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Rotherhithe Campaigners Accuse BT of Broken Fibre Broadband Promises

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016 (3:20 pm) - Score 1,797

The Broadband SE16 campaign group has accused the local council and BTOpenreach of failing to live up to their commitment to deliver faster “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) connectivity to 4,000 Southwark premises by March 2016. “Not a single person in Rotherhithe has benefitted,” said the group.

The residential district of Rotherhithe in south east London has often been the focus of frustration due to the patchy and poor quality of local broadband connectivity in some areas, which largely stems from a legacy of Exchange Only Lines (EOL) that are notoriously tricky to upgrade (it tends to require a complex and expensive network rearrangement).

Meanwhile alternative connections, such as those from Relish’s fixed 4G wireless network, don’t reach far enough into the area in order to be viable for most people and Hyperoptic’s local FTTP/B coverage is limited to a number of big apartment blocks. On top of that BT has also conducted a very limited trial of Fibre-to-the-Remote-Node (FTTrN) technology, albeit only with a small number of premises in Gwent Court (Rotherhithe Street).

However everything began to change last September when BT confirmed that they intended to expand the coverage of their fibre broadband connectivity to 18,000 extra premises in Southwark (here). The local authority’s finance boss, Fiona Colley, later clarified that 4,000 premises would benefit by March 2016 and this included “a particular focus in Rotherhithe“. The remaining 14,000 would be completed by March 2017.

The campaign group states that Phase 1 was due to see new connections comprising of three FTTRN installations at Courthope House, Pine House and Ritchie House, the installation of three new telephone / fibre cabinet combinations, two telephone cabinet upgrades and one fibre cabinet upgrade. Phase 1 would also include a cabinet upgrade at Bankside and a cabinet upgrade in East Dulwich. However there’s some doubt over the progress of this deployment.

Broadband SE16 Statement:

“Despite repeated assurances from Clr Fiona Colley (who is leading on this issue at the council) that BT were on target to complete Phase 1 by the end of March 201612 13, to date only one of the Phase 1 cabinet upgrades has been installed – the additional fibre cabinet on Surrey Quays Rd, yet to be activated.

As of 31st March 2016 not a single person in Rotherhithe has benefitted from a new BT fibre broadband connection. By 2017 Southwark will be the worse London Borough for superfast broadband and have the highest level of inadequate broadband speeds.”

Meanwhile the local authority admits that the roll-out has been “slow going” (here), although at the same time they claim to be making “good progress in improving broadband services in Rotherhithe” and state that “some of this work has already started with new cable boxes being installed in the area” (installed, but perhaps not yet live for orders?). Meanwhile Openreach could only offer a very general statement.

A Spokesman for Openreach said:

“We are making progress in deployment in Southwark and remain committed to extending our coverage of fibre broadband. We are constantly reviewing options to see whether it is feasible to go beyond our existing targets. Residents and businesses in the borough can check on the status of fibre broadband availability at their home or business address by contacting their service provider or via http://www.homeandwork.openreach.co.uk/when-can-i-get-fibre.aspx.”

In fairness Openreach might be guilty of having set a time-scale that was perhaps a little too ambitious, particularly given the well-known complexity of tackling EOLs and this can sometimes be a lot more troublesome to tackle in dense urban areas.

Similarly it’s worth remembering that the deployment in London is part of a commercial investment by BT and does not involve any public money, thus the council’s input or control over the roll-out will be very limited (practically zero). The local authority may perhaps be guilty of over-playing their influence.

On the other hand it would be helpful if, given the apparent delays, Openreach could at least offer locals a more useful update on the expected deployment time-scale for Phase 1 and 2.

Leave a Comment
16 Responses
  1. Avatar Al says:

    Just another missed deadline/target call it what ever you want. Still waiting for fibre to arrive in my part of Lancashire, they missed their 97% coverage arged by end of 2015. And I’m stil on ADSlMax.

    Oh sure I can see work being done, but no timescale for when I can order it.

  2. Avatar Ignition says:

    These poor guys both stuck with poor broadband and living in London.

    Every sympathy.

    1. Avatar Alloneword says:

      Thanks we need it, this effects me and it’s a joke i will be lucky to get over my current 3mbits before 2020 IMO.

  3. Avatar wirelesspacman says:

    Perhaps the engineers got dragged across to Swindon? 🙂

    1. Avatar gerarda says:

      or Inglewhite, Whitechapel (lancs)and Bleasdale

  4. Avatar Damian says:

    Thanks for coming the story.
    A single fttc box was installed in January but still not taking orders. No other cabinets have been installed and no sign of any work to address the EO lines. (about 8000 of them). Around 5000 homes only get 2Mbps or less, 9000 less than 10 Mbps. We know the council can do little but they foolishly made an election promise to bring superfast broadband to Rotherhithe.

