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Lancashire Villages Accuse BT of Overbuilding their Community Network

Saturday, February 20th, 2016 (1:01 am) - Score 4,393

Before long new telegraph poles, with fibre optic infrastructure attached, were going up and associated street works began causing temporary disruption on local roads. Similarly BT leafleted local villages during the end of January.

On top of that several new banners for the “Superfast Lancashire” project have been erected on nearby roads, with GBCIC’s David Ford alleging that two of B4RN’s notices were also “torn down” and one replaced with an SFL banner.

Since then the activity has calmed down, although you can still spot the odd Openreach engineering team working in the area. So far most of the work appears to be focused upon connecting just the village centres, with those in the sparse outlying areas seeing little activity. By comparison GBCIC hopes to connect everybody who wants the service.

openreach_fibre_optic_box_on_telegraph_pole
(One of the new poles that Openreach just built)

A quick check of the Superfast Openreach website confirms that the area is currently being surveyed as part of a “fibre broadband” deployment. Digging deeper and we note that some of the local cabinets are marked as being set to go live with FTTC by October 2016. Some locals have separately indicated that certain areas might also be getting 330Mbps FTTP, although this hasn’t been confirmed.

Edward Hibbert, Resident of Loud Bridge and GBCIC Volunteer, said:

“Broadband or lack of, in rural areas is more than a frustration – it’s damaging to people’s lives and livelihoods. B4RN and their organisers in this area Gigabit are showing brilliantly what can be achieved if people put their minds and spades to it, and BT’s response is to try to quickly kill it off by suddenly becoming very active in long neglected areas.

This is especially crazy when what BT will finally offer is a much worse service in every respect. Councils should be supporting schemes like B4RN – not subsidising a monopoly to undermine them, especially when I understand that our council knew exactly what we were doing.”

GBCIC’s David Ford also claims to have quizzed one of the contractors (MJ Quinn) and they informed him that the work had followed an “urgent request from BT” and that they were allegedly under pressure to get the fibre laid before the end of February 2016 (the final bits of infrastructure will probably be built later this year).

Furthermore the contractor is alleged to have said that the “area wasn’t being planned for previously but that they’d suddenly got the orders to run three long routes of fibre into the area from Longridge, Broughton and Bilsborrow.

At this point it’s hard to see the situation as merely a coincidence, especially as it comes after years of precious little movement or acknowledgement of the problem from the local authority.. until B4RN turned up. Mind you it should be said that speaking to engineers directly, especially third-party contractors, does not always yield the most accurate of information.

Naturally we also attempted to quiz Openreach about their activity in the area, although their response is more a general statement of circumstance than a specific reply to the above concerns.

An Openreach Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Openreach has been working closely with Lancashire County Council on the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.

We started our BDUK roll-out in Lancashire in 2012 and we’re pleased that we recently agreed the next phase of deployment with the council to take fibre coverage even further.

We operate in an open and competitive market, and all providers have the opportunity to outline their plans to the council before any decisions on state aid are made.

We will only cover homes as outlined in the ‘intervention’ area provided to us by the council, and we welcome any investment that brings homes and businesses a greater choice of providers.”

Openreach did however note that the relevant areas were not among those where they are excluded from building and there is a possibility that some postcodes may indeed be covered by more than one network, not least because small villages do not always have a dedicated telephone exchange (this can make it difficult to precisely separate coverage by operator / network).

Meanwhile GBCIC and many in the local area still perceive Openreach’s deployment to be little more than a waste of money, which with a bit of common sense could so easily have been better spent on extending coverage into areas that won’t benefit from an alternative network platform. The latter approach may also be the best way for BT to defend against B4RN’s advance.

Not that any of this is impacting GBCIC’s deployment and if anything local support appears to be strengthening. “Most here see the sudden action by BT as being somewhat heavy handed and inappropriate and can’t wait to get connected so they can stop using their BT lines altogether,” said GBCIC’s David Ford.

On the other hand the situation does mean that many residents could soon have access to a choice of two new next generation broadband networks, which is something that normally doesn’t exist for most rural communities and that’s a positive thing.

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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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91 Responses
  1. Avatar Al says:

    Nice to know that some areas of lancashire have an option of two “superfast” networks, whilst I am in an area of lancashire still waiting for one. But then again superfast Lancashire had a poor website when comapred to others which list exchange and cabinet info and what was planned. Be nice to see those 20 vans flooding into my area to finish fibre for my part of Lancashire.

  2. Avatar Sunil Sood says:

    Having read the article and taking the emotion out of it – I believe that the local community are wrong in blaming BT/Openreach for this.

    IMO the fault probably belongs to GBCIC and perhaps the local authority/BDUK.

    The article makes clear that GBCIC failed to respond to the Open Market Review – which is their key failure. Informing the council afterwards about their plans isn’t much use – the area would by then already be in the BDUK rollout plans.

    Frankly, neither do I believe that BT are able to deploy FTTC/FTTP at speed – it takes them months if not years to survey an area and install equipment – they don’t just do it overnight – and there is no way a contractor would know if an area was previously planned or not.

    Yes, the council were wrong to say that the area would only be in the last 2% etc. but that is not BT’s fault. BT only build where they are told too.

    The one thing I am not clear of is the relationship between Lancashire County Council and the BDUK entity Superfast Lancashire.

    The GBCIC needed to be dealing directly with Superfast Lancashire which I don’t think is the same as the County Council but the article keeps referring to GBCIC taking to the Council instead.

