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UPDATE 191 New Build Homes in Portsmouth Left with SLOW Broadband

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016 (12:37 pm) - Score 1,728

The Guardians Gate Residents Association (GGRA), which represents new build homes on the ‘Guardians Gate’ development in Milton (Portsmouth), has said that it is “angry and frustrated” over the failure of Openreach (BT) and property developer Bellway to roll-out superfast broadband.

Building of the development began in 2013 and final site hand-overs are now starting to happen, but early residents are already complaining that they’ve been left to suffer typical broadband download speeds of just 2-4Mbps and performance can drop below 1Mbps during peak periods.

On top of that many residents claim that Bellway’s sales staff had initially assured buyers that “the development would be able to benefit from superfast broadband” but, despite some homes selling for in excess of £350,000, the developer has now confirmed that they “were only required to install traditional BT copper telephone wiring” and have no interest in contributing towards faster connectivity.

Chris Green, Secretary of the GGRA, said:

“In this day of digital inclusion, it is unbelievable that two major companies would seek to leave a significant digital not-spot in the middle of a major city. Superfast broadband is no longer considered a luxury but a standard household utility service. The incremental cost of laying fibre when the original telephone lines were installed would have been insignificant, instead BT and Bellway chose to leave 400+ residents with out-dated services.

Many residents moved from areas of Portsmouth with superfast broadband services on the promise of the service being available at Guardians Gate. We therefore encourage BT and Bellway to ‘get connected’ and enter into discussions with us to find and fund a solution.”

Part of the problem stems from the fact that the development began in 2013, which meant that it wasn’t included into BT’s commercial roll-out of FTTC/P based “fibre broadband” services and also missed out on the initial state aid fuelled Hampshire Superfast Broadband project. Neither would have seen the project (the same has happened elsewhere in the UK).

Much of the blame must thus reside with the property developer, not least because they didn’t have to use Openreach. Ofcom’s existing Universal Service Obligation (USO) also only requires BT’s network access division to deploy the minimum level of service, unless the developer requests otherwise.

The Government are of course trying to improve the USO to deliver a minimum speed of 10Mbps, but this won’t be enforced until 2020. Similarly all the new rules for property developers, which require high-speed broadband to be factored into the planning process (example), as well as the new agreements between BT, Virgin Media, GTC and the Home Builders Federation (examples here and here), will have no impact as they only apply to future developments.

In the meantime Openreach has offered to do a co-funded FTTC broadband upgrade, but this would require local residents to cover their shortfall of around £9,759 +vat. However the GGRA understandably oppose this approach, not least since most of the streets around them have already received such a connection and without having to pay through the nose for it.

Many of the residents also have huge mortgages to pay off and until all of the homes are filled then it would be difficult for the initial residents to cover the total cost. Equally the fact that the development sits in the middle of Portsmouth might separately mean that it would not be eligible for state aid support via future phases of the Hampshire Superfast Broadband project. We have queried the matter with Openreach and are awaiting a reply.

UPDATE 28th July 2016

We’ve had a short response from BT, although as you can imagine they are being kept rather busy by Ofcom’s Strategic Review.

An Openreach Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We understand how frustrated the residents of Guardian Gate are that they do not have fibre broadband yet.

We are working in collaboration with Bellway to take a wider look at all their sites in the region to find a way to deliver fibre at a lower cost. We are hopeful that we can come up with a proposition that works for everyone.”

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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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30 Responses
  1. Sunil Sood says:

    It sounds as if the problem here is caused purely by Bellway – if Openreach had been asked to install fibre they would have. I think the following says it all:

    “On top of that many residents claim that Bellway’s sales staff had initially assured buyers that “the development would be able to benefit from superfast broadband” but…… the developer has now confirmed that they “were only required to install traditional BT copper telephone wiring” and have no interest in contributing towards faster connectivity.”

    In this sense the GGRA are wrong to blame Openreach – they can only install what is requested.