    1. Avatar Damian says:

      Thanks for covering the story! Dam autocorrect.

  5. Avatar AndyH says:

    “Not a single person in Rotherhithe has benefitted”….except those on Cabinet 58 which went live on 23 Feb 2016 and is taking orders according to eMCL. You also have hundreds of flats with FTTP deployed (some going back to 2013) – see for example SE16 7DR/Sirius House.

    Clearly work is on-going (4 cabinets are in the build phase and 1 cabinet is in the connection phase with a RFS of June) and much work has to be done, but to make blanket statements that no one has benefitted isn’t exactly true.

    1. Avatar Damian says:

      Assuming you work for Openreach. What’s eMCL?

      Is Sirius House a Hyperoptic installation? Non of the flats appear to be able to get BT Infinity. If you can pass on the details of which postcodes can now connect to Cabinet 58 we would be grateful. As BT wouldn’t let us know anything about the status of the cabinet we did extensive searches on 100’s of postcodes/addresses and couldn’t find one that can currently order fibre from Cab58.

      Our statement “Not a single person in Rotherhithe has benefited” refers solely to the BT phase 1 project which we had repeated reassurances from BT and Southwark Council, in Feb and March that it would be completed by March 31st. Clearly that has not happened and we stand by this statement. Some future date is not March!. You refer to 4 cabinets being in build phase – where are these? – no evidence of any work to date. Where is the 1 cabinet in connection phase (assume this in addition to Cab58)- again no evidence that this exists.

    2. Avatar AndyH says:

      Sirius House is native Openreach FTTP. I’m not sure why you say none of the flats appear to be able to get BT Infinity? Where have you checked this? I’ve put a dummy address for Sirius House into the BT Retail site and it would allow me to order Infinity – http://i.imgur.com/KnrwIcW.png There is a lot of FTTP deployment for new flats in this area looking at the reports.

      Postcodes SE16 7AJ, SE16 7AN, SE16 7AP, SE16 7AQ, SE16 7AR, SE16 7AS, SE16 7BU, SE16 7BW, SE16 7BX, SE16 7BY, SE16 7BZ, SE16 7DX, SE16 7DZ, SE16 7ED, SE16 7EE, SE16 7EF, SE16 7PJ are on on cabinet 58 and should be able to order FTTC (some postcodes are split between two cabinets though). Again, I checked a few addresses which were able to order FTTC.

      Cabinet 32 is in the connection phase with an estimate of 4 months. Cabinets 5, 11, 23 and 26 are in the build phase with 5 month estimates (based on BT national averages).

      All this information should be available through the council as they will have access to it.

    3. Avatar AJ says:

      Se12az has exchange only line at the moment. Would you know if there are any plans to upgrade / change this in the near future?

    4. AJ – looks like BT are only upgrading some of the remaining cabinets (Cab 23 is near you on Chambers St) and not EO lines. The cabinet upgrades mentioned above were not part of any discussions with Southwark Council. The assurances that have been made about upgrading the EO lines in the area don’t appear to be panning out.

    5. Have checked out all the cabinets you mentioned and not one of them is in the area which our report covers. Any FTTP are to new developments, again not covered in our report.

      While I appreciate that Openreach are making improvements, our report was based on information provided to Southwark Council by Andrew Campling (BT Regional Manager) September 2015. This included promises of new cabinets to solve the EO line issues in SE16 with a timescale for 5 new cabinets by March 2015.

      Southwark confirmed in February 2016 that good progress was being made by Openreach to solve the EO line issue. This clearly is not the case, hence our continued frustration.

  6. Avatar New_Londoner says:

    So that’s the best part of 2,000 premises plus those on FTTP. Still, let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good headline! 😉

  7. Avatar Damian says:

    Thanks for taking time to provide the detailed information. My apologies, when checking on the Sirus House I was looking at the wrong building. Sirus House is part of a development is in Lewisham not Southwark so was not in the area of our report. Not sure of the locations of the other cabinets you mention as as far as I’m aware we only have one cabinet (Downtown Rd) that’s not yet been upgraded to fibre. It would be really useful to know where the cabinets are that you have quoted. Our problem in Rotherhithe is that most of us have EO lines, there aren’t many cabinets.

    As for Cabinet 28, again I apologise, as on further investigation this cabinet does connect to all the properties in the new build of Maple Quays. As this development already has fibre from SeeTheLght we didn’t check it as we assumed that the priority for Southwark/BT would be to get fibre to the 9000 properties without any.

    1. Avatar Karl says:

      “As for Cabinet 28, again I apologise, as on further investigation this cabinet does connect to all the properties in the new build of Maple Quays. As this development already has fibre from SeeTheLght…”

      Shock horror, more BT overbuilding, surely not ;D

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