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Derbyshire UK Ponders Tackling the Final Broadband Slow Spots

Thursday, September 6th, 2018 (8:52 am) - Score 1,189

Sparse rural communities and new build housing developments are two of the areas that councillors in Derbyshire are now recognising as problems for their on-going Digital Derbyshire (DD) project, which currently aims to ensure that 98% of local premises can access “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) by the end of 2018.

The local scheme is a joint initiative between Openreach (BT), Derbyshire County Council and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme. So far the £34m deployment has already extended the availability of faster “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) networks to reach an additional 98,000 premises and thousands more are due to be completed before the end of this year.

As part of this effort some 535 miles of new fibre optic cable has been laid and 487 new street cabinets have been installed, not to mention the 77 exchange areas that were updated to support the new services. Broadly speaking the progress has been good and official figures suggest that they’re close to hitting 96% coverage with superfast connectivity, which hopefully still leaves enough time to hit the 98% target.

Despite this we’ve heard hardly a peep out of the local council(s) for the past two years, which have yet to set out a plan for tackling the final 2% of premises. In theory the area should be able to benefit from several million pounds in public reinvestment, thanks to efficiency savings and clawback clauses in the original contracts.

The good news is that this situation may be about to change, not least since yesterday’s meeting of the South Derbyshire District Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee (here), which highlighted the growing problem of new build developments (DD has been using housing records that are 4 years out of date, but many new homes have since been added).

The meeting also noted that around 10 villages and lots of hamlets would be left poorly served by the current scheme.

Rob Rowan, DD Programme Manager, said (Derby Telegraph):

“We get numerous complaints from residents who have moved into a new property, only to find there is no internet connection and all we can say to them is that – by our records – your site is just a field, we don’t have a record of houses there.

There are numerous sites across South Derbyshire which to our records are still just fields.

We would have to do a new review to factor in these houses, but by then the new review would still miss other new houses which would be built.

But all this comes down to whether there is more money in the programme or if more funding can be secured.”

As reported last month (here), most new build home developments that take place today are being equipped with superfast or ultrafast broadband and new proposals from the government could eventually close the remaining gaps. But this is unlikely to do much for the builds that are already underway, many of which went through planning some years ago and have thus skipped more recent policy and planning changes.

At present the council has yet to set out a clear plan for tackling this problem but the important thing is that they have at least woken up to it. In the meantime there’s a suggestion that those affected could consider mixing Openreach’s co-funded Community Fibre Partnerships with grants from the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme, although the latter is due to end in December.

Equally it’s likely that many of those left poorly served could benefit from the forthcoming Universal Service Obligation (USO), which from 2020 will enable those in slow speed areas to request a broadband speed of at least 10Mbps from supporting ISPs in their area. At the time of writing we’re still waiting for Ofcom to flesh out the details of exactly how the industry will fund this and which ISPs will be assigned responsibility (here).

The issues being raised in Derbyshire are of course by no means unique to that county and it’s a problem that occurs across the United Kingdom.

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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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27 Responses
  1. chris conder says:

    It is indeed a problem throughout the country. Because the councils have wasted their funding on obsolete cabinets many properties are too far away to benefit. I think if there was an automated and effective speed test on all lines then the 98% figure would be blown away. Only those close to cabinets get ‘superfast’ but the others count in the statistics.

    1. Meadmodj says:

      Ahh, the realm of targets, achievements and bonuses. Such data would embarrass many. But surely it is technically there in the DSLAM or DLM settings post live and the client (Council) or Ofcom could insist on them if they wished to.

    2. New_Londoner says:

      Any evidence to support your assertions or are you taking the Trumpian approach of spouting nonsense and simply not bothering to back it up?

  2. Meadmodj says:

    No reconciliation of numbers of premises? A simple report from the Council Tax system during the project would maintain accuracy of premises even if they were still excluded from that phase. Surely people (including Openreach) would have been flagging this from the beginning. So I can only assume someone made a conscious decision to continue to exclude them as out of scope. Retrospectively putting new builds/conversions back into a network design can not be efficient.

    1. 5G Infinity says:

      New builds excluded as the numbers would make the situation (ie final X%) worse and also as new builds continue year in, year out then the council would never achieve its target.