    1. Avatar gerarda says:

      If a “BDUK entity” as you put it is entirely within a county then the County Council are solely responsible for it. However the contracts appear to give the Council no say in how BT prioritise the rollout.

      Behaviour like this just adds ammunition to those who believe that Openreach should be separated from BT and run with a view to the national interest.

    2. Avatar Sunil Sood says:

      @gerarda – I don’t know the area but the Superfast Lancashire suggests it covers Blackpool Council, Blackburn and Darwen Council as well as the County Council – just by looking at the logos at the bottom of the website.

      As such, this suggests to me that Superfast Lancashire’s scope does not fall entirely within the boundaries of the county council so the “BDUK entity” will be separate from the County Council..

  3. Avatar JamesM says:

    Wow lucky people -if it’s that much of a strain on you then please don’t suffer anymore. i’ll swap houses with you (mines worth 640K) and you can have ADSL again

  4. Avatar Craig says:

    There does appear to be some merit in getting a provider who have no intention of deploying anything helping a community by announcing they plan to build there just to get BT to mobilise. Maybe this can be BDUK policy? 😉

  5. Avatar gerarda says:

    BT does not have the resources to complete the contracts it already until 2019 yet can divert them at a drop of a hat wherever a competitor appears.

  6. Avatar FibreFred says:

    Haven’t we discussed this before and it was b4rn that didn’t submit there plans to omr?

    Hence no over build

    1. Avatar Ignition says:

      Yes, more than once.

      It’s no coincidence that so many of these complaints are coming from Lancashire. Had B4RN responded to the OMR this would likely have not been an issue.

      The timing seems a tad coincidental, mind you, however Openreach would’ve been quite aware of the building going on and you’d have thought if they wanted to be anti-competitive they’d have ensured they pre-empt any B4RN build in the areas rather than waiting until now.

      As far as masses of Openreach vans being around this isn’t surprising in the slightest and is perfectly normal – it’s why cabinets are going live in groups in new areas, it’s more efficient to go in gang-handed than to do them one at a time.

      I’m sure more of these will be seen as collateral damage, however this is one of those cases where we have to blame the process not Openreach. I’m quite sure Openreach would be happy not to touch B4RN areas if they can help it, very little value in it for them.

    2. Avatar MikeW says:

      This appears to be true of phase 1, but doesn’t look to be true in the SEP.

      As I mention below, the SEP documents explicitly treat B4RN as a commercial entity, with some approved coverage area, and 8,000 premises. Whatever was true of the OMR, this seems to supersede it. At least for any new overbuild.

      The real question is whether the work and complaints refer to areas allocated to B4RN or to SEP.

  7. Avatar Oggy says:

    If they are so sure that their network will be a success then they will not mind Openreach also deploying there.

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Yes it will be an interesting one, surely there won’t be one sign up to the bt provided network, if there is… why?

  8. Avatar Vince says:

    Meanwhile, in the City Centre where I work…

    No “Superfast” Fibre for us. Not our cabinet. Fibre passes ours to go to the next one, but ours was mysteriously missed.

    Why? Because it’s just businesses on it, so that’s not the cash cow for BT.

    Intersting how certain cabinets just get “missed”

    1. Avatar fastman says:

      yes they woul be the ones that there have not commercial return – for a commercial organisation. or also because they do not make a return for a commercial organisation are usally not good use of public either!!!!! ie a BDUK area can get more premises as 24 m/bps for the same amount of money for a redidential cab than a business park cab

    2. Avatar Ignition says:

      There aren’t enough premises on it to make it worthwhile. Nothing to do with what’s on it, just how many.

  9. Avatar Captain.Cretin says:

    Despite what sounds suspiciously like a BT PR rep defending them above; this smacks of typical BT behaviour; waiting until demand in an area has been proven by an alt net, then move in with the much cheaper and lower spec FTTC and hoover up all the customers.

    Lets be honest, 1000Mb is OTT for now, so given the option of 80Mb and a much lower monthly bill, most people will take the 80Mb.

    The fact that they will go through the same issues down the road, when 1000Mb IS needed and BT wont upgrade again; wont cross most of their minds.

    1. Avatar Sunil Sood says:

      @Captain.Cretin : I am not sure who you are referring to as a “BT PR rep” but BT don’t need to wait until demand exists – as its not part of their commercial roll out – but is funded by BDUK instead.

      Now BARN should do quite well as they are first to market in this area and I imagine they have built up local community support. Personally, if I could get access to 1GB for £30 (I don’t know if they offer other speeds) I would probably do so but others may prefer:

      – a choice of ISP (including cheaper/existing ones);
      – linking the broadband to a phone line/other bundle;
      – needing a phone line (especially if mobile coverage is poor); and
      – something that is easier to install(perhaps cheaper as well)

      If BARN didn’t want competition they should have responded to the OMR – I believe they did in some areas they operate in but not others.

    2. Avatar gerarda says:

      @ Sunil – You are missing the point that the competition is at least 70% (and in this case more like 90%) subsidised by the tax payer. Would BT have invested in these villages without that subsidy?

    3. Avatar Sunil Sood says:

      @gerarda – I don’t think I am missing the point at all. BT wouldn’t be rolling out fibre here if they were by themselves – just like the other 30% of the country they deemed ‘commercially unviable’.

      But BDUK have taken the decision to use public funds to upgrade this area to fibre – not BT – BARN had the chance to stop them during the OMR process and didn’t. They can’t really complain now. Even now, it sounds as if BT’s solution isn’t yet available so BARN have the edge..

