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Local Earl Stalls “Fibre Broadband” Upgrade for Devon Village of Upton Pyne

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017 (10:10 am) - Score 1,335

Residents of a small rural village called Upton Pyne in Devon (England), which is home to around 300 people, have been left in limbo after the final phase of Openreach’s (BT) “fibre broadband” upgrade in the area was stalled because a local earl objected to the cables going over his land.

At present local homes struggle to get broadband download speeds of above 1Mbps, with bog standard first generation ADSL Max (up to 8Mbps) technology being the order of the day via BT’s oldest 20th Century Network (20CN). Suffice to say that the village is in dire need of an upgrade.

The good news is that a new Street Cabinet has already been built to support an ‘up to’ 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) service in the area. The bad news is that Openreach can’t connect the cabinet to a fibre optic cable because the Earl of Iddesleigh, who owns a big chunk of local land, won’t allow “either an overhead or underground cable across [his] fields” (Openreach statement).

Apparently most of the fibre optic cables and related overhead telegraph poles have already been built, although there’s a gap where four poles need to cross the Earl’s land and this is where the dispute exists.

Cllr Bob Short, Upton Pyne and Cowley Parish Council, said (BBC):

“In the interests of keeping the countryside looking pretty for everybody, nobody wants poles. But it’s the case that they’d not be the only ones in the area, there are poles everywhere. Surely four more isn’t going to be too much of an inconvenience for the countryside?”

However Lord Iddesleigh disputes this and says that he does not object to the new service but would rather the cables were buried than go over telegraph poles, which he fears could harm the “unspoilt valley.” This somewhat contradicts Openreach’s comment above and meanwhile the local community has been left in limbo.

Sadly disputes over wayleave agreements are nothing new and it’s an area that the Government hopes to tackle via their new 2017 Digital Economy Act, which will revise the old Electronic Communications Code (ECC) in order to make it both cheaper and easier to deploy new broadband and telecoms infrastructure on private land. Of course even those changes won’t completely prevent delays due to disputes over related work.

Earlier this year it was revealed that problems with gaining access to land had hampered Openreach’s efforts to roll-out ultrafast FTTP broadband services to cover around 40,000 premises in Wales (here). Issues like this crop up all the time.

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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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10 Responses
  1. Fred the Red says:

    Several large gentry landowners have made what appears to be some terrible decisions in supporting the rollout of localised networks and when decisions have been made to support the cost of the wayleaves are so high it unhinges the commercial viability of the build.

  2. John says:

    Why don’t BT deploy a wireless link to cross the field? You could easily deliver multi-gigabit with E band over a short distance, if its only 4 poles distance its only going to be a few hundred metres.

    1. Lola says:

      Probably cost. Both ends would need power, as opposed to just one.

      Openreach have used this method before though, using a wireless link for an FTTC cab.

  3. Fred the Red says:

    Lola, good point! I did however come across a network in Bucks which uses solar and wind power to provide the power to a FWA network.

  4. Robert says:

    Depends on who is telling the truth as to where blame lays i guess. If the Lord/Earl has no objections to the cable going under his land/ground then i fail to see any issue and Openreach should just get on and do it.

    If Openreach are telling the truth though and the Earl does not want over or underground cabling then the blame lays with him.

    If i had to guess (and its not based on much) id guess based on one paragraph of the story only its Openreach not co-operating.
    The paragraph “Apparently most of the fibre optic cables and related overhead telegraph poles have already been built, although there’s a gap where four poles need to cross the Earl’s land and this is where the dispute exists.”
    To me says they wont put the cable underground as they already have spent money building the poles.

  5. DTMark says:

    “Openreach can’t connect the cabinet to a fibre optic cable”

    Why can’t the backhaul fibre cable just go in the same ducts as the E-side bundle(s) for which there are wayleaves already since the thing is already in the ground/on poles?

    Assuming that the answer is “Because the backhaul isn’t being fed from the same exchange” then slot cut it into the road far enough to be able to trunk off via another route?

    It does seem a bit odd that it’s got this far without permission being granted.

    1. MikeW says:

      The usual answer is … cost. So presumably the E-side is full, or blocked, or buried direct, and to expensive to remedy. Or slot-cutting the road is too expensive, or too hard to deploy traffic measures for.

      Why build before all permissions have been granted? In this case, it is almost certainly because of the pressure that CDS have been under, and have passed on to BT. Delivery was due by the start of January, with the final “tricky wayleave” issues then due by March 31st.

      This cabinet, presumably, is one of the final ones left to be done for BT to get paid.

    2. Steve Jones says:

      If you don’t start building out until every t is crossed and every i dotted, then you will incur massive delays with idle resources. What happens is that planners and project managers have to make judgements. It happens in every major project, and by that I don’t mean just network ones. In the case of something like this there may be dozens, or even hundreds of elements and waiting until everybody has agreed everything in advance isn’t tenable, especially when there are those screaming for instant results.

      For the most part this works as people make reasonable judgement and have reasonable responses. In this case, something hasn’t gone right. I’m not going to make any call as to how any blame is to be attributed, but as there have been tens of thousands of cabinets installed, and the vast majority have gone ahead without excessive delays like this, we can reasonably assume that, most of the time, it has worked. Occasionally it won’t (and we haven’t even considered unforeseen technical issues).

  6. TheFacts says:

    My guess is it’s an All-in-one cabinet intercepting the copper from Stoke Canon and the fibre is coming from the Cowley direction.

  7. DTMark says:

    Just a thought… does this “Earl” stand to gain from a VDSL deployment?

    Or is he too far away from the cabinet and so would see cables going over his land to serve others, but get nothing himself?

    Clearly somewhat rhetorical since we don’t know where he lives.

    But whether or not it benefits him might have a bearing on his co-operation 🙂

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