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Devon UK Community Burns Openreach Van Effigy to Raise Broadband Plight

Monday, November 6th, 2017 (7:17 am) - Score 2,325

The annual Templeton Bonfire and Fireworks Night in Devon had somewhat of a different theme this year after the rural community, which has long struggled with slow sub-1Mbps broadband speeds, decided to burn an effigy of Openreach’s (BT) van.

Personally speaking, I’m not sure how I feel about the sight of any broadband / telecom company’s engineering van going up in smoke (even if it’s just an effigy, a sinister undertone might still be perceived). The engineers who drive those vans are just ordinary workers and not responsible for setting company policy, thus they perhaps do not deserve to be turned into an object of hate.

On the other hand the objective of this community was clearly to do something that gets their plight into the news and, judging by the media coverage, they have succeeded. The frustration of those who live in such digitally disadvantaged communities is fully understandable and sadly there are many more like it across the United Kingdom, although the numbers are shrinking.

Indeed the fact that there are so many small communities, including a few urban areas, can sometimes make it even more difficult to get your situation noticed. Sometimes the louder you can shout, the more likely the problem is to get resolved.

Adam Short, Templeton Resident, said (Devon Live):

“I have only been in the village since June 2016, but I have been involved with the issue of broadband in the village since before our arrival. We’ve investigated everything – from private enterprise options, through petitioning BT, to co-funding options. So far, nothing has materialised.

A few houses in the village are able to make use of 4G broadband through mobile providers. 4G is still riddled with problems though sadly – some providers really throttle the speeds, whilst others are still ‘tuned’ for a mobile phone connection so will terminate long-lasting data connections after a period of time. Those majority of households who still use BT/Openreach based broadband achieve (in general) less than 1Mbps download speeds.”

At this point it’s worth remembering that the Government’s £1.6bn+ Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project is still on-going and hopes to bring “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) capable networks to 98% of premises by around 2020 (currently at about 94%), while the final 2% will have to make do with a minimum speed pledge of 10Mbps+ via the proposal for a new Universal Service Obligation (USO).

On top of that Openreach are no longer the only game in town for remote rural areas. The regional Connecting Devon and Somerset project has recently signed some big broadband expansion contracts (Phase 2) with wireless ISP Airband (here) and “full fibre” (FTTP/H) provider Gigaclear (here), although for now Templeton is still an Openreach-only location.

A spokesperson for Openreach said, “Templeton is an extremely rural community which makes rolling out fibre broadband much more challenging. Templeton was not included in Openreach’s commercial roll-out of fibre broadband or the first phase of the Connecting Devon and Somerset partnership but we’re working hard to find alternative ways of bringing faster broadband to residents.” Apparently improvements to 4G and co-funded fibre deployments are being considered.

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48 Responses
  1. Avatar Bill says:

    It sounds like Adam Short didn’t do his research. He moves to a place where speeds are low… and then whinges because speeds are low?

    If BT had contractually agreed to upgrade the area and haven’t that would be a different thing.

  2. Avatar Davek says:

    We are all equal but some are more equal than other.
    (Rural v urban)

    1. Avatar CarlT says:

      Indeed. For a fraction of the subsidies being spent deploying FTTP in deep rural areas swathes of urban areas could be covered but are instead left to the market’s own devices.

      You’re over 4 times as likely to find fibre to homes in rural hamlets than urban areas.

      I can’t even begin to imagine how cheap my urban line rental would be if I weren’t having to subsidise the maintenance of rural lines.

    2. Avatar C. McCormick says:

      @CartT – +1

    3. Avatar gerarda says:


      Imagine how cheap rural lines would be if they took into account relative usage rates.

    4. Avatar C. McCormick says:

      Usage has nothing to do with it, hardest keeping it live.

    5. Avatar gerarda says:

      @C McCormick

      Are you really suggesting that lines which use 100Gig of data a month has no extra costs either transactionally or in infrastructure needs to ones that uses 1Gig?

    6. Avatar Steve Jones says:


      In terms of the line (which is the bit provided by OR and hence the subject of the item), then there is absolutely no difference made to the cost how much data is used. In the case of FTTC it might be possible to argue that more fibre capacity would be required to reach the handover point, but I doubt it’s significant.

      If you are arguing about ISP costs, then you have more of a point, but that’s nothing to do with the cost of providing and maintaining a line. So if you want to point a finger in the case of bandwidth utilisation, point it at the ISPs. For good or ill the market decided that (on fixed line) it didn’t like usage based charging (which means a lot of light users are subsidising heavy users), but that still has nothing to do with line costs.

    7. Avatar C. McCormick says:

      Steve’s got it in one 🙂

    8. Avatar gerarda says:


      I saw some research which suggested that the transactional cost was about 1p per GB so in my case only a £1 per month cross subsidy, but this did not take into account the infrastructure requirement to support this level of usage.