      You are missing the point that the competition is at least 70%

    4. Avatar Sunil Sood says:

      Not sure why my post had “You are missing the point that the competition is at least 70” at the end – please ignore 😛

  10. Avatar dragoneast says:

    We moan that we want competition and then moan when we get it. Everything has good and bad sides. Mind you I don’t think we’d be better off if we had kept the GPO and relied exclusively on the Government of the day for infrastructure funding. The country would have gone bankrupt decades ago.

    1. Avatar JamesM says:

      We did in 1929.. and several times before that.

  11. Avatar MikeW says:

    The documents on this LCC page show the LCC decision on the “Superfast Lancashire” SEP project:
    http://council.lancashire.gov.uk/ieDecisionDetails.aspx?ID=6603

    The SEP target is 99% of Lancashire premises. That presumably means there is almost no leeway of coverage – almost everywhere except lonesome properties is going to have to be part of a plan. But which plan?

    The decision document indicates that B4RN is to be treated as a viable commercial entity, responsible for covering 8,000 premises. It asks B4RN to be part of their ongoing business support activities.

    Note that this is specifically about the SEP project. Presumably it does not affect phase 1 decisions, and cannot affect commercial decisions.

    Appendix A lists districts and wards that B4RN is going to be active in – the key ones (related to this story) being in the Wyre district and the Preston district – specifically just the Wyresdale, Calder and Brock wards in Wyre and the Preston Rural North ward in Preston.

    Appendix B lists districts and wards for SEP – and all 4 wards are mentioned in this list too.

    The report indicates that complete lists of postcodes, for both appendices, are available on request.

    It looks like neither projects are expected to completely cover any of the 4 wards – and with no leeway of coverage, the two coverage areas must butt up against each other. Anything in B4RN’s area that is overbuilt by FTTC, provided it mainly meets qualification for premises within the SEP area, is almost certainly going to be allowed as incidental overbuild. FTTP would likely be a different matter.

    In the whole area, the biggest built-up area is Goosnargh (mentioned in Mark’s report), which is around 1,500 people and 600 premises in the “Preston Rural North” ward. It is partially covered by commercial FTTC and partially by phase 1 BDUK FTTC too, and probably can be mostly disregarded.

    The commentary about “the last 2%” is a little strange. The LCC report on SEP, dated April 2015, clearly indicates the SEP target is 99% – so the coverage plans for SEP would very likely have to include a good chunk of places “already covered by FTTC, but still too slow”. And that doing this would involve properties right up to the B4RN border.

    Presumably the postcode lists will tell us more definitely …

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      For those wanting to factcheck …
      – The relevant BT exchanges appear to be Brock and Broughton, both listed as being in Preston
      – A map of the Wyre wards can be found here: http://www.lgbce.org.uk/current-reviews/north-west/lancashire/wyre-fer
      – A map of the Preston wards can be found here: http://www.lgbce.org.uk/current-reviews/north-west/lancashire/preston

  12. Avatar DanielM says:

    Fibre optic vs bt’s copper FTTC i would go fibre anyday.

    1. Avatar Ignition says:

      Indeed, however the overwhelming majority couldn’t care less about the physical medium and for the most part won’t look past that figure after the pound signs.

      Very few of us here are representative of Joe Average as we are a self-selection group.

  13. Avatar themanstan says:

    But the regulars calls for OR to demerged will guarantee overbuild everywhere… as OR will only have one job to become a 100% geographical monopoly again.

  14. Avatar chris says:

    If anyone has a little ride through the B4RN villages they will see that two new cabinets next to each other have appeared in most of them. At great expense to the taxpayer (£46k a time) OR have put a pcp and a ‘fibre cabinet’. In other villages without cabinets where B4RN hasn’t gone, nothing is done. some of our villages are 20 homes or less, yet suddenly they are economic whereas the bigger villages like Glasson Dock who are desperate are ‘uneconomic’? We see villages in the south actually funding BT to bring them a cabinet. Yet they overbuild an area that has real fibre. You really couldn’t make it up.

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      But did you tell the OMR about your plans?

    2. Avatar AndyH says:

      Source of the £46k?

    3. Avatar Sunil Sood says:

      BDUK areas are not economic by definition..

    4. Avatar MikeW says:

      With the SEP project targeting 99%, there won’t be any large villages left uncovered. They’ll need to cover them to stand any chance of reaching the target.

      There appears to be quite a lot of work in progress on the Galgate exchange, including parts that cover Glasson Dock.

      As for cost, the raw budget for the 650 cabinets in North Yorkshire’s phase 1 amounts to some £32,000 each. However, a big chunk, in relative terms, will have been spent on the small FTTP portion of the rollout. Allowing for that, I calculate that the sum becomes more like £27,000 for each FTTC cabinet.

      Even that is high, because it includes money to fund a number of fibre head-ends and OLT/layer 2 switches. It wouldn’t surprise me if that knocked the per-cabinet price down to anywhere between £21,000 and £25,000.

      Those numbers don’t allow for any underspend. From the last council reports, I suspect this will effectively add an extra 30 cabinets into the same budget, but the full true-up hadn’t been done. That’d drop my last figures to between £20,000 and £24,000.

      Finally, it doesn’t account for clawback either. That same council report suggests the clawback amounts to a full third of the budget – an astonishing amount (*). That’d drop the figure for an FTTC cabinet to between £13,000 and £16,000.

