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Rural UK ISP Gigaclear Fined £10,339 for Roadworks in Somerset

Friday, May 17th, 2019 (7:55 am) - Score 3,410

Rural broadband ISP Gigaclear has been fined £10,339.17 in Somerset UK after it admitted that some of its work, which involved deploying a new 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network around the small market town of Wellington, had failed to comply with the 1991 New Road and Street Works Act.

The 1991 act was created to help protect the structure of the street and the apparatus in it, as well as to ensure safety (workers and residents) and to minimise the inconvenience for people using a street (particularly those with a disability).

According to a brief report in the Somerset Gazette, the ISP was fined £6,667 with £2,102.17 costs (plus a £170 victim surcharge) for unspecified issues with work that took place in the town on 3rd October 2018. On top of that they were also fined £1,400 for carrying out street works along Sampford Road, albeit without giving the appropriate advance warning.

Sadly the report contains very little detail and we have separately asked Gigaclear for a comment. We should point out that they’re by no means the first broadband network builder to be fined under the 1991 act. Both Cityfibre (here) and Virgin Media (here) have in the recent past faced much bigger penalties for conducting similar work.

A Spokesperson from Gigaclear told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We take our responsibilities of maintaining the highest levels of safety on our build sites very seriously and accept that on this occasion we fell short of the high standards we set ourselves and the contractors who work on our behalf.

When we were made aware of the incident on 29 April 2019, we were already in the process of reviewing our relationship with this particular contractor and we haven’t worked with this particular supplier since November 2018.

Following this incident, we have reviewed and, where necessary, improved our system of supervision and audit of our contractors and will continue to hold them to the highest standards of compliance.”

Update on Gigaclear’s Rollout Progress in Somerset

Separately the Somerset County Council this week held a full meeting that included an update on the still-stuck-in-limbo rollout plan for Gigaclear’s FTTP broadband contract in the region, which forms part of the wider state aid supported Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) project.

Sadly little has changed since our last update in March 2019 (here) and the provider’s Phase 2 contract “remains in an uncertain position.” Apparently Gigaclear are “continuing to work on providing a robust and credible proposal” to take these contracts forward, but this is said to be a “time-consuming exercise and exact details have not yet been finalised.” Meanwhile the operator is continuing the rollout at their own risk.

Update from the Council Meeting

Gigaclear is continuing to develop acceptable plans for each contract area backed by fully costed analysis of the network delivery options. CDS and BDUK require key reassurances particularly regarding capacity and acceleration of deployment. In response, Gigaclear is investigating further options to improve its operations in Devon and Somerset in light of the significant delays the company has incurred.

One of the consequences of the delays is that exact details about which communities will be in the next phase of the roll-out have yet to be confirmed. Gigaclear states it will provide updated information for the public and stakeholders about its roll-out timetable on its website.

In the meantime, Gigaclear is continuing to build full fibre networks to 31 community areas in Devon, Somerset and BaNES/ North Somerset for CDS providing ultrafast broadband speeds to 6,000 homes and businesses. In addition, the company is also continuing its commercial build which will serve a further 6,000 premises.

As part of that meeting, and somewhat in keeping with today’s fine for failing to give appropriate advance warning of their street works, the council’s report also noted how members were “still concerned” that communications is a problem. “People need to be kept updated and whilst there has been some improvement with communicating with parishes, this is often sporadic. More details about roadworks and roll-out is needed. It was agreed to feed these comments back to Gigaclear,” said the report.

UPDATE 9:50am

Added a comment from Gigaclear above.

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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.
Leave a Comment
14 Responses
  1. Guy Cashmore says:

    The competency of Connecting Devon and Somerset, in particular that of project director Keri Denton (paid £100,825 this year, up from £87,867 last year) must surely now be called into question by DCMS and others.

    In my area Phase 1 missed its 90% target by around 10%, Phase 2 in my area (Airband) is supposed to be almost complete, but many premises that were originally told they would be covered are now being told they are not. The Dartmoor and Exmoor project which was completed about 2 years ago has take-up stuck at under 11%, nobody from CDS seems to understand why.

    The total CDS budget is over £100m, you really couldn’t make it up, but it is happening right here right now.

