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New Build Homes Site in Whitchurch Shuns Free FTTP Broadband

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 4,743
Rectory_Homes_Whitchurch_broadband_site

Alternative network ISP Ecom, which is deploying a new 1Gbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network in rural Buckinghamshire (England), has hit a snag after the developer of a new build homes site in Whitchurch appeared to shun their offer of a free “full fibre” build. Instead future owners may suffer slow ADSL.

The large village of Whitchurch is home to around 1,000 people and sits in the rural Aylesbury Vale district of Buckinghamshire. Until recently the best internet connectivity that you could get there was a slow copper line ADSL service via Openreach’s (BT) national network, although Gigaclear’s rival FTTP network can be found just a short way up the road in Oving.

More recently Ecom’s new full fibre network, which charges from £36 inc. VAT per month for an unlimited 300Mbps (50Mbps upload) service (installation is usually free via a gigabit voucher from the government), has made its way across the village (the build was completed last year).

Since then a property developer called Rectory Homes has begun work on a development of 10 new houses (3-5 bedrooms) in the village and they have also applied for a further 7 homes on the land next to that development. At this point you would think that they’d jump at the chance to get FTTP installed at virtually no cost to themselves, but it seems that sometimes you can’t even give it away.

Chris Wilkie, MD of Ecom, told ISPreview.co.uk:

“My offer is to provide the infrastructure for the development free of charge – i.e. we will run ducts to each plot during the groundworks phase, and return during first and second fix to do the internal wiring such that connecting to fibre would be a simple case of plugging a router in as/when the property becomes occupied.

The single proviso was that they would allow us in at the various stages i.e. groundworks, first fix, second fix, so that the task of getting this all in place is simple, as opposed to us having to come back once everything is complete.”

Ecom’s boss claims to have made “half a dozen” attempts to contact the management of Rectory Homes, both via phone and email, albeit without any luck. The closest he claims to have got is via a junior level contact, who merely confirmed that the company were aware of his attempts but couldn’t say why they had chosen not to respond.

ecom_fibre_optic_trench_with_cableSince last week ISPreview.co.uk has similarly tried a couple of times to reach the developer for comment, albeit so far without any success. Some of the new build homes are perhaps likely to fetch upwards of several hundred thousand pounds and would naturally benefit from having access to full fibre, as opposed to being left stuck on ADSL.

The lack of FTTP could also create confusion if property hunters see that the village can get a full fibre network and then make the wrongful assumption that the same would also be true for the Rectory Homes site. This is one of the reasons why we always recommend that those opting for a new build get a written commitment from the developer to confirm the broadband capability of a property BEFORE parting with any money.

The government and local authorities have long been encouraging new build developers to ensure that they provide support for at least “superfast broadband,” although their attempts to mandate such a requirement are still on-going (here and here). Doing this for smaller developments would however be much more challenging, albeit more so in areas with no alternative Gigabit broadband options nearby.

In the meantime it’s been noted in local media reports that Aylesbury Vale District Councillor, Janet Blake, also held a “small” investment in Rectory Homes (here). Blake is one of the councillors who took some of the heat over the troubled Aylesbury Vale Broadband project and, for a time, they were even in competition with Ecom.

UPDATE:

We should point out that fixed wireless ISP Rapid Rural, which offers superfast broadband speeds for £42 inc. VAT per month, does appear to cover the village. Sadly installation costs for this “start from” £318 – dependent on your requirements – and that’s a lot of money for a wireless solution.

Leave a Comment
25 Responses
  1. Avatar As bc says:

    Ha ha – awesome – Cooke report-esk.

    You’ve blown the case wide open!

  2. Avatar Matthew says:

    Wow that just sounds like pure idiocy by the developer it’s going cost them nothing at all you can advertise the homes as having full fibre as standard why would you not take that up.

  3. Avatar Mike says:

    I guess Blake still holds a grudge, shame for the future buyers.

  4. Avatar chris conder says:

    total madness. what shortsighted idiots they are.

  5. Avatar A_Builder says:

    Very strange.

    You’d jump at the chance to get FTTP to the site office rather than ADSL.

  6. Avatar Martin Pitt - Aquiss says:

    I can only presume somewhere behind the scenes, the house builder wants it’s customers to have a choice of ISPs rather than via Ecom.

    The alternative is how Persimmon Homes are doing it, forcing every new property on developments to only be able to use their own ISP FibreNest.

    1. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      The Persimmon approach may come to be regarded in a similar light to lease charges, with the developer using the ISP as a cash cow and ramping up the charges over time to exploit its monopoly. Developers are not obvious candidates to run networks, they usually build and sell the homes and then leave the site; this seems like Persimmon attempting to develop a longer-term revenue generator from each site, rather like they and others have tried with utilities over the years.

      It would be good if Ofcom took a look at this – new developments ought to be required to install open networks (their own or, better still, a third party one) to ensure that home owners have a choice of ISP.

  7. Avatar New_Londoner says:

    Has anyone checked whether the developer has already made arrangements with a different network provider? What’s the current Openreach new sites premise threshold for free provision – is it still around 30 or has it dropped?

    If the development really is going ahead with ADSL it is a very short-sighted approach, although a number of much larger house builders have also been very reluctant to make any real effort to install FTTP so this is by no means an isolated example sadly. Some builders seem to take the cynical view that the demand for houses means they will sell anyway, sometime to people that didn’t bother checking about broadband before purchase or relied on verbal comments rather than getting a commitment in writing.

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      This is precisely why I gave them several days to respond because we wanted to get their side of the story (and to confirm if they had other plans). Sadly no reply came. Hopefully this article will nudge them into life.