      Those figures are just for phase 1, and are probably comparable to Northern Ireland. The later phases are becoming very expensive.

      (*) – North Yorkshire might have a better deal on clawback than the standard framework.

  15. Avatar chris says:

    Yes Fibrefred, they were published on the web too, about a year before the first OMR, with maps. We didn’t do it in postcode format, we did it in parish format, which is actually much clearer because the areas are defined right from the start. £46k is the figure bandied about in the BDUK costings AndyH, but I think it has been challenged and some councils are getting away with a lower figure. The equivalent figure in NI for the single fibre cab was £17k, but the estimates in the UK were much higher. Investigations proved they were too high. Will be interested to know if you can find out how much LCC has paid for the ones in B4RNland. 😉

    1. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Wasn’t there some debate about this, did the council agree you had?

    2. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Bit more about it here – http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2014/07/b4rn-explains-problem-bidding-public-broadband-funds.html

      So they asked for postcode format and you didn’t provide it…

  16. Avatar chris says:

    Just because they decided to speak in parseltongue doesn’t make it right said fred. It is virtually impossible to do in postcode data, as the councils have found to their cost. A network is planned geographically and ours was done the right way in a language that even a civil servant could understand. A map is a map. Postcode data is pretty meaningless, especially for the copper. But they played a blinder, and that one thing has stopped many altnets from even starting, which was the reason they did it.

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Postcode format is hardly parseltongue 🙂 if that is the requirement that is it I guess.

      If it wasn’t accepted by the OMR you can see why this has happened, if it had been accepted and this still went ahead… different story.

    2. Avatar TheFacts says:

      What was so difficult in quoting postcodes?

    3. Avatar Gadget says:

      Just a quick question then if postcodes are “pretty meaningless”, why is the only information requested for registration of interest an email address and a “pretty meaningless” postcode http://www.b4ys.org.uk/register/

  17. Avatar TheFacts says:

    So altnets have been prevented in building because of postcodes. Classic!

    Postcodes used in many industries for location data.

    1. Avatar chris conder says:

      Strangely enough mr facts, the councils have REPEATEDLY been asked for the postcode data, and they have been unable to provide it, thus many altnets can’t get a business plan together. Even margaret hodge couldn’t get the postcode data from Sean Williams nor could the councils, the simple fact being that they can’t get it together either. It is really hard to postcode a map, whereas it is easy to run a fibre round a parish and map catchement by freely available electoral register data that actually maps every single property. This is the data that was submitted to the omr, not just the postcodes but every single property… but it wasn’t in the format BT had decreed it should be, so that was our forray intothe morass of BDUK logic shot.

      The astroturfers who repeatedly bring up the OMR, has it ever entered your heads to ask why BT can’t declare their postcodes?

    2. Avatar Sunil Sood says:

      @chris. You ask “why BT can’t declare their postcodes?”

      Can I suggest that this due to the fact that BDUK BT have to try and cover all those postcodes not mentioned by the other providers in the OMR – hence they need the postcodes from others to be able to eliminate areas from their planned coverage.

      Postcode data is freely available and on on average a single postcode covers 15 properties – not that difficult to do. And BARN must have managed it in some places as some other areas are excluded due to BARN listing them in the OMR

    3. Avatar Ignition says:

      *Sigh*

  18. Avatar Gadget says:

    Actually Chris it is very easy to postcode a map, given that all postcode locations are available free of charge from Ordnance Survey (its the Codepoint dataset).
    I’m also not sure why, since the Council were the ones running the OMR, you conclude that BT decreed what format it should have been in.

    1. Avatar Ignition says:

      I can’t say that the request for postcodes is onerous.

      In 2 – 3 hours, tops, when doing the Fibre for Middleton stuff I managed to get postcode information for every property on this 1,300 premises estate, alongside how many properties are in each postcode, and how many premises each BT cabinet passed +/- 5%.

      I’ve not heard of organisations quoting parish names for infrastructure builds. Postcode level seems fair enough.

      Regardless it shouldn’t be a problem for B4RN. Their service is vastly superior to FTTC so it shouldn’t make a dent in their take up.

    2. Avatar MikeW says:

      I still wonder how much of a red herring the postcodes are.

      At the time of the original OMRs, wasn’t B4RN kinda split between declaring itself as commercial to drive off a BDUK overbuild, vs claiming community funding from RCBF to complete the build.

      Can’t simultaneously be commercial and in need of funding. That has to lead to schizophrenic tendencies.

      It probably turned out well to not be beholden to the funding source; just ask Dent. But we only know that through 20/20 hindsight.

    3. Avatar MikeW says:

      A post on the Swindon article points out another issue..

      That an OMR wants to known *when* the rollout will happen, and for things to be due to happen within 3 years.

      It must be hard to focus volunteer deployment to meet this.

    4. Avatar gerarda says:

      @MikeW

      The OMR, if Suffolk is typical, seems to have only asked whether a commercial operator an intention to include a postcode in their rollout. The existance of a credible plan was not required, hence BTs reduction in their commercial rollout once they had won the BDUK contracts.

      However I would not be surprised to find that only the smaller operators were required to verify their plans.

  19. Avatar MikeW says:

    Classic. “We know better than the council”.

    Even more disingenuous to blame BT for not providing theirs.

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      Thinking about it, doesn’t the B4RN business plan have a page of all the postcodes? Wouldn’t it have been simple to provide that?

