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Openreach Finish Cumbria UK Fibre Broadband Rollout Contract

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020 (4:51 pm) - Score 5,400
night time engineering openreach 2017

Openreach (BT) has today announced the completion of their second and final contract phase under the state aid supported Connecting Cumbria (CC) project, which has now made “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) ISP services available to nearly 95% of premises in the county (i.e. 127,000 extra homes and businesses).

Admittedly Phase 2 of CC contract was originally aiming to extend the availability of superfast broadband to 95% of premises across the county by mid-2018, but they got there eventually and that’s no mean feat given the rural nature of those that were left. The final contract also predominantly involved the deployment of gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology (c.6,000 of the total premises), instead of slower hybrid fibre FTTC (VDSL2).

NOTE: The figures for CC are on top of the c.120,000 Cumbrian properties able to access superfast broadband as a result of Openreach’s separate commercial roll-out.

Overall, Openreach engineers have enabled 107 exchanges, built around 1,000 fibre structures (e.g. DSLAM street cabinets), erected hundreds of new telegraph poles and laid thousands of kilometres of underground fibre optic cables. The final community to go live was the village of Near Sawrey (c.66 premises) – home to Hill Top, a farmhouse once owned by Beatrix Potter.

Over the lifetime of the programme more than £50 million has been invested from a combination of sources, including grants from Building Digital UK (the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport), Local Enterprise Partnership Funding and Openreach.

Robert Thorburn, Openreach Partnership Director for the North, said:

“The success of the Connecting Cumbria partnership is a great achievement and testament to the team who have worked so hard for the past seven years. Planning and building fibre networks in one of the most challenging geographies in the UK is no mean feat.

Connecting Cumbria will continue to help communities across Cumbria improve their broadband speeds working both with and independently from Openreach.

Commercially, Openreach is investing £12 billion to build full fibre broadband to 20 million homes across the UK – and more than three million of those will be in the toughest third of the UK. We’re already building full fibre networks in parts of Cumbria including Millom, Penrith, Barrow-in- Furness and Kendal as well as working directly with more rural communities via our Community Partnership Scheme.”

Cllr David Southward, Cumbria County Council, said:

“The importance of digital connectivity is increasingly critical to the modern day lives of residents and the productivity of businesses. This importance has been further highlighted by the Covid-19 crisis and as we recover and rebuild, access to fast, reliable connectivity is no longer a luxury for residents, local businesses or for the effective delivery of public services.

From living and working in Cumbria, I know first-hand some of the challenges in delivering infrastructure in our county and the hard work that has gone into delivering fibre-based broadband through the Connecting Cumbria partnership.

“I am delighted that nearly 95% of properties in the county can now access superfast broadband services of at least 24Mbps. There is still more to do and Connecting Cumbria will now focus on the delivery of the Council’s Digital Infrastructure Strategy, with the aim of expanding gigabit services and improving connectivity to all communities. This is a top priority given the significant economic and social benefits for Cumbria.”

The Phase 2 contract might have ended, although we note that both Connecting Cumbria and the Government’s Building Digital UK team are currently exploring solutions to figure out if a future Phase 3 procurement could be used to help close the gap on that final 5% of poorly served premises in the county.

We suspect that further clawback (gainshare) under the previous contracts may soon be available to help support this (i.e. funding returned via BT as a result of high take-up). In addition, the Government’s new £5bn Gigabit Broadband Programme is slowly getting under way and that may also provide a useful avenue for resolving the remaining premises.

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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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62 Responses
  1. jet14 says:

    The brits are too slow to do anything, look at the chinese they can do any project in quick time and less money, too much bureaucracy and wasting billions, maybe pocketing a few quid here and there, thats why the old adage, ‘Penny wise and pound foolish’ is so true here.
    The uk is being left behind in all areas and no longer worthy of British Empire proudness, its all history !!!

    1. 125us says:

      I’m not sure the empire was ever something to be proud of. Stealing other folk’s countries isn’t nice.

      Fibre rollout in Britain progresses at exactly the rate investment conditions and market economics dictate.

    2. A_Builder says:

      Which is now full pelt!

      So the investment conditions to get to 80% coverage are pretty good.

    3. Jake4 says:

      Delete this wumao’s post

    4. Alex says:

      Yay, hooray for human rights abuses and subjugating minorities!

