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BT Community Scheme Helps 25,000 UK Premises Get Fibre Broadband

Monday, February 29th, 2016 (1:22 pm) - Score 1,326
bt openreach big van

BTOpenreach has announced that their ‘Community Fibre Partnerships‘, which involve working with residents of isolated communities in order to upgrade their local connectivity, will soon have brought “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) services to an extra 25,000 UK homes and businesses.

Openreach has been running similar partnerships for a few years and the current approach involves a co-funding model, which requires local residents and businesses to cover any costs that rise above those of BTOR’s own commercial model for the area. Once agreed, 50% of the gap funding must be paid prior to work starting and the final 50% on completion.

Communities that tend to follow this path are those that aren’t expected to benefit from the state aid fuelled Broadband Delivery UK programme. Apparently the 50th community to benefit is Coleorton in Leicestershire (England), although “dozens more“contracts are in progress (once completed they will have helped to cover an extra 25,000 UK premises).

Apparently the latest deployment started after people living on Coleorton Hall estate, a Grade II listed building converted into residential apartments, asked Openreach to help them upgrade the area because slow broadband speeds of 1-2Mbps were far too common. On top of that around 120 premises across the wider village will also benefit from the new network.

David Baston, Coleorton Hall Resident, said:

“We knew that we might have to wait for some time before receiving fibre broadband and so decided to take matters into our own hands. We approached BT directly and are delighted with the end result. Having access to superfast broadband has opened up many opportunities and we can do so much more online now than before.”

Sadly we’re given no information about the funding involved, although similar projects elsewhere have required local communities to contribute anything from around £10,000 to £60,000 (depending upon the area and challenges involved). For example, the 2014 upgrade in Binfield Heath cost local people £56,000 and a similar project in Ashley village gobbled £15,000 (here).

Interestingly the latest partnership in Coleorton appears to have gone live almost one year ago when some 400 homes were connected to “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) speeds, thus either Openreach’s PR machine is incredibly slow or today’s news references a local extension to that same network.

Kim Mears, Openreach’s MD for Infrastructure Delivery, said:

“We are committed to working with communities like Coleorton to help them achieve their goal of a fast fibre connection. Rural areas often present the most difficult and complex challenges but working together gives us the best chance possible of finding a suitable and affordable way forward. We have a dedicated team focussed on helping people understand what can be achieved in parts of the UK not already covered by existing rollout plans.”

As usual it’s possible to read this story in one of two ways. On the one hand it shows that BT has the capacity to adapt and deliver a useful service by working with a very small community, but on the other it’s arguably a bit disappointing that the community felt it had no other option than to donate money to get better broadband from the national incumbent. At least the end result is still faster broadband and that’s a good thing.

Furthermore it’s unclear whether the community attempted to court the interest of any alternative network providers, such as Gigaclear, which might potentially have been able to roll-out an even faster network and possibly do it for less money.

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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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24 Responses
  1. Avatar Patrick Cosgrove

    “. Rural areas often present the most difficult and complex challenges…”

    I’ve never really believed this. There’s far less traffic around, often no gas mains or mains drainage, a hill only becomes dufficult when it’s a mountain. Am I missing something or does BT’s spin machine talk up these heroic rural endeavours out of all proportion to the reality in order to justify the fact that people end up paying twice?

    • Avatar MikeW

      As complex as landing a man on the moon? Hardly.

      Complex enough to cost more, yes. Which brings its own complexity – trying to make it cost less.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      Longer fibre runs, more duct blockages, buildings much further apart, problems of access to power, EO network rearrangements. These aren’t technically challenging, just logistically more demanding to do, especially whilst minimising costs. There are even simple things like lack of local workforce.

      If, as you suggest, rural areas are relatively simple and, by implication, cost effective why did the cable networks shun them?

    • Avatar TheManStan

      As highlighted above in posts, but available worktime onsite is reduced. If the skills you need are not available locally, then the travel time everyday reduces the working day…

      Workforce turns up at depot, travels X hours there and back, time available on site is Y-2X.

      E.g. 2hrs travel each way, 10 hour shift, means 6 hours onsite, less mandatory breaks.

      So for the same amount of cost, less work gets done in a given work period, more fuel, vehicle wear and servicing costs, which equates to higher overall costs. ANd i’m missing out lots of other issues.

    • I presume Gigaclear have had their own spin machine working when they’ve discussed the costs they’ve faced serving these areas too?

    • Avatar Patrick Cosgrove

      All the factors people have listed in response to my post are what the subsidy was supposed to compensate for. None of them is particularly difficult, just a bit more expensive.