    Instead, the GGRA would be better advised taking Bellway to court on the basis they made misleading claims about the level of connectivity that residents would be able achieve when selling the properties

  2. Steve Jones says:

    If the developers assured potential buyers that the location would be severed by OR’s superfast service, then surely there is a potential claim against them if that was factored into their purchasing decision.

    If a group of residents can get together and support that claim then they surely consider pursuing a legal case.

    1. Steve Jones says:

      Served, not severed of course…

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      The catch-22 is that taking such a course might also risk costing as much or more than co-funding the install of FTTC with Openreach, which runs back to the same problem of money.

    3. Steve Jones says:

      Yes, but a group approach to the developer/sales people might persuade them to put their hands in their pockets if enough residents say they were mislead. It amounts to about £50 (+ VAT) per premises.

      Of course, given the relative modest amount of money involved it would only be about £1 a month over 5 years, but there’s simply not mechanism to recover that sort of thing from lots of individuals.

  3. FibreFred says:

    “the developer has now confirmed that they “were only required to install traditional BT copper telephone wiring” and have no interest in contributing towards faster connectivity.”

    So not a failure of Openreach at all, the developer is the customer , Openreach the supplier.

    Customer says “I just want copper”, supplier processes order.

    How are Openreach at fault here, why does the article state they are at fault?

    1. Steve Jones says:

      If the developer (via the sale staff) was promising superfast and failed to ensure that with OR then they’ve clearly slipped up.

      In the event, the co-funding amount is peanuts compared to the price of the houses as it’s only about £50 per property (without VAT).

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      Actually the article I wrote expresses the developer to be most at fault, while it’s the GGRA that puts the blame firmly at the feet of both sides.

      On the other hand both sides must certainly take some of the blame and frankly Openreach should know by now that they’re widely expected to be putting in better connectivity around new urban areas. It’s not like this is a new issue and is part of the reason why Ofcom are pushing through with their Strategic Review changes.

    3. FibreFred says:

      But they (OR) can’t Mark?

      You cannot offer a customer two services and then when they choose the cheaper one say, sorry I would rather you have fibre which (I don’t know but I’m sure is) is more expensive. 🙂

    4. Mark Jackson says:

      You could take the view that Openreach should have done FTTC by default / minimum service. I mean it’s the middle of Portsmouth! 🙂 . In this day and age a telecoms operator installing bog standard ADSL in the middle of a place like that gets little sympathy, it should perhaps be considered part of normal investment in an urban area.

  4. TheManStan says:

    If they have some written confirmations from the sales staff or from their solicitors via conveyancing process then they should be able to force the issue.

    All it needs is one person to have asked their solicitor and the response from the developers!

    1. Steve Jones says:

      It doesn’t need to be written (although that would make it cast-iron), but it would require convincing evidence that people had been told verbally.

  5. Richard says:

    Portsmouth has Virgin will they do it for free?

  6. Andrew Jacobs says:

    Join the queue, the same thing happened to us and our development is by CALA homes in Reading.
    We have super slow copper despite being promised Fibre at sale time. In our case no copper was even installed until many months after we all moved in. We had to write to our MP for Openreach to start doing something. Openreach, Developers, none of them really care.

  7. captain.cretin says:

    A lesson for all future new home buyers – get it in writing.

    Personally I wouldnt touch a new build of this type, not just because of the internet issues, but because they tend to be very poor value (and tiny).

    A new “Luxury” development near here a few years ago boasted a “Study Room” of 5×4 FEET!!
    This Luxury 5 bedroom house had a square footage smaller than my 1930’s 3 bed semi, but cost 3 times as much.

    1. GNewton says:

      Clearly a case where home buyers haven’t done their homework.

      Having said that, if a telecom company had a little bit of common sense (which it doesn’t), and assuming the ducts in the newly built estate are already there, then there was no excuse not to put fibre into the ducts.

    2. AndyH says:

      @ GNewton – Fibre into which ducts? It’s easy to run fibre within a new development, but it might not necessarily be the case for infrastructure to the new development.

