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CityFibre Experiences Contractor Woes in Derby and Eastbourne

Saturday, July 24th, 2021 (7:27 am) - Score 6,336
cityfibre over top narrow trenching ftth

CityFibre’s UK rollout of a new 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network in the city of Derby (Derbyshire) and the coastal East Sussex town of Eastbourne appear to both be suffering from a few separate problems with contractors, with some sub-contractors allegedly threatening to “rip-up tarmac” that has been laid.

The £45m network in Derby, which only started to go live a few days ago (here), is being supported by civil engineering firm J. McCann & Co Ltd and various subcontractors to them. Meanwhile, the £26m rollout in Eastborne is being supported by local contractor Lanes-i. But several reports on The Register, the Eastbourne Herald and the Construction Enquirer suggest that all is not going as smoothly as CityFibre might hope.

In Derby, it’s alleged that some sub-contractors are threatening to “rip-up [the] tarmac” they have laid over a payment dispute with McCann. In response, McCann said they take “payment and contractual obligations very seriously and would never intentionally withhold payment for any works that have been completed in accordance with the terms of our agreement without firm legal justification.”

McCann goes on to acknowledge that “contractual issues” with some of their supply chain has been a problem, although they claim to be working in an “open and collaborative spirit to ensure that our supply chain partners receive the correct payments as they fall due.” The suggestion above seems to be that some of those sub-contractors might not have achieved the right quality of work, hence the dispute.

Meanwhile, over in Eastbourne, some local residents have been complaining because the local street works are taking somewhat longer than expected. Some residents were told the teams would be outside each of their homes for less than two working days, but instead the work has been ongoing for roughly a month. During this time, pavements and driveways are still awaiting reinstatement, while some phone and broadband lines on Pococks Road were also cut.

The disruption is particularly galling for some residents because CityFibre’s deployment follows only a short while after their rival operator Lightning Fibre dug up many of the same roads to lay their own ducting (here), which locals say caused the “same thing.”

Adrian Smith, CityFibre’s Eastbourne City Manager, said:

“As we build our full fibre networks, we endeavour to limit our time outside any one property to 48 hours if possible. However, it can sometimes take longer and on this occasion we’ve encountered a number of unforeseen circumstances.

Due to the pandemic, there is currently a shortage of specific building materials which has made it more difficult than usual to source the cement and slabs required for the reinstatement works. We have also encountered issues with telephone cables which had been installed at too shallow a depth. These are now in the process of being repaired by the provider who owns this infrastructure.

To avoid any further issues with the telephone cables, the dig is progressing at a slower pace than usual. … We want to thank Eastbourne residents for their patience and are very sorry for any delay or inconvenience caused.”

Deploying new infrastructure 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 most of the main operators, and some smaller players too.

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 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 take action when problems are identified. Disputes over pay do happen from time to time too, although such things are usually handled behind closed doors (it’s rare to see that spill over into the public).

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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. Jim says:

    Never heard of Eastborne…

  2. J.D. says:

    Yep not surprised with re to Eastbourne, City Fibre are still in my road, multiple neighbours (and me) have lost internet connectivity, another had their Gas cut off and another power… still here many weeks later. Lightning Fibre were miles better, kept us informed, in and out in less than a week and we kept our internet.

  3. MattP says:

    Makes me wonder how companies choose the towns they build into. For where I live (Grays/Thurrock) there’s no widespread infrastructure from any provider yet and Openreach are targeting the end of 2024. Then there are areas like Eastbourne, Rochford, Southend On Sea and many others where multiple providers are over-building each other. Does anyone have insight to their criteria?

    1. 125us says:

      They buy data that profiles neighbourhoods, and from that they’ll choose;

      The areas where they can pass the most homes for the least amount of civil engineering, where the residents are likely to want and be able to afford the services on offer.

  4. Ryan says:

    Hopefully lightning fiber continue at pace in Eastbourne so cityfiber lose out on customers as a result.

    Overbuild at its prime. Eastbourne get 2 FTTP providers and surrounding areas get 0.

    1. David says:

      This is not just happening in retrofit areas, couple new build areas in Glasgow have Cityfibre (FTTP), Hyperoptic, Virgin Media (FTTP), Openreach (Copper and FTTP). 4 network providers all able to offer 1000mb and surrounding areas get 30meg max.

  5. Sam says:

    What is always curious to me, why both of them are digging up the same roads? There is plenty of streets where there nothing but rotten copper. I live in the Hampden Park area and waiting for the fibre like for rain in drought. I’ve seen the works near the train station, but these now disappeared somewhere. And now you tell me there is lightning fibre and city fibre fighting over the same road roads. Does not make sense

    1. Neb says:

      Simply a case of competitive overbuild tactics being employed by CF. CF started in Hampden Park just after LF’s large scale rollout started, whereas LF expanded out from the town centre where their existing network was and has been live for over a year now. With the issues CF had in Hampden Park and I guess seeing the success LF was having, stopped Hampden Park and moved into overbuild mode where LF had built and was building. Apart from all the other good stuff LF are doing locally including surrounding areas, they’ll go for the whole town plus outskirts if there’s a business case, rather than circa 85% which I hear/read CF tends to do.

  6. Anne says:

    I livecin old town area and our road has been dug up 3 times, first lightning and filled in, 2 weeks later city and then again a separate dig from lightning again as city apparently damaged their cables so we are told.

  7. Arden says:

    I live in Eastbourne (not Eastborne, as you’ve misspelled it) and the amount of places where they roads have been dug up & no work happens for 5 months is ridiculous, it happened on Victoria Drive, one of the main roads, with no explanation as to why it took so long other than nobody working on it,
    and yet Hampden Park, other than right next to the train station, is still left with rotting, or rotten, copper cables. Its honestly infuriating, because people are losing the services they pay for, and not getting apologies for it, for literal weeks.

  8. Sam says:

    I can’t believe they have 2 FTTP providers! Madness!

    1. Stinky Pete says:

      Happens in quite a number of places of places, we had Openreach and Cityfibre fighting over each other to get here (Northampton) first early last year, I struggled for years with 4Mb ADSL only and now I have two 1Gbe services. Also most of Northampton (not me though) has Virgin and a number of areas they wasted their time doing Gfast literally 6 months before they started fttp rollout.

  9. Buggerlugz says:

    Why don’t both companies work together, subcontract one channel digger and lay both cables in it?

    Nah! that’s just a ridiculous proposition in 2021 isn’t it!

    1. HDB3 says:

      That’s a cartel Lugz and it gets you sent to prison under the Competition Act.

    2. Buggerlugz says:

      Well, guess it depends who you are friends with. Most seems too these days.

    3. Brian Storey says:

      Heineken were well ahead of the game with this one!


    4. HDB3 says:

      So you’re complaining both that no-one does this, and that everyone does this? OK.

  10. Dan says:

    Turning up at 5p. On a Saturday evening on a bank holiday weekend and then buggering off to watch the champions League final and then starting digging the road up with a drill on a digger at 11:30pm nearly got the contractors linched in our road, fortunately they where so inept they hit a power cable and had to stop or they were planning to be there till 4am.

  11. Just a thought says:

    Force all players to lay duct, then allow them to charge PIA. Dig up road once and reinstate once more environmentally friendly. Then if others want to stick loads of pointless overbuild in, they can choose to pay PIA to the first player or dig up road, gain the wrath of the residents and dent their environment image.

    1. 125us says:

      It won’t work will it? You’d encourage all the players to sit on their hands and wait for some other sucker to do the expensive, hard bit. Complicated problems rarely have simple answers.

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