  2. jet14 says:

    If the UK governments stopped wasting money on poxy schemes hint hint ‘HS2’ and on fat cats and whitehall and mps and bbc and dominic cummings and et all. then maybe we could move on, invest in Fibre or take out your dial up modems and go back on them. I’ve grown up in the 80’s and seen all the advances in pc’s and technology, but this fibre rollout is in their own hands really BT is primarily to blame, I hope the BT lot see these comments and get off their **** and same with their partner in crime, the so called telecoms regulator.

    1. Fastman says:


      this is the same business that has invested circa 5 – 8BN if its onw money sinces 2010 in broadband rollout out (yo get to those figures based on commercial progragemmes and also match on BDUK programmes

      how much have you spent on Broadbnand infratrcuture – or is the uissue they funded you free of charge –

  3. jet14 says:

    Forgot to mention, they’ve conjured up billions to fight so called epidemic corona, yet they cant budge over their 5B spending limit for fibre, yet hs2 can get 50B no problem – large pockets for that, nobody wants to travel on trains anyway!! Lots of things i can rattle on about. Hope somebody can start thinking straight and we go back to basics and get of all the political correctness and woke stuff etc etc.

    1. A_Builder says:

      The one thing I do agree with you on is that UK PLC will get a lot faster return on investment by provisioning everyone with FTTP than HS2.

      So I don’t understand why only £5Bn and the slow drip. I’m afraid it is the dreaded Treasury cash flow curves roosting again.

      There is also the other side of the coin being that there is a fear that sloshing cash into an overheated market might drive costs up and innovation down this distorting the economics.

      In the background is also an attempt to stop BT deploying Begging Bowl #4 and creaming off all of the deep country contracts. The poor performance of various publicly FTTP initiatives and the storming commercial progress also tempers cash injections.

    2. NGA for all says:

      @A Builder – BT struggled to turn up to spend £1.6bn. It struggled even more to publish evidence on its own capital. This WPQ states BT is handing money back, (having capitalised it) rather than complete rural. It has taken 8 years and counting in Cumbria. https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2020-12-08/126868

      Handing money back intended for rural, and there is £900m of clawback to account for suggests £5bn was a whim.

      Cumbria is owed a lot. I hope we see a reconciliation so a few more thousand can be addedd.

    3. Fastman says:


      HS23 is far more about rail capacity and enablement of Better servcies on exisiting lines and enabling significanty more freight of congested motorways

      HS2 is absolutley neccessity projects

    4. Fastman says:

      NGA (if got paid for every time you raise this conspiracty theory thats not id have retired some time ago

      2.5nb investment is 2.5bn who ever said it all capital – (project costs are a mix of capital and other including people and ongoing costs)

      actually it was also BT own money – the commercial programme

      the problem is because you dont understand it the basics it must be false !!!!

    5. NGA for all says:

      @Fastman the NAO reports such as they are say something different as do the Parliamentary inquiries. The dysfunction is such is that BT is losing to start-ups.

    6. New_Londoner says:

      Quote “This WPQ states BT is handing money back, (having capitalised it) rather than complete rural.”

      As explained to you many times, the decision how any gainshare monies are spent is entirely a matter for the local authority rather than BT. If you think any such funds should be invested in more broadband deployment, as opposed to being spent on funding other services, I suggest that you get in touch with Cumbria County Council.

    7. NGA for all says:

      @New Londoner That’s less than half true.

    8. New_Londoner says:

      @NGA I believe that you are incorrect: at the end of the contract the monies flow to the local body, it is not obliged to spend that money on broadband. Feel free to provide credible sources if you think that this is not the case.

    9. NGA for all says:

      @New Londoner, there was an objective to go as far as possible, half the returns go to central Gov who have a say, and where EU funds were used for Broadband specifically, then there is no need to give up.

      In addition, the outstanding BT capital sometimes described as ‘operational clawback’ could be used to do more work. It will be peculiar if BT is allowed to capitalise funds not spent extending the network.

      I have not seen any white papers on the matter. They could be offered.