      There is no FTTP from OR at present in Portsmouth and all FTTC deployment was under BT’s commercial programme (most cabinets went live in 2010-12).

      Obviously we don’t know the discussions between the developer and OR, but if the developer sold the houses on the basis of superfast broadband, then they are responsible to deliver it. It could well be that BT (or other providers) found it uneconomical for them to deliver superfast broadband without someone paying for it.

    3. GNewton says:

      @AndyH: Point taken. However, I still think if no one can server a newly built estate of 191 homes with fibre than something is seriously going wrong here in the UK!

    4. AndyH says:

      BT made it clear that they will put FTTP into new developments (if they already have their fibre network ‘at the right point’ of the development – this being the key):

      “I think one of the other usage cases is housing developments. If we’re in at the right point it is just as easy and just as cost effective to put a fibre line in there as a copper line. And there’s no question about it, we’ve got about 250,000 fibre lines today, and the fault rate with them have been significantly lower, so like-for-like you’d always put fibre in.”

      There are many examples, unfortunately, of development sales staff promising something that’s not planned on being delivered in terms of superfast broadband. It clearly shouldn’t happen, as developers know exactly what will be provided as they have contractual agreements with Openreach.

      On the other hand, the government could easily legislate about the requirement for all new developments to have superfast broadband.

    5. GNewton says:

      @AndyH: “On the other hand, the government could easily legislate about the requirement for all new developments to have superfast broadband.”

      I fully agree!

  8. Kyle says:

    Not sure if a Admin will see this but this happened to our new build, connected us off a cabinet further away from the new build and its not in BT’s or BBUK’s best interest to enable our cabinet but will enable the 11 out of the 12 and cabinet 12 is in the heart of the village

  9. fastman says:

    G newton this is why the new announcements came in February 2016 around new build homes -however that does not deal with the ones really built between 2011 – 2106 really that only asked for copper / never asked for fibre

    1. GNewton says:

      Your link is irrelevant for the residents of the newly built estate in Portsmouth. What do you suggest the residents of this Portsmouth estate should do?

    2. TheFacts says:

      It shows that Bellway can sort out broadband elsewhere.

  10. dragoneast says:

    So the residents want it, but aren’t prepared to pay for it. Wouldn’t we all?

    The developer of my estate, decades ago, failed to complete the drainage properly (a potential public health hazard, which lack of high speed broadband isn’t, as well as a breach of contract). The water company wouldn’t rectify it without the residents meeting the cost, which we did, but we fortunately we had some sensible people around to organise things. It’s not uncommon. But bleating is much cheaper than paying, and a darned sight less effective too. So keep on bleating. It’ll take much longer, but that doesn’t matter, does it?

    1. GNewton says:

      If I understand this news story correctly, the residents already paid for superfast broadband as part of the home purchase, why should they pay twice for it? It’s really up to them now to club together, get a lawyer, and sue the developer.

    2. MikeW says:

      If you read @dragon’s story correctly, you’ll see that the residents there would say the same: they already paid for drainage as part of the home purchase, why should they pay twice for it?

      Yet sometimes that turns out to be the sensible option to take. Especially if it ends up cheaper than the lawyer, and considerably quicker.

  11. Tom says:

    Same position here in West Sussex where A2dominion only paid for voice after being asked to pay extra for fibre by BT, this was a 2014/15 build. Unfortunately only 34 houses here so makes it extremely difficult to come up with the sort of cash BT ask for especially when there are a number of different types of ownership here, I.e owners, shared ownership, rental, affordable housing. In the middle of an otherwise well connected area, I don’t know how anyone gets away with it. Similar to others here some people only agreed to buy after the sales office said they could get fibre.

  12. fastman says:

    only paid for voice after being asked to pay extra for fibre by BT, — not true — Fibre required a contract — covered under the SOD paymnent which is paid by the infrastructure provider to the Developer (so the provider could have provided fibre or copper when asked– don’t believe everything your told !!!

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