    2. Meadmodj says:

      I appreciate why they were excluded. I was more referring to their statement “we don’t have a record of houses there”. If they had at least checked they could have been considered them especially if small infills and spare capacity designed in where possible. They also would know task ahead and ensure any new builds included broadband criteria. It has to be cheaper to complete on a given distribution cable before proceeding with others.

    3. A_Builder says:

      @chris conder

      When the FTTC cabinets were designed and deployed there was deliberately no loop back facility provided to speed test loops/drops, in bulk, automatically. This is done differently now by collecting the line stats and not data/packet flow.

      This was then done on the dubious ground of ‘privacy’.

      Bear in mind this was the period when OR were refusing to create a table of likely line speeds for DSL services as it was ‘too complicated’.

      I think we can all join the dots and be pretty clear that OR didn’t then want there to be a data set that showed the extent to which performance existed under the level of a, then theoretical, USO. As the reasoning went this would provide impetus to force upgrading of the network to meet the USO.

  3. 5G Infinity says:

    Those new builds that are underway should be excluded from the ‘older properties in the final 2 or 5%’ as they could still be covered by fibre or equivalent as they will have ducts in the road for services and services will have been taken into each new property – worst case there is a spare 55 or 63mm duct for BT to come along add provide a phone line – that could be fibred now and each house get 1Gbps.

    Concur the above discussion needs to catch up with current ECC, and other legislation/guidance to councils to ensure that when signing off plans ‘broadband has been addressed – minimum beign a duct to every house, better that developer is engaged with one or more fibre providers. No new build should get copper from this day onwards.

    Also if you look at new code of practice from the 4 MNOs (via mobileuk.org) it details how mobile operators should also be in at the planning stage so provision is allowed for new monpoles, smart street lights with small cells in them, etc.

  4. Techman says:

    How is this news? They have set out no plan to tackle them. Its ok recongnising new builds but how about people who have been waiting 7 years for a decent connection that were already part of BDUK intervention in big towns but got no improvement in speed? Is it just a case of tough luck? Think yourself lucky you can get 10/1 FTTC as huge improvement on the 11/1 ADSL we used to get and you are now firmly at the back of the queue or pay for it ourselfs. Meanwhile 10 farmhouses a mile away who were all all getting faster FTTC speeds than us already, all get upgraded to full gigabit FTTP.

    Praying that VM roll out to us because have given up hope with BDUK and openreach.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      The article clearly mentions disadvantaged rural areas, alongside the new homes issue. The fact they haven’t yet set out a plan and have been slow to recognise the core issue is very much news in and of itself, you don’t only cover something when action finally takes place, that would be an odd world (politicians would love it though).

    2. Techman says:

      Thats a fair point Mark, its just frustrating with the lack of actual news or transparency that come from BDUK derbyshire themselves. They appear from the outside to have given up. When you speak to them the only thing they say is they dont have enough funding no mention at all of the large clawback amounts they surely should be due. They even quote the same above.

    3. Brian says:

      Having a small farm in SW Scotland in site of the exchange in the valley, 11/1 ADSL would be a luxury compared with 3/0.3 ADSLmax, with still probably yet another years wait to find if we’re even included in the R100 project.

    4. Techman says:

      Isnt everyone included in the r100 project Brian? Isnt that the point of it?

    5. Joe says:

      “Isnt everyone included in the r100 project Brian? Isnt that the point of it?”

      Or the problem with it depending on how you look at it!

    6. Brian says:

      The R100 project is an aim, its not a definite, should no-one bid to connect the whole of a bid region, then not everyone will be connected.

    7. Brian says:

      From the procurement document.
      “This contract is a gap funded intervention to deliver access to NGA Broadband Infrastructure (capable of delivering speeds of at least 30 Mbps) to as many premises in the relevant geographical area of Scotland (the ‘South Area’) as possible by the end of 2021. The South Area is broadly the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway (more particularly described and shown coloured purple on the plan forming Annex 1 of the Initial Descriptive Document) and comprises approximately 26,090 White Premises.”

    8. Mark Jackson says:

      It’s the same with most state aid supported contracts, you can’t really tell exactly what they’ll deliver until a supplier has been chosen and clarifies what it can do. Some contracts also end up being split, like in Wales, so you might not see all the money being allocated in the first round.

  5. un4h731x0rp3r0m says:

    Is take up very low, figures a bit skewed or something else wrong here….
    “reach an additional 98,000 premises”
    “As part of this effort some 535 miles of new fibre optic cable has been laid”
    “487 new street cabinets have been installed”

    Unless my calculator is wrong then based on that 98,000 premises each cabinet (487 in total and the AVERAGE) is serving only just over 200 properties.