    10. New_Londoner says:

      Thank you for the clarification. Taking your points in turn:

      1. There was an objective to go as far as possible – this is a political “objective”, is not something that is reflected in contracts. Most (all?) BDUK contracts require a given coverage target to be achieved for the least cost. * Where does it specify “go as far as possible” in the Cumbria contract? *
      2. Half the returns go to central Gov who have a say – IIRC, all of the gainshare monies go to the local body, not to central government. * Where does it specify “give 50% of gainshare money to central government” in the Cumbria contract? *
      3. Where EU funds were used for Broadband specifically, then there is no need to give up – most BDUK contracts contain no EU funds, in any case, I suspect for accounting purposes this would have been spent early in the contracts. * How much EU money remains unspent in the Cumbria contract? *
      4. The outstanding BT capital sometimes described as ‘operational clawback’ could be used to do more work. It will be peculiar if BT is allowed to capitalise funds not spent extending the network – I’m pretty sure that operational costs can be capitalised in many cases and are recoverable over the lifetime of the contracts, not just capital costs. What “operational clawback” do you believe applies to the Cumbria contract?

      In short, I don’t believe that there is anything here to show that the local body doesn’t have decision making power over any outstanding gainshare money due through this contract.

    11. The Facts says:

      @NGA – ‘I have not seen any white papers on the matter. They could be offered.’ What is this about? You have mentioned ‘white papers’ before. Ever seen one on broadband, from whom?

      Please explain what ‘an objective to go as far as possible’ means. Numbers of properties or distance or what?

      Maybe you need to setup a court case as you said before.

    12. NGA for all says:

      @New_Londoner if your the WPQ referenced you will confirmation of the funds returning to central government. It is embarrassing at several levels.

      All the contracts has the means to go further, be it change requests or more rounds etc.

    13. NGA for all says:

      @Fastman @New_London numbers – 121,000 FTTC – 1000 cabs and 6,000 FTTP
      Public Budget available £36m.
      BT capex contibution FTTC – 121k premies x £80 =£9.68m
      BT capex contribution FTTP 6k x£300 = £1.8m
      Clawback £788m/5.5m * 127k = £18m
      Total eventual from BT = £27m

      Est FTTC Cost 1000cabs/paths *30k =£30m (higher than BT stated at CMS 2016)
      Est FTTP 6,000×1500 = £9m – Total £39m

      White paper suggestion from BT – There is at least £20m accruing in Cumbria, why not let’s attempt to do another 10k premises rather than handing that money back to Treasury.
      PS Sorry for mucking you about for so long.

  4. jet14 says:

    Thanks for enlightening from that perspective, yes more politics and business practices!!!
    so no win situation i suppose, need some head banging,(literally), somewhere along the line.

  5. Innage says:

    And yet they will not do anything about the 100k households that are still on exchange only lines.

    1. Fastman says:

      innage have you tried to do anything your self about that problem with your community — or not as a significant numbmer around the UK already have (via Openreach communty fibre programme

  6. Tony swidenbank,ts trenching says:

    I think somebody has got the numbers the wrong way round, I live in cumbria and contracted for open reach for over 25 years now at b4rn, I have hardly seen the contractors doing any http construction anywhere around us,

    1. Alex says:

      Well if you’re with B4rn then i doubt you will see it. There’s something called an open market review which rightly ensures taxpayer’s money doesn’t get spent in areas that are already well served.

  7. Alex says:

    jet14 – the Christmas troll.

  8. raging loony says:

    yawn lefties like jet14 always moan about unrelated stuff.

    oh, my water pipe burst due to the cold ? ah well, you know, the tories spend tons of money on things waffle waffle.

  9. Ram Chandhar Rapolu says:

    Openreach has failed to deliver fibre in Uxbridge St Andrews Park.it only provides 7mbps in PM’s constituency.

    1. New_Londoner says:

      That would be a matter for the developer rather than Openreach (or any other network provider).

    2. The Facts says:

      @RCR – ask Persimmon.

      The Dice Uxbridge:
      Lounge media plate pre-wired for:
      BT, Sky+ HD, SkyQ & Virgin / Fibre / Digital TV

    3. Fastman says:

      so to be correct depending when that site was called off by the developer and i assume it before 2016 the only requirement was ADSL – develoepr could have asked Openreach to provide a cost for enabling the copper cabinet as i assume it was a new copper cabinet — and i am not mistaken we have have now had 2 prime ministers since the call off started

      ps the developer will have been paid to have copper put in as well and got paid for every connection that has been made (called the Sod Payment)

  10. GNewton says:

    “exploring solutions to figure out if a future Phase 3 procurement could be used to help close the gap on that final 5% of poorly served premises in the county.”