  20. Avatar FibreFred says:

    Villagers complain of over build , villagers unaware of facts.

    b4rn didn’t stake there claim simple as , if anyone has wasted tax payers money it’s b4rn!

  21. Avatar Jack says:

    I’ll own up and declare an interest.
    I live in Goosnargh parish – and have contributed a little (a wayleave and a tiny bit financial) to Gigabit so I can get a connection. Today (because Gigabit/B4RN have not got to me yet) I am still on intermittent 56k dial-up. Yes, really.
    We’re in a dip, so no line-of-sight for wireless, no 3G signal (certainly no 4G) and limited GPRS on a mobile on the top floor of the farmhouse. (Yes, I’m a farmer.)
    Even our phone is intermittent. The only two utilities that come onto this property are power, and an old phone line that was last touched back in the 1950’s. All the poles for at least a mile up the road are condemned as “unsafe to climb” and so BT won’t even replace the wire to improve our crackly old phone.
    In contrast, our similarly aged 3 phase power cable (at least 500yds to the road) has been completely replaced in the last 5 years by the power company – just “maintaining the network”.
    We had satellite broadband, but it too was intermittent, slow (when it worked) and VERY expensive (cost including data – over £120 a month). We ran it for the 12 months of the contract and then abandoned it.
    If we have an RPA form or map to fill/submit (all online these days), we either have to ask a land agent/NFU or more likely get in the pickup, go to “civilisation” a few miles away where we might get 1 or 2 Mbps. Luxury.
    So how am I writing this? I’m actually not at home just now – I’m having a long weekend away at my brother in law’s place near Harrogate. He has decent broadband – to my eyes it’s blisteringly fast and he tells me that it’s “only” about 11Mbps on a good day! I was just enjoying the speed (a novelty) searching the Internet on a wet, miserable evening and to my surprise found this article about Goosnargh!
    I can’t normally reply to things like this – so this is a first – but I felt I should, if only to stick up for Gigabit and the community here, because it seemed like a lot of uninformed people are taking a pop.

    For the last 10 years BT repeatedly told us we had no hope of broadband. At least 10 engineer visits confirmed we’re just “too far” from the relevant equipment.
    BT kept telling us broadband was coming, but it never did. This promise-delay-promise-delay cycle went on for years and years. It all got well beyond a joke. We even lobbied our MP but nothing happened.
    When others told me about a local plan to build connections to t’internet, all the family immediately wanted to help. Not just for us – but for the future of the village. So many small businesses have left or shut down as a generation has retired – and a major factor is that you just can’t trade on 56k dial up.
    I know the people who first started the project group – and like us, they live, work and farm in the area. They just wanted a connection too, but got repeatedly fobbed off just like we did.
    After it all started, I attended a meeting with two others (in the summer of 2014 – not sure exactly when) where we met LCC – representatives of BT Openreach and Superfast Lancs were present. The meeting was a complete waste of our time, because they just shrugged and said that our area was already “enabled” and anything too far away would just have to wait – but they couldn’t give a date or what would ever be connected. I think by enabled – they meant a few people in the centre of Goosnargh village could get connected, and so we all took the message and somewhat hostile mood as a very defensive “official speak” for “p*ss off back to your farm”.

    So, looking from my end of the telescope, and perhaps a bit more informed than some of the comments on here, I’d like to say one last thing:
    As someone who just wants to get a connection, it’s very blo*dy suspicious that absolutely b*gger all happens from BT for years and years, and then within DAYS of Gigabit/B4RN connecting a few properties – there is an incredible level activity on every route into the village. Note there is none in any of the neighbouring villages in the next parish – where they too have nothing.
    By chance, I met one of the BT guys on Wednesday. His van was parked across the gate of a field we’re renting – so we got speaking. He was what I call a suit type – not a hi-viz type, and said straight out that all the work was because “a community scheme” had connected up nearby. When I pointed to our farm on his map, he said that even when BT do connect up the new cabinet our farm still won’t get anything (we’re apparently over 2km line length away).
    He explained that they’d only probably get the centre of the village connected, the rest were unlikely to get much. When I asked when the rest would get done, he laughed and just said “never”.
    I asked why they’d not do the rest, and he simply said they were only interested in getting larger groups of houses in one go. He would not comment further, since I think by then my questions had raised his suspicions.

    Perhaps this is all just a game/political for some – but I want to say that for us, this stuff really, really affects our livelihood.

    We just want to get connected, and personally – even if BT could now suddenly connect us up, I’d still choose the community project. Why? because they have done exactly what they said they would – and a heck of a lot more in 18 months than BT have done in 10 years.
    I doubt anyone in the area thinks much different.
    Jack

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Sorry jack but I find it hard to believe a bt man in a suit said such things

    2. Avatar MikeW says:

      From what I can see on Codelook, a lot of the area of the Brock exchange is down to be upgraded as part of the 2nd phase of the Superfast Lancashire project, the SEP project.

      For example, cabinet 2 in Inglewhite is due to be working by October 2016. Other parts due by next January.

      You might be right that BT were spurred into action on the ground by the news, but the action on the ground can only happen after months of invisible planning work having already taken place.

      A reaction within days means they were already planning to come.

  22. Avatar Cecil Ward says:

    I would like to see a mechanism whereby such “community” projects can wholesale. That way, users could sign up with the ISP of their choice, not be stuck with a choice of one provider only. My neighbours have been complaining about unreliability of a long- range wireless project in my area, but there is only one other option, which is to dump the local wireless project’s services and go back to DSL provided by BTW, with a huge choice of ISPs.

