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UPD Anger Flares at Openreach Over Holiday Homes USO Exclusion in Scotland

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017 (1:34 pm) - Score 1,276
Grand eagles holiday homes in scotland, Perthshire

Residents of the Grand Eagles holiday park in Perthshire (Scotland) have claimed that Openreach holds a virtual “monopoly” after they accused the operator of trying to “extort” £3,500 per property from home owners, who aren’t covered by the current Universal Service Obligation.

The existing USO is delivered exclusively via fixed lines and only requires KCOM (Hull only) or Openreach (BT) to deliver, following the “reasonable request of any End-user” (i.e. demand-led), an “affordable” telephone service that includes the ability to offer “data rates that are sufficient to permit functional internet access” (here); even slow dial-up (28.8Kbps) lines can hit it.

Under this approach Openreach is expected to foot the bill for deploying a basic copper phone line, although they’ll only absorb the first £3,400 of construction charges (plus users would still have to pay a small connection fee) and the home owner would then foot the bill for anything above that. This is necessary in order to stop costs getting out of control, but in practice hardly anybody ever has to pay an excess.

In this case a number of residents at the Grand Eagles park have been trying to get a phone line and broadband installed, except Openreach want to charge them £3,500 each. “It is a disgrace that Openreach can get away with this and that they are not accountable to anyone other than their customers … it’s about time the Government removed this monopoly on the communications industry,” said resident Lynn Cairns (here).

However Openreach denied the accusations and said that Holiday Homes are exempt from the USO.

A Spokesperson for Openreach said:

“This means that any work undertaken to provide a line into a holiday home is chargeable to the owner.

If a request is made, Openreach planners will calculate the cost of providing the service and the holiday home owner will be advised accordingly, as is the case here. The actual cost would be dependent on the work required in each, individual situation.

The only exception is when a holiday home is a full-time residence and the resident pays Council Tax there.”

We’ve long understood that holiday homes aren’t likely to be covered by the USO unless the owner can prove that they’re a full-time resident who pays council tax, although Ofcom’s USO documentation doesn’t appear to specifically reference holiday homes (the guidance for “reasonable request” is generalised – page 85-86). Many such sites are usually covered by a shared WiFi network rather than fixed lines, albeit seemingly not in this case.

We have asked Ofcom to give an opinion on this specific situation and are awaiting their response. Take note that this article is separate from the on-going consultation over a 10Mbps broadband USO, although now is a good time to raise such cases as it may help to inform that debate. Ultimately a line does have to be drawn somewhere, otherwise all kinds of temporary shelters would be included (tents in fields, cardboard boxes on streets etc.).

UPDATE 10th Aug 2017

Ofcom informs us that the decision to exclude Holiday Homes is the result of Openreach’s own interpretation of their USO rules, rather than the rule itself. However, if someone doesn’t agree with BT’s interpretation, they can bring a formal complaint to Ofcom and the regulator would consider whether the operator has breached its obligations.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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62 Responses
  1. Craig

    I know of somebody who got around this by registering for council tax, just to get the bill, get the line installed, then said they made a mistake to the local council and they didn’t need to pay council tax. Worked a treat and OR installed FOC 😉

    • spurple

      Smells like fraud. Amazing how people assume it’s fair game when it’s a business they defrauding.

  2. MikeW

    Just to confirm – this is all about the old voice USO.

    The £3,400 “discount” for a voice line is, effectively subsidized by every other BTW subscriber. Some element of our line rental goes toward this.

    The question here is – is it a good use of such a subsidy to provide a voice service for someone who is investing in a second home? Or do we think that, by virtue of such a purchase, they don’t really merit subsidising?

    • Sounds like more of a political issue and not an area where Openreach should be involved, thought process wise. If they pay council tax on both and both are fixed buildings then why not? However if they don’t pay council tax and the property is basically just a caravan then.. hmm.

  3. Steve Jones

    Holiday homes have never been covered by the USO. As for “removing the monopoly”, then it would be interesting to hear how these holiday home owners think that would be achieved. Is some other operator going to come along and do this for free?

    Of course, what they want is somebody else to pay the bill. There’s a social case for permanent homes, but I can’t for the life of me understand why the rest of us should have to pay for it (which is what the current system requires).

