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Streethouse Village Stuck on Flaky Battery Backup for Broadband

Friday, November 10th, 2017 (4:24 pm) - Score 1,023
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Residents in the West Yorkshire UK village of Streethouse have been left to suffer weeks of unstable broadband connectivity after a lorry crashed into the local transformer box, damaging its power supply. This has forced Openreach (BT) engineers to rely on battery backup at their FTTC street cabinet.

The situation sounds similar to one that occurred a few months ago in the market town of Otley, near Leeds (here), which resulted in the same problem. Unfortunately not a lot can be done until the power company resolves the underlying problem (all the usual problems with permissions, planning etc.) and Openreach won’t generally leave expensive generators lying about as they’d easily end up being nicked.

Instead engineers have allegedly been changing the cabinet batteries every 6 hours and naturally you can’t easily do that without causing some periods of service interruption, which is what locals are now complaining about.

Dan Pearson, Local Resident, said (Yorkshire Post):

“It’s incredibly frustrating because Openreach say they are busy and we are not a priority, we’re too low down in the queue.

Openreach are paying their technicians a call-out fee every six hours to change the battery in the cabinet to get the system back up and running.

The battery is supposed to be used to stop the phone’s going off should there be a brief power cut. They wait until the battery goes flat before they call out the engineers so it can be down between half-an-hour and an hour-and-a-half each time.”

Openreach has since apologised to the community and a spokesperson for the operator said that “restoring the mains power connection is absolutely a priority for us and we are working to secure the earliest possible date for it to be re-connected.” There are several cabinets in the village and we’re not sure if the whole area is affected or only part of it. The crash itself happened on 13th October and broadband was initially offline for a week after that.

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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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15 Responses
  1. Steve Jones

    Some might recall I reported exactly the same thing on my local cabinet which was flattened following a road accident (cabinet 3, Charlbury for anybody interested). It was replaced and back up working in just under 3 days despite the accident being at a weekend. However, it ran on batteries for almost 4 weeks and BB was lost twice a day when the batteries were changed. Annoying if you are watching TV online or working from home.

    The problem in getting the power reconnected was that the local power supply company did not consider it a failure in their systems and it went to the back of the queue. At least that’s what the OR engineer who was swapping the batteries told me. As far as the power company was concerned, it was a new order, not repair issue, hence the low priority.

    • Steve Jones

      nb. I should add that OR did not (and I suspect don’t in this case) wait until the battery runs down. It was when they replaced the batteries that the disruption occurred. The system was always down for about the same amount of time (perhaps 15 minutes) every time. It would be nice to have a system that allowed batteries to be swapped without loss of power.

    • Steve Jones

      This is the local forum thread on a similar incident on my cabinet.

      http://forum.charlbury.info/thread/4010#23268

  2. FibreFred

    But Dan Pearson, Local Resident. It isn’t a five 9’s service and the issue lies with the power provider, it’s best efforts. Maybe the power provider should be standing up a generator?

  3. Mike

    Can’t they just plug it in at the nearest house, a few £ to cover the power costs?

    • Steve Jones

      The health and safety people would have a fit. Ad-hoc power arrangements like that are going to be forbidden, not to mention issues over insurance.

  4. Starman

    I can offer some guidance regarding the power companies [DNO] side of things. Most of these cabinets [except the early ones] are supplied via an unmetered supply [these are cheaper for the customer] and so are for all intents and proposes classed as a street light.

    The standard to a repair for a street light fault is 4 weeks. This is an industry wide standard. If BT had opted for a metered supply then from notification of no supply the standard for repair is 12 hours or the local DNO will install a generator at their expense.

    • Steve Jones

      @Starman

      All the original cabinets were metered as the supply companies didn’t trust the power consumption estimates provided by the manufacturers and required practical evidence. The reason why very OR wanted to move away from metering was that it was a very costly and wasteful exercise with several tens of thousands of cabinets, whilst if it was based on cabinet configuration information, it was much simpler for all concerned.

      There was a very interesting series of papers on the subject (mostly because it gave insight into BT’s FTTC rollout at the time) and, eventually, the supply companies agreed to unmetered billing.

      However, I really don’t see why it is beyond the combined powers of the local electricity supply companies and OpenReach to come up with a way of getting these supplies reconnected faster. Surely it could be done via an appropriate charging mechanism as a higher priority issue. I’ve no doubt that OR will be claiming this sort of thing against the offending vehicle in this case (as I suspect they are also claiming the costs of dozens of visits to swap batteries.

      If this can’t be done, it just starts looking like inflexible bureaucracy at work. I don’t buy into the idea that local supply companies can’t provide a high-priority service for a simple reconnect on an unmetered supply, even if it did carry a hefty charge for each instance.

      When my local cabinet was wiped out, and the sage dragged on for weeks, the OR engineer said all the tails were read to go and it was a very simple job for the local supply company to reconnect. It just took almost a month to do. That’s daft and annoying.

    • MikeW

      I found a 2011 document from Lancashire county council, relating to their street lighting.

      From that, it seems that there are a number of service levels relating to faults for “unmetered supplies”:

      Emergency Response: 2 hours
      High priority for traffic lights: 2 days
      High priority for non-traffic lights: 10 working days
      Multiple unit fault: 20 working days
      Single unit fault: 25 working days

      If the fault ends up being treated as a new order, then the following might apply:
      Provision of a quotation: 25 working days
      New works order: 35 working days

      It makes sense that a traffic light gets treated with higher priority than a street light, proving that graded service levels are possible. All that is needed is for BT to agree the right service level with the DNO.

  5. ????

    FAKE News! FAKE News! It was not a lorry at all! Who said that? It was a young lady in a Fire Transit Connect van… Who was traveling home early morning and hit the Fibre DSLAM this is a modular unit where your fibre optic service starts it is not a junction box…. There is no terminology of a junction box in the Telecom’s world….
    All DSLAMS have back up power batteries inside should there be a power cut… But this issue has well overrun past it’s life expectancy as Openreach are waiting for the national grid to re-connect the power…

    • ????

      Please excuse predictive txt (it was a young lad in a Ford transit connect van) not a young lady… Can’t edit my comment

  6. C. McCormick

    So if what’s being said here is that the electrics for the DSLAM where taken out but the DSLAM remains intact I would say they’ve had a lucky escape.

    • James W

      Very UNlucky if it’s an ECI cab though 😀

    • MikeW

      The last bit of the article reports that broadband was out for a week.

      I guess it took that long to get the DSLAM (or its replacement) back in place, wired, and running on battery.

  7. John

    This is pathetic for crying out loud. I don’t care whose to blame just sort it out. We can do better than this. Honestly.

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