    1. Avatar TheFacts says:

      The cost and complexity of wholesaling is the problem. Setting up the connectivity and its support and management is not trivial.

  23. Avatar Jack says:

    FibreFred you weren’t there were you?
    You comment on stuff you know nowt about.
    Come and play with our bull for an hour, then we’ll see if the phone works to call an ambulance..
    That might convince you..

    1. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Which needs mobile coverage.

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Please forgive me

      We have an article about over build with some accusing BT of only being interested once an altnet moves in.

      And then up pops your good self to confirm that is exactly what is happening and you heard it from BT directly!

      Could be true (unsure what man in suit gains from admittance) but I will reserve my right to question things I read on the Internet that sound too good to be true 🙂

    3. Avatar AndyH says:

      Well looking at Goosnargh, it looks like it was upgraded to FTTC back in 2014 and planned long before any altnets.

      Your in the unfortunate situation that you live too far from the cabinet, but the BDUK upgrade has benefitted nearly 200 homes in your area from what I can see.

  24. Avatar New_Londoner says:

    The problem with the complaints from B4RN is really simple, namely it happened before and the cause was the same – failure of B4RN to respond to the OMR correctly. It happens again, and again Chris complains but rather helpfully confirms that team B4RN didn’t respond to the new OMR correctly, this time by deciding they knew better and indicated parishes when asked for postcodes.

    Of course the council would be obliged to disregard an incorrect return. The complaints should be directed towards B4RN for being unable to respond to a simple request correctly, not towards either the council nor BT (which doesn’t have a role in assessing OMR responses anyway).

    The only thing I don’t understand is why Chris finds postcodes so difficult, and why she believes an incorrect response is the fault of any body other than B4RN?

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      It’s always someone else’s fault. Like the railway bridge saga

    2. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Maps of parish boundaries here – http://mapit.mysociety.org/

      Postcodes here – http://www.owenboswarva.com/postcodes/

    3. Avatar gerarda says:

      Unfortunately this is still typical and long established BT behaviour towards altnets. Just do enough to bugger up their core business but do not cover all the area the altnet would have done so leaving chunks unserved as there are now unviable even for the altnet.

    4. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      @Gerada

      Quote “Unfortunately this is still typical and long established BT behaviour towards altnets”

      Actually it is moronic behaviour by an Altnet in not answering a simple question, failing to provide the information required in the OMR. Absolute madness on the part of B4RN given its previous problems with OMRs, not the fault of the council and certainly not the fault of BT.

      If B4RN were a commercial operation I suspect heads would roll!

  25. Avatar fastman says:

    gerada — typical response I see — the OMR is final word on these things — if supplier X built a network and does not respond the OMR and the area in question is a required priority of the local authority it will be built as part of the contract — if the OMR had been responded too and X identified it as commercial it would not have been built by the BDUK project as that would be overbuild — so which bit of that do you not grasp

    1. Avatar gerarda says:

      The OMR is the excuse – the real question is why are BT putting resources into an area which is about to be given proper connectivity when they have a 3 year back log of contract work for areas that have no prospect of that?

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      So all you are really bothered about its BT’s planning/scheduling?

      Why?

    3. Avatar TheFacts says:

      @gerarda – presumably driven by all the ISPs.

    4. Avatar AndyH says:

      @ gerarda – Because BT are contracted to do so as it’s part of the Superfast Extension Programme for Lancashire (http://council.lancashire.gov.uk/ieDecisionDetails.aspx?ID=6603). Clearly from the report and attached documents, B4RN did not notify the Lancs Council of their future expansion plans which has led to the overbuild.

    5. Avatar Ignition says:

      Interesting that there’s apparently this 3 year backlog. I’m surprised I haven’t read more about this in the news and seen more about it on websites or read about BT being taken to court for breach of contract.

      I’ve seen a ton of stories about BT being on or ahead of schedule however.

      Very odd.

  26. Avatar MikeW says:

    LCC’s own words, on the OMR, circa June 2014.

    1. “Therefore we are commencing an Open Market Review (OMR) to establish existing and planned (next 3 years) commercial coverage of broadband services in the Lancashire area by all existing, and prospective, broadband infrastructure providers. We intend to use the information gathered to define the Intervention Areas (IA) to be targeted by a second additional phase of activity.”

    2. “We are requesting information on, and supporting evidence for, any current or planned (next 3 years) investment in broadband infrastructure in Lancashire, Blackpool and Blackburn. ”

    3. “We are requesting information on the post codes, and the number of premises within each post code, covered, or planned to be covered, by your broadband infrastructure investment. ”

    4. “Please also note that further information may be required to substantiate actual or planned coverage claims, including business cases and evidence of available funding to enable plans to be fulfilled”

    5. “We have pre-loaded the ‘Reference Data’ tab of the attached spreadsheet template with the relevant post codes, and the number of premises per post code as the source of the pre-loaded post code and premise data. This data has been obtained Address Base Premium.”

  27. Avatar fastman says:

    Gerads which 3 year backlog cause that would be on the front page of every article in the country if it were true

    1. Avatar gerarda says:

      In October 2014 Suffolk’s SEP was signed with a completion date of late 2017/early 2018. Completion is now being quoted as 2019. By my arithmetic that’s 3 years from now, possibly nearer four if it takes until late 2019 to complete.

    2. Avatar fastman says:

      Gerada you chose to wait for SEP !!!!

