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Devon and Somerset UK MPs Call for Action After Broadband Delay

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018 (11:42 am) - Score 1,623

The fallout from Gigaclear’s admission that their state aid fuelled roll-out of 1Gbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP services under the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) project was “significantly behind schedule” has continued this week, with several local MPs calling on the councils to take stronger action.

We don’t fancy re-hashing the original article so soon after it was posted (here) and so this will be a shortened summary. Suffice to say that CDS’s official response was to tell the ISP that they had to provide a “full remedial plan to improve its performance in each of the five CDS contract areas.” The CDS team promised to review that plan and would then decide whether or not the “extent of the delays expected are acceptable.”

Given the importance of the outcome for our communities, all options will be carefully considered and any final decision will be taken in discussion with our funding partners,” said the CDS statement. Meanwhile Gigaclear pledged that their new plan would “re-energise this rollout programme.”

However a number of local MPs have now written an open letter to Devon Council’s Keri Denton (Head of Economy, Enterprise and Skills), which calls on her to take tougher action. In particular the letter, which is penned by Neil Parish MP (Member for Tiverton & Honiton), demands that CDS, “fund an interim solution, redeploy Gainshare funds and immediately extend the Voucher Scheme for our constituents. We cannot and will not continue to make excuses for the dire performance of CDS and its contractors.”

neil parish mp gigaclear letter

In reality the CDS project is somewhat stuck between a rock and a hard place, which means they can’t easily punish Gigaclear without potentially harming their own plans and possibly causing even more significant long term delays (e.g. having to re-start the procurement process all over again).

Lest we forget that Gigaclear only scooped the contract(s) after CDS rejected BT’s (Openreach) original proposal all the way back in 2015 (here), which leaves them with precious few alternative options and nobody wants to see another delay like that. This is why CDS will almost certainly agree to Gigaclear’s revised plan when it surfaces.

Meanwhile local residents will want some certainty that the ISP can actually deliver on whatever is promised, although complex FTTP centric civil engineering deployment targets will always be tentative ones and thus subject to change. This will be true of the revised roll-out plan too, although no doubt the ISP will be much more careful about any dates they set.

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Mark Jackson
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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15 Responses
  1. Avatar Meadmodj says:

    I suggest they are better to stick with a revised Gigaclear plan than seek alternatives at this late stage, however frustrated they may be. At least Gigaclear are prepared to join OR in rural based deployments.

  2. Avatar Guy Cashmore says:

    The ‘dearth of transparency’ from CDS also applies to the Phase 2 area being delivered by Airband (Lot 4), with only 14 months until the delivery contract end date, residents still have no way of finding out if or when they will get a connection.

  3. Avatar A_Builder says:

    As with a lot of things if you keep people informed they will put up with an awful lot particularly if there is a decent drumbeat of progress. Better comms needed……people understand real world difficulties and will then apply pressure to make them go away through back channels.

    Say ‘Mike’ is the grouchily old farmer who is withholding his waylay. ‘Cherryl’ desperately needs high speed fibre for her new business. XYZ Co are struggling. But it is a public the fact that ‘Mike’ is the hold up. ‘Mike’ is known to ‘Cherryl’ and they often have tea together. ‘Cherryl’ has the ‘in’ with ‘Mike’ and asks if he can help: delighted to. Problem solved. That is how back channels to community engagement works. Someone somewhere will have the relevant ear.

    Unfortunately the OR, keep-it-secret-lest-we-be-criticised-for-falling-behind mentality seems to have been infectious. Which is not surprising given the death grip they had on the process to start with.

    Personally I would rather see Giga getting a bite of the cherry rather than OR walking off with the whole cherry tree. Competition and alternative working methods are very healthy. And reduce the fictional £25Bn bill……

    1. Avatar Joe says:

      The ‘Community Build’ schemes worked because of the exact logic you suggest. Locals talking to locals got wayleaves for free etc…

  4. Avatar New_Londoner says:

    I wonder what the point of the letter from MPs to the CDS project lead was when the project team is clearly a major part of the problem. Why don’t the MPs challenge the local authorities to undertake a review of the effectiveness of the team with a view to a radical overhaul?

    As stated in other posts, both Gigaclear and Airband are well behind schedule. And the CDS team bungled two separate procurement exercises. Normally heads would roll at this point, starting with the project management team.

    1. Avatar Joe says:

      “I wonder what the point of the letter from MPs to the CDS project lead was when the project team is clearly a major part of the problem”

      Publishing letters generally has two purposes Either/both of:

      To put pressure onto the person you write to

      To be seen to do ‘something’ by your voters.

      I can’t take the letter very seriously. Politicians (at all levels) have caused many of the problems delaying roll-out and solved few if any of the obstacles.

      This letter offers nothing helpful to the situation

  5. Avatar StillWaitingForSuperFast says:

    The CDS website is a joke. For a body responsible for such large projects (and their budgets!) I find it incredible how little news there is on the CDS website. How about a rolling list of communities in Devon and Somerset that they have actually managed to connect? (or are they still waiting for the first?).

    1. Avatar Guy Cashmore says:

      No published minutes, no published accounts, no coverage details or dates for my area, everything done in secret. How a publicly funded program can behave like this is beyond me.

    2. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      IIRC the local authorities have contractual responsibility for communications relating to the programme, so the project team is responsible for disseminating information such as coverage etc. It’s one of their few deliverables, given all the infrastructure is done by partners.

      Other counties seem to manage, no idea why CDS is incapable.

    3. Avatar cft says:

      Pay peanuts you get…
      I spoke to a city in the SW about FTTP and was told to speak to XXXX, who was recently appointed to the role. No problem with that…but the dearth of knowledge was remarkable, especially when told that he/she is responsible for their LFFN bid; absolute joke

    4. Avatar Guy Cashmore says:

      Because the people running the CDS project are utterly incompetent!

      On the rare occasions CDS do publish information it is usually wrong. The classic example was when CDS published their Phase 1 coverage maps 4 years ago, nobody at CDS understood the line length limits of VDSL, premises that were 5 miles or more from the cabinet were shown as covered!

    5. Avatar Guy Cashmore says:


      Keri Denton is paid £87,567

    6. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      Clearly peanuts are expensive in Devon!

  6. Avatar John Doe says:

    The cause of delays is the Tier one contractor Carillion Telent (now Telent). They lied to GC that they can build all the lots, meanwhile they are very incompetent contractor. They don’t have enough resources which are subcontractors and they abusing these subcontractors by not paying them!

  7. Avatar cft says:

    @Guy Cashmore

    WOW…cannot get my head around that #

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