  3. Avatar Optimist says:

    Have the villagers considered putting in their own community fibre scheme to bypass OutOfReach altogether?

    1. Avatar Dave says:

      How is it out of reach? There are pipe lines and communication cables running beneath the sea bed connecting other countries.openreach and bt are only interested in making as much money as possible from the heavily populated towns and cities.they don’t care about us in the rural areas.nothing is out of reach.its just an excuse.

    2. Avatar MikeW says:

      I remember all those companies rushing to offer USO services when Ofcom consulted.

      Oh, hang on. No, it was just BT.

  4. Avatar CarlT says:

    I see the usual suspect commenting on the news article there.

    Adam must’ve had one hell of a need to move there if he knew what he was getting into and moved anyway. Love the entitlement attitude that infrastructure should follow him rather than him moving to the infrastructure.

    1. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      From the BBC report he is quoted

      “We knew it was terrible before we moved, but we hoped there would be a solution”

      Of course, it’s not a matter of incompetence, as he claims, but one of money. A look at Google Maps shows the place has perhaps twenty properties or so. Presumably it failed the value for money tests in the BDUK programme. There seems to be a lot of similar clusters and lone houses in that area and covering that lot with fibre would take serious amounts of money – I wonder where the deal signed with Gigaclear in this exercise. There is obviously still work going on with OR on BDUK in the CDS programme, but it’s unclear where the demarcation is.


    2. Avatar entitled says:

      “I am a Network Architect by trade, and attempting to run my business from home, like many others here. My technical background has allowed me some degree of success, but it’s certainly not been straight forward to achieve, nor is it 100 per cent reliable.”

      Sounds like a case of “bad workman always blames his tools” here…..

    3. Avatar CarlT says:

      I work from home in IT. I made sure that there would be a solution in progress before moving to a slow spot and a few months of pain later it duly arrived.

      Unless the man was forced to move he can’t really complain too much. I moved from London and can hardly complain that I no longer have access to a tube station a few minutes from home.

  5. Avatar A Builder says:

    Trouble is that FTTP is the only realistic technology that has the reach to get into the countryside. FTTP with wireless/microwave links clearly is part of the solution but somehow the big pipe has got to get to somewhere it can be distributed from. So yes I agree that the costs are higher for rural but otherwise we are agreeing to a huge digital divide. That being said the costs of hanging fibre from phone poles is very much exaggerated and the passive nature of the fibre means that power to cabinet costs are largely removed. Lets be honest the costs of putting in fibre on phone poles are less than that of putting in copper as all you are doing is hanging the empty fibre duct and then the fibre can be blown through point to point rather than having to manhandle a potentially very heavy copper bundle.

    Whilst I am far from being a BT supporter I’m also not sure why there is the negativity about GFast as a stepping stone. It would seem pretty obvious that the way it is PCP deployed with the combined power/fibre connection is a stepping stone to pole mounted DSLAM as the next step. There is a lot of rubbish talked about the power requirements of the DSLAM and the reverse power concept is surely for comedy value only. Most of these kind of digital devices don’t even really need 12V to function so 50VDC down a thickish figure of 8 in the bundle would do the job in most urban locations, even allowing for voltage drop. And lets bear in mind that 50VDC requires no new safety case as that is what powers the historical copper network anyway. When this occurs provided there are enough fibre then putting a DSLAM and PON on the phone pole is a bit of no brainer and at that point the pure fibre connection to the house can just be a cost option. On that basis I for one would pay a few hundred quid to get the last hop connected both at home and for the business.

    1. Avatar C. McCormick says:

      OK, so as someone who lives in an urban area, and not one that BT has bothered on investing in either (sub 3meg) I could get access to up to 300mbps “capable” cable from Virgin Media

      However this service is then highly congested results in average speeds around 100mbps and quality issues, now this is probably better than what many rural locations get, but what your saying is rural area’s should get fibre as a result and regardless of the bill it should be footed by Openreach which means the customers of Openreach services.

      How are those in Urban area’s going to react when then are seeing there hard earned money invested in area’s (that urban folk could only dream of living in BTW) and coming home every night to a buffering netflix or trying to hold a Skype call on a fast but poor connection.

      SO if ‘we’ invest in the rural… will they invest (pay more) back into the urban area’s that in many cases also need the network upgrades to actually bring just the telephone service within regulation regardless of broadband speeds.

      Also it has been seen time and time again, a supplier starts a project to bring superfast services to there area and then gets bitten on the hand and forced to spend stupid amounts of extra money or bail on a project hurting there reputation…

      Go fund yourself.

  6. Avatar C. McCormick says:

    I’m sick of hearing about the terrible plight of the rural folk.

