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Stoke Residents Vent Anger at LilaConnect FTTP Broadband Build

Thursday, June 10th, 2021 (6:58 am) - Score 11,856

Residents in the Staffordshire (England) city of Stoke-on-Trent have been venting their anger at VXFIBER‘s subsidiary LilaConnect, which occured after the local rollout of a new 1Gbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network caused a number of problems – from damaged driveways to cut broadband and electricity cables etc.

The “citywide” rollout, which reflects the work to construct a new 60-mile long gigabit-capable “full fibre” network to reach 100,000 premises in Stoke (here), is taking place as part of a £19.2m partnership between the city council and VXFIBER.

NOTE: VXF’s subsidiary, LilaConnect, is responsible for marketing, selling, installing and maintaining the connections from this new infrastructure to local premises. Lila supplies access via a number of ISPs (e.g. Air Broadband, Breeze Fibre and Pure Broadband).

The deployment actually has two different halves, one of which covers the £9.2m state aid supported Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) scheme to build a new public sector focused Dark Fibre network, while on top of that VXF are investing £10m of their own funding to extend that in order to reach local homes and businesses.

The first customers began connecting to this network last November 2020, but StokeonTrentLive reports that a growing number of residents have been angered by the quality and conduct of their street works. Some of those gripes, such as around the placement of street cabinets near-ish house windows, appear to be unfair (VXF/Lila’s cabs are fairly small and not particularly obtrusive), but others are of more concern.

For example, other issues highlighted include engineers leaving some homes disconnected after cutting through one of Virgin Media’s broadband cables because it was “too high above the pavement“, as well as damaging an electricity cable, blocking driveways without giving any prior notice, blocking footpaths with vans (i.e. forcing people to walk around them on the road), leaving footways in a “mess” and causing damage to a driveway.

A Spokesperson for LilaConnect said:

“LilaConnect hit a major milestone last week in its Stoke-on-Trent project in passing half a million metres of completed civils work over the last year. Whilst this is excellent progress, we do recognise that it involves digging past every home in the city and that, regrettably, there will be people that are unhappy with the disruption that works at this scale bring.

LilaConnect takes all concerns very seriously, investigating anything that comes through our Customer Service team, or that we are made aware of via other channels – including the media.

We have always been, and will remain, fully committed to working in partnership with communities as we deliver the transformational benefits of full fibre gigabit connectivity to homes and businesses across Stoke-on-Trent.”

As we always say, deploying new infrastructure is a naturally very expensive business and will inevitably create periods of disruption for local residents, which is often true no matter who is doing the noisy civil engineering side of things (over the years we’ve seen similar gripes being levelled against Openreach, Virgin Media, CityFibre and others).

Such work will often end up attracting complaints, some of which are difficult to avoid (e.g. blocked driveways and noise), although in other cases the contractors may also be failing to follow good practice. However, in the long run, the ability to access affordable 1Gbps broadband speeds should make all of this disruption worthwhile and may even boost the value of local housing, as well as the economy.

Nevertheless, operators do still have a clear responsibility to finish the work properly and, for the most part, they do often take action when problems are identified to the local authority (some areas have required remedial work). We should add that other residents have been very happy to see the new network going into the ground.

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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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20 Responses
  1. StokeDD says:

    i live in stoke and the work they are doing is shockingly poor, ive seen them dig up the same thing 3 times because they did it wrong, there was one time they were digging up a main road with no traffic management, traffic was chaos. i personally dont think any planning has gone into this. ive heard of them doing works before 8am and late at night.

  2. JP says:

    I get a feeling its not as bad as I think it is, I can’t say I’ve ever really noticed good roadworks done by telecom operators.

    The difference ofcourse in respoect to Stoke On Trent might be the fact the area isn’t the average urban area like the cities that get the fibre works first and the it shows more so.

    As for the Virgin Media cable being cut, that sounds like a Virgin problem, and likely is.

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      See a good few examples of Virgin’s co-ax work near me. The best is a house on a hill with a bricked planter 3 ft off the pavement before a garden wall. Trunking comes up through the gravel and sits on the top, it looks like an escaping green centipede crossing the bedding plants

    2. JP says:

      Green trunking trailing gardens everywhere cross the country… though maybe I just notice it more, even mine is up out the ground at moment, it was only buring a few inchs.

    3. CarlT says:

      Lucky not relevant to this issue. Contractors won’t be digging into VM tees or between them and homes let alone the drops which are nothing to do with the guys who built the network.

  3. Chris Walker says:

    I had the service back in February, it’s fantastic. I remember when Nynex, as it was at the time, installed cable. That was much worse than this is.
    Lila connect, in my experience, are very quick to deal with issues raised. I called in about a mess left (mud and dirt not cleared away) they sent a team or within a couple of hours.
    Some of the ‘complaints’ on the local paper are just plain silly.