    • Steve Jones

      I should emphasise by holiday home I mean cabins, mobile homes and the like. Usually those places have conditions that state they aren’t permanent places of residence.

    • CarlT

      Many people who claim to want a free market economy love socialism when it benefits them. Smaller and less intrusive government apart from the bits that enable them, put money in their pockets or otherwise subsidise them.

  4. Jonny

    If you own a spare house then you can afford to get a phone line installed.

  5. Henry

    It looks as if the caravan park has largely been covered with permanent log cabins and there is nothing to stop people living there year-round

    There seem to be telephone poles in place already, so new connections should not be too expensive https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@56.3042809,-3.6767361,3a,90y,75.76h,99.56t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sjqFBdLmn1gFmqnsKNf9HXA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    The BT Wholesale checker suggests for the properties at Grand Eagles PH3 1ET that VDSL speeds of 15-20 Mbit/s should be available off Auchterarder cabinet 9

    • Ultraspeedy

      You are indeed correct, its not just the caravans which have been done either. Go further along the B8062 and you will also find a business (a builders) with a difficult to spot sign which has a phone number on it.

      The A824 also has phone lines and poles at regular intervals along it (NONE of them look new), and businesses along it.

      If thats not good enough….
      http://www.shinafootpottery.co.uk/contact
      Use the map on that page, turn on all the satellite etc options, slowly zoom in and….
      OMG a business literally within a couple of hundred metres of this holiday park.

      All this makes it even more of a puzzle why Openreach want so much cash as the holiday park in question it is already surrounded by phone lines.

      Sounds to me more like either laziness again from Openreach or equally as likely think they spotted another way to milk a cash cow.

    • George M

      “there is nothing to stop people living there year-round”

      Yes there is. Planning regulations govern the year round use or otherwise of holiday homes on caravan parks. The log cabins may technically be caravans, just dressed up as permanent fixtures. The local council will know exactly what these units are and which regulations/laws govern their use.

    • Ultraspeedy

      “there is nothing to stop people living there year-round…

      Yes there is.”

      No there is not…
      http://grandeagles.co.uk/frequently-asked-questions/
      “Can I use my Log Cabin all year round on your park?
      Yes. Our Park is designed for your all year round enjoyment for you and/or your visitors”

      “What are the main advantages of living in a log cabin?
      Log Cabins make stylish and comfortable homes where you can make the
      most of your leisure time. Our log cabins are imaginatively space planned,
      with generous living areas, both inside and outside and can be used all year
      round. You are surrounded by carefully landscaped and well laid out
      surroundings to compliment your log cabin.”

    • George M

      @ultraspeedy
      There are no legal t&c’s available on the website BUT the FAQ and the website on use the term “holiday home” and the extra charges make no mention of council tax so there maybe covenants in the agreement banning full time living on site. The park sells itself on renting out your property to others and you using it in your vacations. I doubt that the land owner wants any full time dwellers as it would spoil the holiday theme of the park.
      But without access to the legal documents, impossible to tell.

    • Ultraspeedy

      “Can I use my Log Cabin all year round on your park?

      Yes. Our Park is designed for your all year round enjoyment for you and/or your visitors”

      If that does not say you can not live in it all year round i dunno what does. Feel free to point to any evidence rather than opinion as you disagree.

    • TheManStan

      The planning applications helps with how Openreach’s decision came about.

      http://planningapps.pkc.gov.uk/online-applications/search.do?action=simple&searchType=Application

      use with PH3 1ET

      The delegated report (see 1st planning application for residential) makes very clear what is happening and that the chalets are holiday accommodation and that the circumstances of what is going on.

      The residential unit planning status is temporary only and for the applicant only, once they cease residing they resume being holiday accommodation… as was the planning approval that was given for the chalets on site.

    • Alan

      Does not seem to matter…
      “Ofcom informs us that the decision to exclude Holiday Homes is the result of Openreach’s own interpretation of their USO rules, rather than the rule itself.”

    • Gadget

      @Alan – So Ofcom know how Openreach are interpreting the USO rules, and have done nothing to force a change – we can only assume they are comfortable with that interpretation.

