantage to the undertaking and distorts or threatens to distort competition, in contravention of Article 87 (1) of the EC Treaty.

AVDC has not defined the process it proposes to use to evaluate the AVB pilot project, nor defined any criteria for its success. We will use all available means to ensure that the process and criteria applied are appropriate, rigorous and able to withstand impartial scrutiny.

At this point we should note that the top package offered by Village Networks is an unlimited 30Mbps (1Mbps upload) service that costs £30 per month and £222 to install, which also includes up to 10 email addresses, 50MB of webspace and webmail access. But customers do not get an included wireless router.

The news threatens to overshadow AVB’s plan to announce its first live customers this week, which was probably the intention. On the other hand Village Networks does appear to raise some fair points in their complaint and we have already reached out to the local authority for comment (expect an update later).

ISPreview.co.uk understands that the same complaint has also been forwarded to the Government’s largely separate Broadband Delivery UK programme, including the related Departments for Culture (DCMS) and Business (BIS). Buckinghamshire’s regional Connected Counties scheme has also received a copy of the complaint.

Mind you it wouldn’t be the first time that a local authority has shunned an alternative fixed wireless broadband scheme, with ISPs like Kijoma suffering some similar challenges (here). It’s worth pointing out that BDUK’s Phase 2 contracts have sometimes, but not always, been a bit more open to such ISPs and their future Phase 3 deployment is also piloting such services to help connect the final 5% of the UK.

UPDATE 20th November 2015

AVB’s Director, Andrew Mills, has kindly furnished us with a response to the allegations from Village Networks, which we will post in full.

Dear Sir,

Re: Article published 16th November titled “Village Networks in Illegal State Aid Complaint vs Aylesbury Vale Broadband”

Thank you for your recent article about Aylesbury Vale Broadband (AVB) however it contains numerous inaccuracies which we would appreciate the opportunity to correct.

First, AVB has NOT received £1.5M in funding from Aylesbury Vale District Council, only a small fraction of these funds have been allocated to launch AVB’s pilot project (focused on the villages of North Marston and Granborough). The funds that have been provided are in the form of a loan to the company. The headline figure of £1.5M represents the total amount of funds AVDC have set aside to help deliver at least super-fast broadband in Aylesbury Vale. We understand the rest of the funds committed by the Council will be used to support other broadband initiatives, including the Connected Counties/BDUK project.

For the past eighteen months AVB has consulted closely with Connected Counties and the pilot location was selected as part of these consultations as it was categorised as “white” (no recognised commercial provider of super-fast broadband in the area). At the time of establishing AVB, Village Networks was not (and is still not) providing super-fast broadband in the pilot area. Village Networks’ claim that the reason for this is that they were asked not to over 12 months ago is not true. To quote from an email sent by Paul Firth (a director of Village Networks) in April this year: “One of the reasons we’re not already in Granborough and North Marston is that many people already receive reasonable broadband speeds.” (please note those reasonable speeds were between 0.5Mb/s and 5Mb/s at the time). Clearly this was a commercial decision made by Village Networks and had nothing to do with any requests by AVB or indeed AVDC.

We are also aware that Village Networks has previously met with AVDC to present and discuss their proposal to deliver super-fast broadband to Aylesbury Vale but we understand their proposal was based on a pure grant subsidy rather than a loan or equity model, which is clearly different from the AVB business model (which AVDC feel represents good value for the residents in Aylesbury Vale).

With regards to the second wireless provider referred to in your article, the owner of this service only started offering his service in North Marston in June this year, well after AVB’s work had begun. Again, this was a commercial decision taken in full knowledge of our existence and plans, which is clearly not within our control.

Over the past six months, AVB has also held several meetings with both wireless providers. AVB has repeatedly offered to provide assistance to both wireless providers, including the provision of access to our backhaul, as well as inviting the wireless providers to tender for undertaking elements of AVB’s rollout work. AVB’s offers of help have not been accepted and the tenders received from the wireless providers were not considered viable.

To be clear, AVB and AVDC share the common goal of delivering at least super-fast broadband to all residents throughout Aylesbury Vale and any Internet provider that helps achieve this goal is welcome.

AVB is a “community driven” company – a hybrid of Gigaclear and B4RN. We call it community driven for whilst it is a commercial company its primary objective is to expand its fibre network to deliver ultra-fast broadband speeds to all of Aylesbury Vale. To guarantee this objective is kept and the loaned funds are used solely for this purpose, AVDC has received 95% equity in the company.

Aylesbury Vale faces a massive problem in delivering (at least) super-fast broadband to the mostly rural Aylesbury Vale (this problem is the same as many areas of the UK) and to solve this problem different approaches are required which need to be encouraged and supported. AVB is one such approach and it is delivering ultra-fast broadband (fibre to the home) for a fraction of the costs normally associated with such an endeavour – especially when you consider the work being undertaken is in a rural area.

And yes, our network is now live and we are busy connecting customers to our pure fibre network.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Mills
Aylesbury Vale Broadband

Share with Twitter
Share with Linkedin
Share with Facebook
Share with Reddit
Share with Pinterest
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.
Leave a Comment
22 Responses

Comments are closed.

Comments RSS Feed

Javascript must be enabled to post (most browsers do this automatically)

Privacy Notice: Please note that news comments are anonymous, which means that we do NOT require you to enter any real personal details to post a message. By clicking to submit a post you agree to storing your comment content, display name, IP, email and / or website details in our database, for as long as the post remains live.

Only the submitted name and comment will be displayed in public, while the rest will be kept private (we will never share this outside of ISPreview, regardless of whether the data is real or fake). This comment system uses submitted IP, email and website address data to spot abuse and spammers. All data is transferred via an encrypted (https secure) session.

NOTE 1: Sometimes your comment might not appear immediately due to site cache (this is cleared every few hours) or it may be caught by automated moderation / anti-spam.

NOTE 2: Comments that break our rules, spam, troll or post via known fake IP/proxy servers may be blocked or removed.
Cheapest Ultrafast ISPs
  • Gigaclear £17.00
    Speed: 200Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Community Fibre £20.00
    Speed: 150Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Virgin Media £24.00
    Speed: 108Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Vodafone £25.00
    Speed: 100Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Hyperoptic £25.00
    Speed: 158Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
Large Availability | View All
Cheapest Superfast ISPs
  • Hyperoptic £17.99
    Speed 33Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Shell Energy £19.99
    Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • NOW £20.00
    Speed 36Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Virgin Media £20.00
    Speed 54Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Vodafone £22.00
    Speed 38Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
Large Availability | View All
The Top 20 Category Tags
  1. FTTP (4098)
  2. BT (3145)
  3. Politics (2109)
  4. Building Digital UK (2021)
  5. Openreach (1966)
  6. FTTC (1920)
  7. Business (1825)
  8. Mobile Broadband (1601)
  9. Statistics (1506)
  10. 4G (1374)
  11. FTTH (1371)
  12. Virgin Media (1275)
  13. Ofcom Regulation (1239)
  14. Wireless Internet (1232)
  15. Fibre Optic (1232)
  16. Vodafone (925)
  17. EE (903)
  18. 5G (894)
  19. TalkTalk (820)
  20. Sky Broadband (786)
Helpful ISP Guides and Tips

Copyright © 1999 to Present - ISPreview.co.uk - All Rights Reserved - Terms , Privacy and Cookie Policy , Links , Website Rules , Contact