    A bit misleading here. The vast majority of Cumbria probably doesn’t have fibre broadband, rather VDSL at best. And throwing more money at this beggar known as BT can’t be right.

    There is nothing to be “explored” here. FTTP is a well-known established solution.

    This country is more than a decade behind of where it should be with regards to widespread fibre broadband, nothing to be proud of.

    1. 125us says:

      Which comparable countries had widespread FTTP more than a decade ago?

    2. The Facts says:

      @GN – FTTP is a well-known established solution, it’s the actual installation in the ground that can be challenging and expensive, as you know.

    3. GNewton says:

      @The Facts: “challenging and expensive”

      Challenging? No! utilities including telecoms have been for many decades, including ducts and poles. Your comment is just a reflection of a typical Can’t Do attitude so prevalent in this country.

      Expensive? Possible. This could have been properly addressed ages ago, instead of throwing monies at a private beggar company known as BT which had no need for it. How on earth did this country managed to built a telecoms network in this country more than half a century ago and can’t do it in modern times? Especially with many ducts and telecom poles already there.

    4. GNewton says:

      @123us: “Which comparable countries had widespread FTTP more than a decade ago?”

      Wrong question, it should have been this one:

      Which comparable countries have widespread FTTP today, unlike the UK, because they started building it years ago, unlike the UK?

    5. The Facts says:

      @GN – more than 50 years ago the government fully paid for the telephone network to be installed. With no competition to consider.

      It’s not a can’t do attitude for any telecomms company, it’s about the return on capital, which you seem to ignore.

      Maybe you can explain why the cable companies stopped building 20? years ago and VM are now restarting.

    6. GNewton says:

      @The Facts: Your sole focus on a ‘return on capital’ and lamenting over a situation as it used to be 2 decades ago clearly illustrates that you are unable to grasp the problem, or even to understand the importance of a country-wide fibre utility. This is exactly a prime illustration of a “Can’t Do” attitude, which includes the in-ability to think out of the box. Perhaps you might want to re-visit your own ideas about your funding proposals for widespread fibre from some years ago when you had a clearer thinking on this?

    7. The Facts says:

      @GN – from where we are now what is your business plan for country wide fibre?

    8. GNewton says:

      @The Facts: Easy enough to ask the same questions here on this forum.

      The main thing you don’t seem to grasp is the importance of a widely available fibre networks utility. Commercial companies aren’t able to do projects with ROI only materializing in the more distant future (e.g. many years) instead of a quick buck. An alternative NBN-style approach seems to be more appropriate for at least some areas.

      It is wrong to throw taxpayer’s monies at BT which is a commercial business only, and which, as proven by its history, has been doing a poor job, both to the detriment of customers and its shareholders.

    9. The Facts says:

      @GN – Australia nbn includes:

      An nbn™ Fibre to the Node (FTTN) connection is utilised where the existing copper phone and internet network from a nearby fibre node is used to make the final part of the connection to the nbn™ access network.

    10. GNewton says:

      @The Facts: The original NBN plan was about fibre, it was only watered down later by the Coalition government, who took over from Labor, and it then became more expensive with an inferior solution.

      Anyway, you still don’t get the point here, do you?

    11. The Facts says:

      @GN – your point is that the government should fund a 100% FTTP rollout?

  11. Graham Moore says:

    Ever learning, never coming to an accurate knowledge of th truth!

  12. asfracumbria says:

    Cheers Marras

  13. Mark says:

    They’ve finished at 95%. Bit like re-roofing a customers house and leaving 2 rows of tiles off and claiming it’s complete.

    1. New_Londoner says:

      Only if the contract specified that the roofer should do all bar two rows of tiles for the least cost. You can’t blame the supplier for doing what the contract specifies.

    2. Fastman says:

      BDUK Was based on a coverage based on a funding envelope – so it will have gone as far is could for the money available

      so it it was X percent — the contract will have need to deliver X percent which will be a specific number of premises that could be auditbal that they have acheived to ensure they got paid

      some people really have no idea how the actual commercial world works

    3. NGA for all says:

      @Fastman, except the funding has not got as far as it can. We need to see BT contributions reconciled including a consistent investment from BT into what was supposed to be a gap funding model. We have yet to see the ‘true up’.