    3. Avatar gerarda says:

      BT promised repeatedly that we would be covered by spring 2014. You do not go into partnership with an organisation that has a history of lying to you.

  28. Avatar Martyn Dews says:

    You can debate the OMR subject until the cows come home. Depending on which party you reference, that one will say it did all that was needed to meet the requirements of the OMR.

    The fact is that this article is not about the OMR, it’s about communities that have been enquiring with BT/LCC for a lengthy amount of time in respect to when they might get a decent broadband service but in response have had either nothing or no firm date. Therefore, in light of this they have decided to self organise and do something about it and in this case it was to approach B4RN and subsequently agree a plan to deploy.

    They key point in all of this is that in this case and several other now where communities have decided to go this route, this has been followed by an frenzy of Openreach activity to suddenly start deploying a service. This has happened too many times for it to be a coincidence in my and many other people’s opinion.

    Now then, competition is great and I’m sure B4RN would first to say that a community having no option but now having two is a wonderful thing, however, commencing a BT/LCC deployment in an area that was only just recently not viable using public funds does not make great sense. Add to this that the community in question have put in significant effort and money to get B4RN are very unlikely to sign up to whatever service BT/LCC may deploy, having also seen the odd tactics involved.

    All this happening whilst other areas that have nothing and are not in the B4RN area, get ignored.

    This to me, does not seem right. So forget the OMR debate and ask why this “coincidence” keeps happening and is it a good way to spend tax payers money.

    1. Avatar GNewton says:

      The real issue is how LCC is willing to be so wasteful with taxpayer’s money, regardless of how LCC learned about these alternative network projects, whether through the OMR, or otherwise.

  29. We’ve been reading some of these comments with interest, and had declined to comment until now, since we felt it would be of little benefit with some individuals here clearly missing the point and dare we suggest – probably employed by, or representing BT/BTOpenreach.

    This is a long response, and will be our only comment in this forum.

    There is indeed a fair argument to say we had not participated in the initial OMR, and was simply because we as Gigabit didn’t exist back then – BUT we have ample evidence that we did engage fully with SFL/LCC before and at the time of the extension (SEP). The postcodes we would cover were given fully and freely, and the parishes we would cover – clearly named BEFORE the SEP was finalised. These match the areas and postcodes defined (Preston Rural North) and as were allocated as B4RN areas in Appendix A of the SEP.

    Martin Dews is right in his response though – in that this article is NOT just about the process or the OMR.
    Taking the well-trodden OMR “excuse” is just missing the point and is disingenuous towards the people involved in this community project and others.

    This quite simply about our community, having been repeatedly failed by others, then trying to help itself and just trying to get connectivity.

    We suspect that some of the less than informed comments made against both the community and our approach here – are made by those who are fortunate to benefit from something a bit better than 56k dial-up with which to run a business or educate their children.
    Ours is a community that without any funding at all, has been jumping through all the difficult, time consuming and resource draining political and administrative hoops to try and get connected. We have also been dealing with all the disinformation and obstruction put in its way at various points by BT, BTOpenreach SFL/LCC and others.

    From a community perspective, it has been made a deliberately difficult process to engage with.
    It is a process that strongly favours BT and almost completely discriminates against any community type project.

    What amazes us reading the comments on social media is the venom being directed at us both here and elsewhere. This especially when we dare to explain the process isn’t working for comunities like ours, and that BT/LCC/SFL might have got it wrong, or heaven forbid – are not being at all accurate in their coverage claims. Surely we are a nation with a proud history of being supportive of people who just get on and do things rather than just moan about it.. ?

    We just think that it’s far better (even if we may agree to disagree about how well the process works) that public money is not wasted and spent unadvisedly by LCC/SFL when other areas have far greater need. Surely that’s sensible?
    We can demonstrate that the result of all our engagement with our MP and BT/LCC/SFL was just 5 years+ of repeatedly promised, and repeatedly missed delivery dates that did not actually deliver the connectivity speed or area that is claimed. Even today, a large area of our parishes are claimed as “Superfast” but can’t even get ADSL above 1Mbps. At no point have we EVER been able to get an idea from anyone involved at BT/LCC/SFL of likely connectivity, nor more importantly – exactly when it would happen. Any business (or we’d argue any community) cannot make future provision or plan without this information – particularly for a vital service that is so crucial to have today.

    As has been pointed out earlier, IT IS really far more than coincidence there has only now been a frenzy of Openreach activity deploying an FTTC service – in an area we already serve with 1 Gbps FTTP. This must point to a strategic decision by the parties involved.

    I can confirm that we really don’t mind competition in the slightest, and with the support of B4RN we offer a world leading connectivity at a price that’s significantly lower than the competition. Importantly, and in stark contrast to BT, our connections are also delivered by a non-profit business, which means the activity and income directly benefits the subscribing communities, and is not used to bolster a company share price or provide large corporate bonuses.

    The fact that almost everyone in the area is also dumping their failing and expensive “line rental” BT phone lines to go with the clarity and low cost of VoIP – may perhaps have been one factor in the aggressive targeting of our community.

    What the community does object to though is:
    a) the removal of our local advertising materials in favour of “BT Superfast Lancashire” materials (although these BT posters also disappeared yesterday).
    b) BT/LCC/SFL deployment in an area ALREADY SERVED by NGA broadband (and only just recently stated as “completely unviable” using public funds) – when other areas like Glasson, Pilling and other areas have no connectivity at all, and are unlikely to get it from us. It is just a sad and unnecessary waste of our money – as local taxpayers.