    • Ultraspeedy

      More likely they knew nothing about the situation until they were asked to comment on it and it was brought to their attention. Hence the second part of their comment…
      “However, if someone doesn’t agree with BT’s interpretation, they can bring a formal complaint to Ofcom and the regulator would consider whether the operator has breached its obligations.”

      Unless you are saying they are happy with BTs decision but still would like to hear and look into formal complaints. Which would seem a bit daft if they had made a decision already that everything was ok. Perhaps they like excess work!

      Looking at the planning link provided also reveals many are now legally classed as residential premises rather than holiday. So the “oh its a holiday home we do not have to do those” argument from BT (or rather the sidekicks) does not wash regardless.

    • Gadget

      @US what I am saying is that the Openreach (and prior to that BT) policy regarding the current USO is that it is not applicable to second homes and holiday homes. This has, AFAIK been the position for a number of years and in that time Ofcom (and Oftel before that) did not object or instruct any changes.

      The discussion here seems to be about if the specific premises referred to in the story can be classified as being exempt from the USO or not.

      I am also still of the opinion that this specific story is not about provision of voice but provision of broadband, for which there is currently no USO whatsoever.

    • Alan

      “So Ofcom know how Openreach are interpreting the USO rules”

      If BTs stance is they are holiday homes then yes it appears they do know what BTs stance is and have pointed out their opinion is not the rules. Also as pointed out many of those structures are no longer classified as holiday homes.

      Also according to TheManStan and the postcode of PH3 1ET for the area, if you go here https://www.dslchecker.bt.com/ click on the postcode check and enter PH3 1ET it indicates the area can have ADSL2+ broadband at 6Mbps.

      BT are clearly just trying to use excuses. As pointed out by Ultraspeedy elsewhere a business a couple of hundred metres away has a phone (and more than likely broadband considering they have a website and email address) so the costs BT estimate are obviously disproportionate. Unless we are expected to believe providing a phone line another couple hundred metres costs 10s of thousands. Maybe its a special pole and the first of its kind with only a single pair of wires eh???.

    • TheManStan

      These log cabins are still temporary structures, which meet the criteria of the Caravan Act.
      As such they are exempt from Building Regulations. Planning permission aside, if they were permanent dwellings they would need to meet building regulations, which they would not…

      Openreach are never going to connect under USO any temporary structure…

    • Ultraspeedy

      “These log cabins are still temporary structures, which meet the criteria of the Caravan Act.”

      No they are not there are plenty using your earlier link which have been granted residential status. Furthermore their own faq states they are built to British standards regulations.

      The Caravan acts clearly states… “the caravan must be capable of being moved when assembled from one place to another. This means that it cannot be fixed to the ground.”
      So NONE of them fall under that act.

      “Openreach are never going to connect under USO any temporary structure…”

      Yet they have connected Shinafoot Pottery as i mentioned which also by your description is a temporary structure.

      Perhaps rather than blindly defend BT actually give some real reasoning?

    • Gadget

      It has to be noted that the landing page for the GrandEagles website contains the phrase”£15,000 guaranteed income in first year”, so clearly not aimed at residential properties

    • TheManStan

      Yes, they have been… temporary status so they won’t be evicted… which is stated clearly in the report. As soon as they leave it goes back to holiday accommodation.

      These are holiday log cabin caravans, they’re just on nice decorated supports, as per the “luxury” site.

    • Gadget

      ….and like any caravan site there is unlikely to be any copper distribution network around the site, only lines to the site reception. So it would appear that the owners of the cabins are wanting telephony (and associated DSL broadband) for their purchases, and as has been explored before, Openreach do not consider this to qualify for USO and so all costs are down to the owners (or the site owners). It would be interesting to confirm if all owners what telephony or just a few.

    • TheManStan

      To be honest I thought that they were permanent, till i looked at:

      http://www.norwegianlog.co.uk/mobile-transportable-homes

      They’re really quite nice…

    • Alan

      “It has to be noted that the landing page for the GrandEagles website contains the phrase”£15,000 guaranteed income in first year”, so clearly not aimed at residential properties”

      An estate agents window will have similar advertising, are they not aimed at residential property either?