  4. Say said says:

    StokeDD is correct about the redigging, in my area VM Lightning dug up the same section several times for botched fibre cabinets. They also did illogical zigzag and windy trench digging like a blind man chalked out the path. I don’t see why the roadworks should need to be this erratic.

    They can use ground detectors during initial survey and lasers to keep a straight line, or even a bit of string. These contractors charge a fortune for their services as well. £600 per house passed. Somebody’s making a ton of money here.

    We live in an increasingly intolerant society. All these NIMBY complainants are unhappy about being given 1Gbps broadband. But will come to demand it in future months. I was only unhappy that they have ALL decided to skip doing my street with 300 houses. Can’t understand why these companies choose to exclude certain people from accessing services.

    The people that work for CityFibre and VirginMedia are more clueless than asking your nan when you enquire whats happening. That is a considerable disgrace there is no competent people who can answer the most basic of queries. A total disgrace on the telecoms companies to say the least. Why can they not cope with such simple enquiries?

    CityFibre were useless and so were VM. Why don’t they have a special helpdesk for this?

    1. - says:

      That will be to avoid other services. If you think Gas, water, electric, street lighting, cable and telecoms is all just one straight line – you’d be wrong.

    2. CarlT says:

      The contractors are told where to dig and follow marks on the ground indicating utilities. What are you hoping they’ll be able to tell you?

      ‘These contractors charge a fortune for their services as well. £600 per house passed.’

      Sure? They aren’t pay as you go. They’re under contract and bid for the jobs. If each property cost the same to pass there’d be a lot more build in sparse areas. A 4km run to reach a property costing £600 isn’t a great business model for the contractors when they’re paying some of their staff on a day rate and others salaried.

  5. Matt says:

    People mone about everything so nothing new at lest u get full fiber ungrateful and igerent

  6. Llanv1 says:

    Spectrum, or OGI as they refer to themselves as these days has been shocking in our village of Llanvaches. After months, if not years of delay in installing we have had cut power lines and intermittent service since it has been officially ‘live.’ I never thought I would be say that I am pleased that I still have my BT line but without it, I wouldn’thave been able to work.
    I’m hoping to be one of the ones that will also get BT fibre too when they build here so I can switch

  7. Michael says:

    It is a jungle of cables and pipes under most footpaths but these contractors have to thread there cables through the the jungle they also have to keep certain distances from other cables and pipes they would like to lay down there cables in a straight line because its cheaper to lay the cable in straight lines but that’s not always possible because of the jungle of cables and pipes already in the ground

  8. Matthew says:

    People are never grateful are they

  9. James says:

    Some people love to complain and think that they own the pavement in their street or outside their houses. Fibre is going to be the 4th vital utility company.

  10. June says:

    Despite the bad press, i was very pleased with prompt response when i reported hole not filled in outside my house. Emailed and receuved phone call 2 days later and soted wuthin 24hrs. Thankyou

  11. Phil Harley says:

    Does anybody know who is the main contractor or who to contact regarding work. I live in longton and would like to enquire about a job .

  12. steve turner says:

    in the age of 5G how can be it cost effective to dig up every single road in the UK to lay a cable? surely we can get the internet through the phone network now? by 5G is faster than home broadband via BT

    1. Daniel says:

      5g is not comparable to home broadband.
      Home broadband is not mobile, and you get a service that is mostly consistent. It may suffer at peak times due to the connection not being dedicated to you.
      5g is mobile and only available in some areas, with a variety of speed and reliability.
      I can’t get 5G where I live on three. I found 1 area where I get like 300mbps, though I never go there.
      Found that I had 5G in the city and that was comparable to my FTTC speed of 60mbps download, 10mbps up.
      As for other operators, I had 5G with vodafone half of the time in my actual home! They claimed good indoor and outdoor coverage. I don’t regard 50% of the time good covereage. In addition, the speed was the same as I get on 4G and I don’t regard 4G speed as 5G, 10mbps down 1mbps up.
      Every building being connected with full fibre and free guest access for all who opt in would dominate 5G.
      This is not in any network operators interest, cellular or broadband. Simply put, they like forking you for pathetic speed.
      The competition is poor.
      I wish we had gigabit fibre here. I’m stuck with 60mbps max and if I want to lease a line, that’s £460 per month excluding installation cost.

  13. Alastair says:

    Well, we’ve got it, I was very excited to not worry about our shockingly slow 15gb ‘fibre’.
    Unfortunately the Lila service is terrible.
    I think they got the router from a jumble sale, half the stuff in our house doesn’t connect, and if it does, then it doesn’t!
    The tech department consists of one bloke, and lovely though he is it isn’t good enough for a company that wants to provide 260k homes.
    My advice would be to steer clear until they got a decent isp on board, indeed it’s that bad we’re going back to our old 15gb provider.

  14. Linda thomas says:

    Could not fault them efficient and very helpful

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