    Openreach aren’t obliged to serve you.

    Want faster, fine.. get satellite, I bet you get a better sky view than some urban folk.

    1. Avatar Davek says:

      And I am sick of subsidies urban area.

    2. Avatar C. McCormick says:

      I’m sick of subsidising rural area’s….

      Do the maths, I think the few take more than they give.

    3. Avatar gerarda says:

      There are cross subsidies between rural and urban all over the place and in both directions, and in any event the issues now arising with those still left out is because the bulk of the early BDUK spend was in areas that were urban and semi urban.

    4. Avatar C. McCormick says:

      gerarda – Because BDUK was an investment program, not a give away…

    5. Avatar Tim says:

      I’m sick of subsidizing urban areas – they get mains gas, sewers, libraries, public transport, AND fast broadband. All I get is the tax bill to pay for it all, and a load of winging from townies about money being wasted on rural areas.

    6. Avatar C. McCormick says:

      Too many idiots on the internet these days…

      I don’t mind waiting for the page to load… I’m missing nothing important…

  7. Avatar Graham Long says:

    Remember, remember
    The fifth of November
    The Openreach treason and plot;
    I know of no reason
    Why the Openreach treason
    Should ever be forgot
    Patterson, Sealey and their friends
    Did the scheme contrive
    To ensure superfast broadband
    In many parts of our land
    Could never, never, ever go live!

    1. Avatar TheFacts says:

      If there is not to be 100% Devon coverage would you please identify properties not covered.

    2. Avatar Fastman says:

      hepful response I see

    3. Avatar GNewton says:

      @Graham Long: Not a problem for the TheFacts, he wouldn’t mind for the government to pay the bill for a nationwide fibre rollout 🙂

    4. Avatar TheFacts says:

      @GN – to be clear I have never said that the government should pay for a full fibre rollout. It was simply an option to add to the list.

    5. Avatar AndyH says:

      @ GNewton – Your constant trolling of TheFacts is rather childish and pathetic.

  8. Avatar Gadget says:

    So if co-funded options have been investigated (as was indicated in the original article) do we assume that the community decided not to proceed, perhaps when they saw the cost?

  9. Avatar gerarda says:

    I did once suggest to BT that sending Openreach vans plastered with Superfast advertising in to areas without any sort usable broadband was a Health & Safety risk. They did not demur

    1. Avatar C. McCormick says:

      I wonder how you feel if you received junk mail advertising fibre broadband from all the major providers through your door to find that actually you can’t have it.

      Not just you but the whole exchange area…. not just the rural communities get left out, the urban one’s too… no BDUK funding and no BT backed roll out.

  10. Avatar Ed says:

    And the folks of Templeton, near Tiverton wonder why Openreach aren’t willing to provide them with more solutions when they burn a eulogy of the van every year, these people in the village are particularly difficult and there tends to be ‘I live in a big house with Lots of money’ culture and yet they’re the tightest so and so’s when it comes to broadband.

    1. Avatar Graham Long says:

      Could try burning an effigy (or even a eulogy!) of Gavin Patterson next year!

    2. Avatar TheFacts says:

      @GL Why do you think OR are responsible for providing broadband to every property?

    3. Avatar Bill says:

      I think @TheFacts gives an excellent reflection of the state of OR thinking.

      This country does not need an OR which acts and talks the way you do.

      We need an OR which accepts nationwide responsibility given its history and unique role. It will not be able to meet all demands all at once, but it certainly should strive to meet the country’s needs on a widespread basis.

      Attitudes such as this deserve the contempt they get; and then people set fire to effigies of OR vans in order to express that contempt.

      Sad, but sometimes it appears OR do ask for it.

      Would someone from OR care to publically state whether they consider themselves responsible for serving the whole country? I think the government should take careful note of the response in their strategy.

    4. Avatar TheFacts says:

      What has any history got to do with broadband which was not invented when the government sold the network 30 years ago?

    5. Avatar Dalton says:

      How much did you have to pay to get your superfast service connected Ed?

      I am pretty sure you have never been to Templeton and also pretty sure you don’t know that these people are particularly difficult or that they all live in big houses and have lots of money and are tight….
      Maybe the water companies should start charging for how close to a reservoir you are to get your water supply or maybe how close to the power station you are for your electric?

      Maybe these same rural dwellers should charge you extra to deliver your milk/meat/vegetables and fruit that you need to live based on the fact you don’t live next to the farm so it costs extra to transport it to you….
      If everyone took that attitude our country would only be in the same state as some third world countries.

      Luckily over the course of time we have developed a culture of providing goods and services no matter where you live and how much you earn, the biggest example is the NHS, which I am assuming you have used in the past.