    • Alan

      “To be honest I thought that they were permanent, till i looked at:”

      Look harder and you will see that company and its homes they provide with caravan status are not fixed structures, they sit on top off wood piles or brick pillars. (look at the pictures).

      Grand Eagles are fixed structure on a solid concrete base foundation (again just look at the pictures). With British standards regs, those regs are not required for “caravan” status again as explained on the companies site you have provided.

      Further more if you look back at your caravan regs you will find detail about size and weight. Your site also clearly states on its caravan act page that…. “if it’s a building fixed to the ground and can’t be moved, it can’t be a mobile home.”

    • TheManStan

      @Alan

      I see where you are coming from , but these and the ones from my example are craned into position.

      http://www.norwegianlog.co.uk/case-studies/transportable-home-alpaca-farm-lincolnshire

      has a mobile/residential log cabin on bricks.

      As these are quite recent additions, if they were permanent structures there would be building control records for them, there aren’t any.

      http://planningapps.pkc.gov.uk/online-applications/search.do?action=simple&searchType=ScottishBuildingWarrant

    • TheManStan

      … when i say bricks, i mean a substantial brickwork base… caravans and the like are very often on just bricks.

    • Alan

      “@Alan

      I see where you are coming from , but these and the ones from my example are craned into position.

      http://www.norwegianlog.co.uk/case-studies/transportable-home-alpaca-farm-lincolnshire

      has a mobile/residential log cabin on bricks…………

      … when i say bricks, i mean a substantial brickwork base… caravans and the like are very often on just bricks.”

      Almost anything sitting on brick will not be a permanent structure. I also highly doubt that is a full (IE brick that continues under the whole cabin… pictures which we will get to demonstrate this to a degree).
      Other logical reasons are cost, if you wanted something to sit upright on a FULLY solid base concrete would cost less than getting hundreds of bricks and a brick layer to lay them all, it would also be a hell of a lot quicker. Bricks would also be less efficient (mortar between brick cracks etc under too much load).

      The real give away from the specific home you have choosen to point at though is…
      http://www.norwegianlog.co.uk/images/photos/Stangers-with-alpacas-outside-1_170705_132307.jpg

      Its quite obvious what the owners have done, their home like all the others by that company initially sat on wooden on brick plinths/feet/columns (call em what you prefer) with a gap under the building. For whatever reason they have not liked the look of the gap. Look at the bottom of the picture and you will see just above the brick is sheets of what looks to be bare pretty low grade plywood. All they have done is build a small brick wall around the cabin and then nailed some plywood on top between the cabin and the top of the wall to make it blend in.

      Look half way along the cabin at the bottom and you will notice what looks like an extra small wooden divider/baton, probably placed there because one length of plywood the width of the cabin flopped around too much, so they did 2 lengths instead. Look to the far right of the picture and there is the remnants (near the make shift steps/concrete blocks) of the plywood which is left over.

      Or short version yes that home is still a caravan as its not fixed to the ground and can be moved… All of Grand Eagles building ive seen are have a full concrete base right from ground to bottom of house. If you look inside them (google images) you will also find internally they have pillars, which obviously go threw the concrete and supports the structure, making it fixed. Unless you can show a Grand Eagles building which is different to that description?

    • TheManStan

      We can debate the hardstands and substantial footings of these structures till the cows come home… but the key evidence is no building control records… so these are not permanent structures.

    • Ultraspeedy

      “…but the key evidence is no building control records……..”

      Really maybe you missed this…
      https://tinyurl.com/y86clshj

      That appears be building standards warrant issued to a property named as a “house” in the post code area you mention of PH3 1ET. Still confused between what “house” and “caravan” is?

    • Gadget

      @US maybe you missed that the property on the application you referred to “Nether Coul Auchterarder Perthshire PH3 1ET” is not the Grand Eagles Holday Park, but outside the park?

    • TheManStan

      @US

      Nope not confused in the slightest, but i know how to read and interpret BC records and you clearly don’t.

    • Ultraspeedy

      “@US maybe you missed that the property on the application you referred to “Nether Coul Auchterarder Perthshire PH3 1ET” is not the Grand Eagles Holday Park, but outside the park?”

      LMAO maybe you should scroll to the bottom of grandeagles park website to find out its address LMAO…. DOH!!