    2. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      @Mark
      was really asking whether anyone else had managed to pry out any useful information given that your efforts to date have been rebuffed. Will strive to be clearer next time. 🙂

  8. Avatar Web Dude says:

    It beggars belief that a property development firm would ignore such an offer.

    If the councillor has anything to do with it, because of some past conflict, she deserves to be booted from the board, as this could be a massively detrimental decision.

    If I were especially evil, I’d hope they are boycotted by buyers. I suspect that anyone who does check when they visit the site / show home / estate agent marketing the properties, get a “negative” about high speed internet and cite that as a reason not to be interested.

    Unfortunately it may be overlooked by some, especially retired buyers moving out of London (say) who may know no better), for whom it will not be “significant”. It will become important when the home is resold in 5, 10, 15 years time and is unattractive (especially at a premium price) when the future buyer finds out what speed is actually available.

    High speed internet should be in the mind of all builders, the more so following the suggestions from the Labour Party in the run up to the election, and perhaps this home building firm will see some of the comments online and see the error of their ways.

    I sincerely hope so, or they could be unable to sell homes and have a significant loss on the spend they are committing to (not just the land, no doubt considered an “investment”, but staff costs too when they start on the first and subsequent properties).

    Marketing person should go absolutely nuts regarding this dumb decision.

  9. Avatar TehWardy says:

    It should be illegal to sell a new build house today without fiber and solar panels imo.

    This is just dumb.

    1. Avatar JamesP says:

      I agree. They should make it law that any new build development has to have full fibre broadbrand connectivity, be ‘eco friendly’, and have solar panels fitted.

    2. Avatar A_Builder says:

      The FFTP comment I agree with.

      Solar PV I’m less sure of. Adds a fair bit of cost and complexity to the build.

      Solar thermal for DHW absolutely makes sense and should be mandatory.

    3. Avatar MartinConf says:

      Illegal you are joking, right? So its OK to sell houses without mains drainage and gas but not fibre or solar panels. what has the world come too…..

    4. Avatar joe says:

      Costs a lot less to build Solar than reterofit. But one of PV or air/ground source are all options ppl could be mandated to select from among them.

    5. Avatar Gary says:

      @MartinConf, No mains drainage doesn’t matter whatsoever, unless you’re talking about some entirely different situation than I’m thinking of.

      None and I do mean none of the properties near me are on mains drainage, sewerage or even mains water. To make that a legal requirement would basically make any development out here financially insane. That said to make FTTP a legal requirement here would be costly, but no where near the costs of sewerage and water.

      Large and small scale builders alike should be legally bound in the planning consent stage to install the ducting required, after that, the physical provision of service to my mind is a totally different issue, but whomever provides it shouldnt have to be trenching a new build estate.

      Sadly there are too many people needing housing and too many uninformed buyers to eradicate this without legislation to force the builders hand.

  10. Avatar Meadmodj says:

    I think there is a lot of history here. The original planning applications were submitted in 2015 and the original development of 59 was rejected even after appeal. So they are reduced down and like most developers they create a limited company for each specific development and doing it piecemeal to alleviate planning issues. As it dates back to replanning in 2016 it could be a commitment with OR has already been agreed. There was also probably an expectation that at least Superfast would be available during that period. But it is odd that if they have not laid down the groundworks until now that broadband service has not been reconsidered. Perhaps the individuals involved know something we don’t.

  11. Avatar TheFacts says:

    Looks like EO lines in that area.

  12. Avatar Roger_Gooner says:

    If the civils aren’t done during development of the site then most likely it will never get done. It costs vastly more to dig up roads and pavements in the future for ducting and cabinets. I’m not always in favour of the authoritarian approach but I’m sympathetic to a change to regulations which would compel builders to get gigabit installed.

  13. Avatar J Buckland says:

    As somebody who lives in Whitchurch I don’t blame the developer, there are a lot of people in the village who don’t want to use eCom and would rather stay with BT on slower speeds. I suspect word of eCom’s reputation in the village has reached the ears of the developer and they are paying heed.

    1. Avatar The Facts says:

      Maybe you could go and ask what’s happening.

    2. Avatar James B says:

      I also live in Whitchurch and have heard the small village gossip that goes around. If you scratch a little below the surface I suspect you will find, as I did, that the majority of it comes from a small group of people who have a vested interest in a competitive technology. I am an ECOM customer and applaud what Chris and his team have done for this village succeeding where neither BT nor AVDC with their failed project could. Anyone who listens to this idle nonsense, or worse still passes it on, deserves to be blighted with terrible broadband.

      PS I’ve lived here nearly 15 years, know a lot of people round here, but have never heard of a ‘J Buckland’. Could it be that this is yet another pathetic attempt by that same small group to cast doubt into peoples minds?

  14. Avatar TomW says:

    I use the Ecom service, I still cannot understand why, if given the opportunity to have FTTP installed at no cost and a very reasonable monthly cost you wouldn’t do it. Why use an out dated non scaleable system. Chris has been outstanding at pushing this service through considering he is a small business and not Openreach! Very blind of Rectory not to install now while the ground is being dug….

  15. Avatar Web Dude says:

    If there was some previous “agreement” with OR that means alternatives cannot be considered then let this be a lesson that any builder should include a “get out clause” such that if there is faster, cheaper, or better technology available when the project is getting to start of building, they have options of switching away from a big telco firm such as OR, to some other.

    Seems something important now, if the original is not as competitive once the development comes close to build stage, following planning and other delays.

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