    The community here has now expended significant effort and money to get our own service, and so as Martin Dews stated, it is VERY unlikely that any here will now pay a lot more for a far inferior service.

    This sudden activity by BT has if anything, we understand hardened resolve and swung many of “the undecided” in our favour. In any case we can’t do anything about it, apart from just carry on and connect EVERY property in the parishes we serve – something that BT can’t and won’t do.

    This situation though – is not right.
    It is right though that people far more influential than us (in the EU) do ask why this keeps happening, and if state aid is being misused. We have been happy to provide our evidence.
    On a competition front, if this activity and process is being adapted by those at BT/LCC/SFL to prevent community interest projects and volunteer groups from applying or being successful then this is also not in the public interest and is likely to be referred to both central government and the anti-competition authorities.

    Certainly Thursday’s OFCOM announcement will be interesting – but whatever that brings, we look forward to continuing to connect every property across our parishes with FTTP – regardless of whatever tactics a large aggressive monopoly may decide to use against our community.
    Bring it on – and JFDI.

    1. Avatar AndyH says:

      I am somewhat confused by your post here.

      From what I can see:

      – Superfast Lancashire took part in the Superfast Extension Programme back in 2014 to provide 97% coverage
      – BT was the only company that participated in the tender and it won the contract
      – B4RN/GBCIC did not submit its future expansion plans as part of the OMR
      – BT started to roll out fibre coverage to the SEP areas from the middle of 2015

      I really struggle to see how you’ve concluded there’s been any abuse of public funds or abuse by BT here. All that is happening is that BT are rolling out coverage as they are contracted to do so as part of their tender.

    2. Avatar GNewton says:

      @AndyH: You just don’t get it, do you? LCC was fully aware of the existence of these alternative network builds. There was no reason for them to be so wasteful with taxpayer’s money!

    3. Avatar AndyH says:

      GNewton: Source? The areas mentioned in the article had no network build and were not included in the Appendix A by B4RN.

  30. Avatar Ignition says:

    If I may share a few thoughts:

    I think there’s some ascribing of malice here where there is none. This is a state aid project with the OMR run by the public sector. B4RN guys – you could’ve installed fibre to the anus of the council and they’d have still been listed in the SEP if their bumholes weren’t mentioned in the proper format in the OMR.

    BT’s timing is probably not a coincidence. They owe it to the taxpayer to try and get the highest take up possible which meant getting into the area ASAP. I would suggest they don’t want to be there any more than B4RN want them to be there. They know they aren’t going to make any money out of the enterprise.

    Stating that B4RN didn’t populate the OMR properly isn’t malicious, it’s a statement of fact.

    Some people need to take a step back. They’re very involved emotionally in this and have to remember that everyone else will not share their attachment. I’ve had some fairly unpleasant abuse thrown at me over my apparent mistreatment of B4RN. I appreciate that it’s a labour of love, and followed with an almost religious fervour however it should also be appreciated that people commenting on this board will not share that fervour and will be commenting impassively.

    Because people don’t share that enthusiasm and don’t unquestioningly agree with what is said doesn’t mean they work for BT.

    It looks as though B4RN screwed up and didn’t do the OMR properly, the council were, predictably complete jobsworths and for all I know had no choice but to be, and from there BT had to make the best of a bad job.

    One of those things. Seems better and more balanced than people taking pot shots at one another, accusations of astroturfing, etc.

    1. Avatar Gadget says:

      As I understand it failure to follow the rules for a particular procurement can result in the council having to retender and go through the whole process again – so possibly accepting a non-standard input (or lack of response) from one contributor could have been considered as a reason for an appeal to force a new tender process to be started.

    2. Avatar gerarda says:

      @What duty to the tax payer did BT have to cover this area whilst leaving others without a service? They were not contracted to get 100% cover so they could have met their target by going to where they were needed.

    3. Avatar TheFacts says:

      The county let the contract. Their decision.

    4. Avatar gerarda says:

      Other counties have complained that the BDUK contract does not give them any say in where BT goes, so almost certainly not the County’s decision

    5. Avatar GNewton says:

      @gerarda: It is the county’s responsibility to make sure that their BDUK contractor (BT in this case) builds the VDSL network in the areas as agreed in the contract. If the county can’t do proper project management, then they have an issue here. Certainly LCC has failed in this, ending up with wasting taxpayer’s money, because they wouldn’t control how BT proceeded with the BDUK project.

  31. Avatar gerarda says:

    @GNewton The intervention areas are defined but BT are not required to cover 100% of them so apparently can choose which ones they go to up to the contracted coverage

  32. Avatar MikeW says:

    In this case, it isn’t so much a matter of what postcodes went into Appendix A for B4RN.

    What determines BT’s actions is the list of postcodes in Appendix B. That embodies LCC’s request to BT.

    BT are indeed not required to cover 100%, and have some freedom. However, they do have to target 99%, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for that freedom. The gap left is going to be smaller than B4RN’s target of 8,000 properties.

    I’m sure it feels like one hell of a coincidence that BT turn up in a couple of days, but there will have been months of planning before any sods are turned.

    But the key is this: are those postcodes in Appendix B or not? If they are, then morals don’t count: BT are at pain of penalty to consider them

    1. Avatar gerarda says:

      the second contract was intended to take coverage from 97%-99%. Ignoring rounding this means only 2/3 of the uncovered premises need to be covered which gives rather more flexibility than having to do 99 out of a 100.

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