      We have to have people living in rural areas we can’t all live in towns and cities that is a fact. And what also is a fact is that those people require a working internet connection in order for them to produce the milk/meat/vegetables and fruit that you consume in order to live your life.

      The government demand that they use the internet to do this.

      So it’s perhaps understandable that people are frustrated when other areas are connected that are rural, that are nearby but in a seemingly random way, leaving them with little or no communication as to why or what is happening.

      Of course OR/BT are a private company but they sure could be doing more with respect to communication to areas like this as half the problem is there is no way of getting accurate information about plans and that statement applies equally to Connecting Devon and Somerset and Devon County Council who both hide behind closed doors and waffle.

      The next time you tuck in to your Sunday roast remember where it came from and the struggles people have in delivering it to you because their broadband is slow/doesn’t work.

    6. Avatar GNewton says:

      @TheFacts: Why do you display this selfish attitude?

    7. Avatar MikeW says:

      The problem with your examples for water or the NHS is that no-one has attempted to supply them at cheaper prices, to a special subset of people. City dwellers would buy it cheaper if they could.

      The government, through Ofcom, has forced competition into the market through companies like Sky and TalkTalk. They have given them the ability to cut prices, by forcing BT to sell at a low wholesale price (and making it lower) and not requiring Sky/TalkTalk to cover everyone. That reduces their costs significantly, allowing them to charge less.

      BT have to compete with these people at a competitive price, but then use the same price to supply those that Sky couldn’t be bothered with.

      The problem is that government, and Ofcom, have created a competitive model that leaves people (mostly rural) behind, with no means to compensate, and no plan either.

      BDUK, or CDS in Devon, is a partial sticking plaster. It is only partial, though, and short term.

      Openreach isn’t your enemy here (note only one company willing to provide USO?). Ofcom is. Government is. Trying burning an effigy of Sharon White or Matt Hancock.

    8. Avatar MikeW says:


      OR should do this, why?

      Because in the past they used to act for the full nation?

      The problem is, as said to @dalton, acting for the nation has costs. Costs that Sky etc al choose not to incur. Costs that cannot be recovered if you attempt to compete at sky’s prices.

      Even if BT figured a way to charge those costs, with some magic FTTP formula, Ofcom would quickly work to force them under charge control. As is proposed for FTTC.

      I agree with you that there’s a chunk of the country that needs Openreach to act like the old days, but that history and unique role was thrown in the bin by Ofcom.

      Because of recent history, and its unique regulatory role, you now need Ofcom to create an alternative kind of market for the underserved. But, even when they do, such as with the USO, they are still uninterested in letting Openreach have access to the market. Even when they are the only company to show willingness in consultation.

    9. Avatar Dalton says:

      Completely agree with all those points and they are exactly where the problem lies but you cannot blame the people of this area like @Ed tried to do. They are being put in a situation by all of the above one of which is BT/Openreach who can do better (not necessarily by providing the actual service but by simply being better at communicating about what is happening)

      Maybe next year it will be Sharon White or CDS but I bet it wouldn’t make as much news and publicity for their cause. And I bet if you were being asked by the government to perform tasks online in order to earn a living and you couldn’t you would be equally fustrated , you might try something along the same lines….

  11. Avatar Reflection says:

    2010 to 2015 government policy: broadband investment:


    Fast, reliable broadband internet access is essential for homes throughout the country to benefit from online services, and for UK businesses to compete globally.

    Some areas of the UK have access to faster broadband speeds than others, with many rural areas receiving far lower speeds than cities and urban areas.

    We want to achieve a transformation in our broadband access, with everyone in the UK able to access broadband speeds of at least 2 megabits per second (Mbps) and 95% of the UK receiving far greater speeds (at least 24Mbps) by 2017. We are also exploring options to extend the benefits of fast broadband to remaining areas.”

  12. Avatar Ultraspeedy says:

    “Personally speaking, I’m not sure how I feel about the sight of any broadband / telecom company’s engineering van going up in smoke (even if it’s just an effigy, a sinister undertone might still be perceived). The engineers who drive those vans are just ordinary workers and not responsible for setting company policy, thus they perhaps do not deserve to be turned into an object of hate.”

    I accept this must be an attempt to be diplomatic, if it is not then i suggest you read up on the history of Bonfire Night and some of the things that used to be burned and have been burned at events.

    I think you will find an effigy of some van is far less concerning than what effigy’s have previous been burned, including those of people still living and those of no political or Religious standing.

    Id suggest those still living which have had effigy’s burned of them in some cases feel far more threatened and being made an object of hate than any BT employee should.

  13. Avatar Gadget says:

    This is what is produced when the “Eye of RevK” is turned towards this: http://www.revk.uk/2017/11/burning-openreach-van-effigy-will.html

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