      “Nope not confused in the slightest, but i know how to read and interpret BC records and you clearly don’t.”

      Feel free to attempt to explain where that building is and how it is not a house.

    • Gadget

      Nether Coule is the house http://www.adams-law.co.uk/residential-property/item/nether-coul-auchterarder-perthshire.html – nothing to do with the log cabins – try again.

    • Alan

      Perhaps with that link you should scroll down and look at the map as to where that house is located.

    • Alan

      PS Nether Coul (no “E” on the end) is a place not the “house” concerned.

      Perhaps you could buy a map of Scotland.

    • Ultraspeedy

      Interesting so yet more property within metres of these other holiday homes yet BT still want thousands to connect them when poles, wires etc are all basically in the area.

    • Alan

      The quirkiest and most recent thing has to be not knowing the difference between a building name and a place name in an address. I admire that something as minor as geography did not get in his way though. Maybe this is the real reason they have not been done, BT just could not find them and thought part of the address was a name of a house!

    • Ultraspeedy

      I do not even know what started with the whole BS about BT do not supply to holiday homes, caravans or whatever it wants to call them. Not only is Ofcom saying thats not the rule is not good enough but this probably will not be either……..

      https://www.booking.com/hotel/gb/rannoch-lodge.en-gb.html
      The full address is…
      Rannoch lodge GRAND EAGLES LODGE PARK, Auchterarder, PH3 1ET, United Kingdom
      (hopefully even someone really daft can grasp the bit in capitals in the address)

      Oh and what does it say about this lodge, ah yes………
      “Rannoch Lodge features free WiFi throughout the property”
      Done via witch craft no doubt as BT do not hook up these “Caravans” up especially with internet.

      Just in case there is any further doubt on that places location…
      http://grandeagles.co.uk/rannoch-lodge/

      So phone lines are actually within the park… CHECK
      Internet available within the park… CHECK
      £3,500 a pop for anyone else that wants a 10 minute job done to connect a length of wire to the current pole or distribution point… CHECK

      Good olde BT, raping pockets for decades. With loyal followers that will spout cack endlessly.

  6. Ultraspeedy

    “£3,500 per property”

    No idea why it would cost £3,500 per property. If just one of them decided they wanted a phone line surely then the bulk of work (IE any ducting, cabinet, poles, wires back to the exchange and the labour costs etc) to supply all of the homes on that estate would be done, meaning any subsequent phone line installs should be cheaper as that would surely just involve a line from a pole or underground end point into the home.

    I can understand why any initial phone line install would cost a considerable amount and the amount of work involved, but can not comprehend why further homes literally feet apart would cost the same. Surely once you have the core infrastructure to provide phone lines in place supplying the end service becomes cheaper?

    • Chris P

      off you go then and cable them up for less as you think it can be done for less. I’m sure the local community will be grateful for your hard work and generosity.

      If, as you suggest, it can be done cheaper its a huge opportunity for some alt net to get in and provide a service for these homes, they can even use the existing ducts and poles under the ofcom access agreements.

    • Ultraspeedy

      Where exactly did i say it can be done for less?

      What im actually asking is If only one home owner wanted a line at a cost of £3,500 (that is what BT have stated it is PER premise) please explain why the next home owner that decides to be connected should also pay £3,500.

      Or in simple terms…
      Is there more or less work and cost involved once the infrastructure to serve the estate and first connection is in place?

    • Bob

      It isn’t £3500 for the first. It is £3500 per property aggregated over the number of people that have requested to be connected.

      If just 1 property had requested connection the cost would be significant higher than £3500.

    • Ultraspeedy

      “It isn’t £3500 for the first. It is £3500 per property aggregated over the number of people that have requested to be connected.

      If just 1 property had requested connection the cost would be significant higher than £3500.”

      It makes no difference how you interpret the figure. The story states “In this case a number of residents at the Grand Eagles park have been trying to get a phone line and broadband installed, except Openreach want to charge them £3,500 each”

      “A NUMBER OF” does not mean all of them.

      If there are a total of say 50 homes and currently only 25 (IE a number of) want a phone line and broadband at a cost of £3,500 each (or if you wish a grand total of 25 x £3,500=£87,500).