      Pushing funds intended for rural into Carlisle for instance e.g 47 subsidised cabinets alone, (including SEP) shows the level of abuse occurring under commercial confidentiality and the drop off in BT’s commercial investment. Let’s hope all the clawback, including BT’s outstanding capital (operational clawback) can be put to good use.

      The amount of FTTC Cure will be a particular curse in places where FTTP should have been delivered.

    4. New_Londoner says:

      Quote “Pushing funds intended for rural…”

      Whilst some think of the BDUK programme as being for rural areas, this is incorrect, it was in fact focused on the so-called “final third”, which included a fair amount of non rural areas. The individual contracts would have specified the locations to be covered, using the Open Market Review process to identify those areas where no operators had credible plans for commercial coverage within a defined period.

      Why do you believe that the Carlisle cabinets should not have been included in the deployment? Where credible plans for commercial coverage identified during the OMR process?

    5. NGA for all says:

      New_Londoner Carlile cabinets would cheaper in terms of distance so no gap funding would be needed, there was a cable company present. BT would need to reduce its commercial commitment to push funds from rural to urban.

      Salisbury, BT took subsidy for ~14 cabinets and then decided it could afford to do FTTP. BT can abuse commercial confidentiality all its pleases and perhaps there is no catch up, but the status of the £900m clawback and some of its recovery by Gov as per the WPQ suggests better outcomes continue to be possible. If the latter is capitalised, then this is the basis of another possible accounting fraud that needs to be unpicked.

    6. The Facts says:

      @NGA – why is there no interest in unpicking all the accounting frauds?

    7. NGA for all says:

      @Fastman, much has been unpicked, but the accounting treatment of the Capital Deferral needs examining. BT commercial investment in Cumbria was less than 300 cabinets. It cannot be in shareholders or customers interest for these funds to be returned in cash form.

      PAC report due in January may have a go.

      As the law now stands, a company can be convicted of an economic crime in the United Kingdom — but only if prosecutors can prove that individuals who can be regarded as the company’s “directing mind” knew about, actively condoned or played a part in the offending. The bigger the company, the harder that is to establish.

    8. The Facts says:

      @NGA – many of those Salisbury BDUK cabinets served low numbers of properties. Why did BDUK fund them when Virgin Media has a large coverage of the area?

      There’s a few years between taking subsidy (what’s been returned) and FTTP rollout. Things change.

  14. Mark says:

    Fastman the usual big headed response, throwing insults. Your attitude is the reason to many have not, an uncaring attitude as usual. Yes we know how big business works, keep throwing a carrot to make people bite isn’t productive,unless you really want to sort it out?

    1. Fastman says:

      Mark not throwing insults in any shape or form, stating facts, been invovled in this industry for many years (so please dont make assumptions about me)

    2. GNewton says:

      @Fastman: It is obvious you benefit from or work for a commercial telecom. This causes you not to see the real issues consumers face in this backward country. Building a widespread fibre broadband utility would have required a different approach, beyond the narrow-minded “commercial return on captital” mentality. The current framework has obviously been a failure, which includes the BDUK farce!

      The progress made in Cumbria is to be welcomed, but like elsewhere in this country, a longterm fibre broadband utility deployment strategy is needed, and more often than not Openreach hasn’t done a good job. It’s not good enough to end up in a digitally divided country.

    3. New_Londoner says:

      You criticise the “commercial return on captital” approach being taken, referencing Openreach in this regard. It is hardly surprising that a commercial network provider is seeking a return on investment for its shareholders, indeed this is a legal requirement placed on its directors.

      Your critique should be directed at the government if you are expecting a non-commercial approach to be taken.

    4. 125us says:

      @gnewton. You’re also ignoring the competition act. An operator deemed to have SMP (significant market power, typically >40% market share) would be acting illegally if it deployed and sold services below cost.

      Doing what you describe – ignoring ROI – is not just commercially foolish, it would be literally illegal.

    5. GNewton says:

      @125us: Your resistance to new ideas and admiration of the failed status quo is astonishing, but unfortunately not uncommon in this backwards place.

      I never said to neglect a ROI, nor did I mention fibre deployment below costs (how would that even work?). We are talking here about a longterm investment strategy, with a ROI only effective in a longer time frame, beyond what normal commercial companies like BT can cope with.

  15. Fastman says:


    @Fastman: It is obvious you benefit from or work for a commercial telecom. This causes you not to see the real issues consumers face in this backward country.

    Gnewton you really have no clue about me at all – really amusing

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