  2. Somerset says:

    Gigaclear have covered themselves on roadworks with:

    1 Mar – 31 Dec

    1. AnotherTim says:

      200M of ducting in 10 months? I think Gigaclear are being optimistic.

    2. Joe says:

      Well one way to get around notifications is give them a wide window!

    3. CarlT says:

      This may explain why projects are running behind schedule. 🙂

  3. Laurence "GreenReaper" Parry says:

    I always wonder about that surcharge. You’d think in this case it’d go to whoever fell in the hole they dug, but I bet it won’t.

    [In fact, they got off livbt, since it’s capped at £170 – if it were the full £666 (10%), it might actually pay for a pair of crutches!]

  4. Graham Long says:

    And BT fined £17,000 for roadworks breaches by the same court in Taunton plus another £36,000 for similar offences last month: https://www.somersetcountygazette.co.uk/news/17644827.bt-fined-for-street-works-breaches-in-upton/
    Message is don’t mess with the roads in Somerset!

    1. CarlT says:

      Telecoms providers should just take the hint and leave Somerset to it. Bare minimum of repairs where absolutely necessary.

    2. Mark says:

      Or they could you know, aside by the law and regulations and do their jobs be properly.. but hey ho I guess they are incapable of doing that judging by your link and this story.

    3. CarlT says:

      Mistakes happen. Councils can either try and be cooperative or be total jobsworths. Somerset are clearly hostile to street works so best not to bother – that way zero chance of mistakes.

    4. Joe says:

      Some councils work sensible with providers accepting things will happen and its in ever ones interest that progress continues and things are also fixed. Others seem to regard anyone digging up their roads as somewhere between a nuisance and a cash cow to be milked. That obviously has an impact on providers wanting to build there.

    5. Lee says:

      Yep some areas for long time that was on the road map to get FTTC got delayed to max time due to some locals with council power to block the green cabs because they did not like them (so bt just ignored them until they did other areas)

      and about area availability times of FTTC because a small amount of inpatient pepole did not like that the install times was been moved forward openreach gave up(as they was going to be fines for moving targets) so instead of giving approx install times and set all fttc live dates to maximum time of 5 years (even if it was going live say next month and they stopped posting any information about what was going on, you basically had to look at your local DP and see if lots of open reach vans was around working on them) all due to a small number of people who don’t understand that ducts have to be fixed

      It was that bad at one business (adsl 0.7mb) even the bt business did not tell me that an actual FTTC cab was going to be installed 50meters from business and nearly ended up getting a lease line installed (they have about near max 80/20 connection on FTTC)

    6. Mark says:

      I agree, if Open Reach are incapable of following laws and regulations they can go dig up somewhere else and ruin it.

  5. Harry says:

    “Mistakes happen”?
    Yep, in our one small village Gigaclear have cut through three live electricity cables (covered one over with earth and left) , cut phone and broadband to over a dozen households (then denied they were responsible), damaged water stopcocks, worked illegally without permits, blocked residents driveways, left a resident with no access to their own driveway (Gigaclear were going to leave it like this over the whole weekend until they were contacted and told to resolve it), worked in the dark on roads with no adequate lighting, left debris piled up on a blind bend causing numerous near head on vehicle accidents, stopped refuse collections for over two weeks, ignored H&S basic regulations after cutting into live electricity mains cables, repeatedly failed to give ANY warnings of roadworks/road closures/ diversions, and so on and so no. They repeatedly ‘apologised’ by blaming their contractor, who in turn told residents that Gigaclear were not communicating with them. Their sales team signed residents up nearly 3 years ago with promises of a live service nearly 2.5 years ago. They were recently quoting another seven months till completion, then informed residents they couldn’t get a new contractor onboard, so we’re expecting it will be sometime in 2020, having held their sales meeting in 2016. In the meantime our village still has plastic POTs very close to roads and driveways, with some being smashed within 48 hours of installation, verges damaged and left without grass, and once again updates (in the first two years and numerous failed start dates many residents were contacted once by Gigaclear – to advise them of a price rise) have stopped. Well at least they’ve been presented with trade awards for best rural supplier and the past CEO got an OBE!

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