      If 2 years down the line the other 25 decide they want a phone line how much will it cost each of those remaining 25 if BT have already calculated the grand cost of supplying to tht area based on the first/current 25?

      Either way somewhere, someone will end up paying less whilst others pay more. Even more so as the holiday park has both newly finished homes (there is a show home for sale on their website as we speak) and pre owned homes. It is impossible for BT to calculate a fairly divided total to supply all residents as 12 months down the line another new log cabin may well be built. If Openreach supply the area as it currently as stated any new home built feet from a pole would not be costing £3,500 to install to. The question thus remains, why is it £3,500 per property?

    • Chris P

      “it’s impossible for BT to calculate a fairly divided total”

      That is why their cost is £3500 per dwelling. OR do say each order is assessed on a property by property basis, not all properties will take a service and we know the cabs cost tens of thousands plus the civils and other costs.

      They may stand to loose money if only a handful of properties install, but may make a small excess if all install.
      While the amount appears large to you, it must be inline to recoup OR costs of deployment.

      It does sound like it’s like a private estate, wayleaves can be a nightmare, doing it right will cost (surveys, legal bills etc). The estate should just purchase and install its own phone and Internet system then charge all accordingly, ensuring new builds are hooked up when the electricity is. But of course why spend any money when they can move the problem and get someone else to pay for the solution.

      There are always a number of other options open to the holiday home owners if they are willing to pay.

    • Ultraspeedy

      “we know the cabs cost tens of thousands plus the civils and other costs.”

      I fail to see why a cabinet would be needed, their is a business approx 200 metres away with a phone line already. Does it really cost potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds to provide phone lines if the core infrastructure is already in the area?

      “While the amount appears large to you, it must be inline to recoup OR costs of deployment.”

      Is it typical for a property only 200 metres away from current phone lines to cost £3,500 for the install then?

      “ensuring new builds are hooked up when the electricity is.”

      It is not a new build estate.

      “There are always a number of other options open to the holiday home owners if they are willing to pay.”

      Have you considered they may well be happy to pay just not have their pockets emptied. Based on the location of the estate and other premises around it there are already phone lines in the area. I could understand £3,500 a pop if BT/Openreach had to come dig things up and lay cables but that does not appear to be the case as already highlight by a users google maps link and my link to a business literally metres away with a phone line.

    • Gadget

      @US – so if, using your argument, there was no infrastructure on the park at all, and no spare pairs in the cable that supplies the business you identified and these plots were classed as second/holiday homes you would not have a problem with the costs to supply?

    • Ultraspeedy

      If there are no spares in the cable then what happened to them, what are they all connected to???

  7. Gadget

    Reading the article it appears that the residents want phone AND (my emphasis) broadband. so lets not get confused over the current USO for phone line and functional internet (which if I remember excludes second homes and holiday homes) and a possible bill for FTTP/C service and comments about a possible Broadband USO which could even be different in Scotland v rest of the UK

    • Ultraspeedy

      “the residents want phone AND (my emphasis) broadband. so lets not get confused over the current USO for phone line and functional internet”

      I would hope nowadays once a property has a phone line if they then subscribe to a ADSL broadband service it would deliver more than 28.8k even under the worst circumstances.

  8. TheFacts

    Why can’t they get lines delivered to a central point and then do their own wiring?

  9. CarlT

    Lynn expects other people to subsidise the cost of a phone line to her holiday home.

    She also complains about not being able to get a line from anyone else and there being a monopoly. This is of course not true, however the residents would have to pay that alternative operator, as they likely don’t have a business case otherwise.

    A fairly normal case of a group advocating socialism when it benefits them.

    If these people can afford a holiday home they can probably afford the install costs for the phone line, they just don’t want to pay and expect others to pay for them.

    Given how the home ownership rate on a main residence is dropping in the UK many others would love to have such a dilemma, and I would quite like to see these people justify why the millions who can’t afford to own a property at all should subsidise them.

    • Ultraspeedy

      Isn’t that what Openreach and BT have been doing with the FTTC rollout and what they want to do with the upcoming USO and future large scale FTTP delivery. IE get others to subsidise delivery to some?

  10. TheFacts

    FTTP on demand available for the cabins…

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