    535 miles of fibre cable and 487 cabs seems even more crazy.

    Being VERY VERY generous and removing the factor of the obvious fibre cable length needed back to the the exchange (i hope that is not included in the figure otherwise the cabinets are even closer together then the following) then that is a claim of a new fibre cabinet every 1.09 Miles on average. Errrrr OK :-/

    1. gerarda says:

      There arent many cabinets that are configured for more that 256 lines, and a lot are 128 or even 64.

      You will struggle to get superfast speeds if you are 1.09 miles from a cabinet. They really need to be no more than a kilometre apart.

      So the averages do look ok.

    2. un4h731x0rp3r0m says:

      “So the averages do look ok.”

      They would maybe if it was not apparently for “Sparse rural communities and new housing” Not so sparse if there are now an ADDITIONAL 98,000 premises and 487 new cabinets eh?

      The figures mentioned sound more like ENTIRE (or as near as) coverage of a very large town or even a small county rather than just rural and new housing figures.

      The final 2% which is still unconnected is what i would personally call or deem more likely to be “Sparse Rural”.

      Figures for what has been done already for Inner town and not rural or new housing which seems to be what the first half of the story is actually quoting is un-needed quotation which has nothing to do with what the news item or the problems occuring with the project.

      Another example of BT and Government nonsensical quoting of figures which have nothing to do with the problem queried.

  6. Paul says:

    Why should a public subsidy be required to provide fibre broadband on a new build estate. Network operators will built it for little or no additional cost. Just needs the developer to talk to the network operators early enough in the design and build programme and then provide ducting at the same time as gas, water and electricity.

    There should be no market failure that requires public funding. Sheer ignorance or stubborn bloody mindedness is the only other explanation. Residents move in expecting the service, so why do developers regularly fail to supply it.

    Whilst there are hamlets and highly dispersed communities needing a service that will not be provided unless there is a public subsidy, why should we address the lack of provision on new build estates? Surely the developer should be the first port of call.

    1. Meadmodj says:

      Not all developers do. The government could make it a mandatory service. The building industry have the agreements with Openreach and the other providers are only to keen to be considered for new builds. It appears here that Derbyshire allowed developments to continue without ensuring their provision was considered.

    2. gerarda says:

      Anyone who spends thousands of pounds in fees, stamp duty etc in moving house and doesnt bother to check whether they can get internet or mobile has no sympathy from me.

      Any public money should be spent on those properties that pre-date the start of BDUK.

    3. Paul says:

      Gerada, I think any new build completions by 2012 will have been considered by the BDUK process on a “value for money basis”. Completions since then ought to be addressed by the developer or consider a Community Fibre Partnership approach, with the developer making a significant contribution.

      Meadmodj, we have been advising the planning fraternity to ensure that superfast broadband services are considered prior to granting planning permission for at least the last 4 years. I believe this has fallen on deaf ears and will take a legislative change before we can rely on compliance.

      Unfortunately I believe people buy houses with their hearts rather than their heads, otherwise you would not buy a home without all the services available. Developers would then take notice.

    4. Fastman says:

      paul early new build post 2012 might have been considered in Later pahses on contract one or now in contract 2 (SEP) most newbuild form registration with openreach about 2015 wont be in any bduk or an any plan as wont have any postcode at the time the OMR was completed and therefore did not exist when scope of contract was being drawn up , that affects all counties right across the country

      Derbyshire seems to have had a lot of new build since 2014/5 (date registewred with openeach which is proably now live or being moved into which were built as copper sites

    5. Paul says:

      Hi Fastman. I am sure that this is the case and I have heard from many in this position. Given the focus on providing access to superfast broadband since 2013 I still think the market place should be responsible for delivering this provision and this includes contributions from the developer, given they were largely responsible for creating this situation.

      Residents out in the highly rural areas with little or no broadband provision should be prioritised at this time.

  7. Andrew Ferguson says:

    If I get time I can throw some numbers out there in a news item

    What BDUK project has delivered so far
    Rural/Urban splits

    Initial sums indicate around 5,000 more premises to reach 96%, so while people can argue about semantics the general direction looks on track with what was said.

    That is if people will pay attention.

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