    • Avatar TheManStan

      and longer…

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      A considerable amount more expensive (at least in some cases) and significantly less revenue due to the lower density (somewhat improved by a probably larger uptake). Gigaclear have a financial model for such locations which includes (relatively) compact locations of a certain size and, most importantly, a commitment for a certain level of uptake.

      Of course what could reduce the community capital input would be a mechanism that recovered the extra cost over time via a differential charge (at least until it was cleared). However, as that would have to be funneled via ISPs and would greatly complicate their billing systems, I doubt it’s a starter and no doubt it falls foul of some Ofcom principle.

  2. Avatar MikeW

    Codelook tells us that the most recent cab to be upgraded on the Ashby exchange is cab 27, live as of December 2015, and marked as “privately funded”. It doesn’t show where this cabinet covers, but there’s a good bet it is the Hall.

    Meanwhile, Coleorton hall is currently marked as covered by cab 26 – which went live a month earlier, but has the feel of being an EO-conversion targeted mostly at the centre of Ashby.

    I suspect the previous cabinet upgrades relate to the other two exchanges that cover the village – Coalville and Osgathorpe.

  3. Avatar fastman

    it is and other premises and all

  4. Avatar gerarda

    Gigaclear will not do villages of less than 400 homes so they would not have contemplated this one.

    However it is a pity that the government is requiring these “isolated” (ie more than a mile from an existing cab)communities to pay three times (general tax, council tax, and now BT). If communities were able to spend their satellite vouchers on getting a fixed system most of the cost to them would be paid for, but then I suppose that would mean the Government forking out tens of millions when they are actually expecting there to be virtually no cost for the satellite voucher scheme.

    • No, it would just breach state aid guidelines if they could pool the vouchers to build infrastructure in that manner.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      To be fair, those of us with commercial provision are also paying council tax and central government tax without any subsidy.

      Although I would agree, some rather more flexible EU state aid system for “not spot” areas not built round rigid (and often inappropriate) geographical boundaries would be very sensible. It is not just rural areas so affected.

    • Avatar gerarda

      @steve jones But you probably get a decent service. I don’t mind paying taxes to help those without any sort of state provided or subsidised service. I do object when a post code lottery means I have to pay again to get what is provided to the rest of the country by the state.

  5. Avatar fastman

    Geradaa Which rest of county when at least 66% of the UK has no tax payer subsidy as covered my commercial or other operators such as virgin

  6. Avatar A_Community_Resident

    The article this is pulled from : http://www.btplc.com/News/regions/#/pressreleases/leicestershire-villagers-show-the-power-of-community-action-1328653

    The cabinet is no. 27, the project is roughly 120 premises but more importantly included the local school. Covering areas of Farm Town, Church town and Coleorton Hall. The cost was approx £27,000.

    Several options were explored prior to going with Openreach. Some companies such as Gigaclear wouldn’t even engage while others provided extortionate fees. Openreach offered the best option where there is no ongoing cost (other than standard internet fees) to the community after installation which many of the other options carry. Also providing fewer restrictions on service providers.

    Many other options explored have the major drawback of being wireless technology which comes with the inherent latency issues which make real time communication and collaboration difficult if not impossible. 3G and 4G signals in the area are poor.

    One of the major difficulties with such a projects is the lack of clarity of local roll out programs by the council where the roll out plans seem to be changing constantly.

  7. Avatar GNewton

    @A_Cummunity_Resident:

    “One of the major difficulties with such a projects is the lack of clarity of local roll out programs by the council where the roll out plans seem to be changing constantly.”

    Very true. We tried multiple Freedom of Information enquiries to the local BDUK/council. They usually hide behind commercial confidentiality clauses, thus often hindering infrastructure competition and shutting out other network builders.

    • Avatar Phil Coates

      Thats an important point.

      My local BDUK scheme Project Manager tweeted about the BT Community scheme recently saying they might help support submissions.

      I asked whether there was any point submitting if where we lived was going to be part of the remaining BDUK phases.

      As he was unable to say whether we were or were not, we remain in limbo – actually Satellite Broadband Hell.

  8. Avatar fastman

    phil so if you know what cab you on and you know how far you are from that cab that will give you a view on whether if your cab was enabled under any programme you would benefit

    • Avatar Phil Coates

      Yeah I know those details. Exchange upgrade in March. One Cab serving about 400 homes and businesses. We are 7km out. Unlikely to get much but FTRN/FTTH/4G/wireless all possible but BDUK cannot confirm or otherwise.

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