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Reading UK Councillor Threatens to Remove CityFibre Contractor

Friday, October 22nd, 2021 (7:50 am) - Score 4,752

The Reading Borough Councillor for Transport, Tony Page, has warned CityFibre that the local traffic disruption being caused by their rollout of a new gigabit speed Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP network in the town is so bad that, if it doesn’t improve, they may “seek to remove” the company’s contractor Instalcom.

CityFibre started to build FTTP to homes and businesses across the large UK town of Reading (Berkshire) at the start of this year. The project, which is expected to take another 3-years to complete, represents a commercial investment of £58 million. The contractor hired to do the civil engineering for all this was Instalcom.

The work form’s part of the operator’s wider £4bn project, which aims to cover 1 million UK premises with their gigabit-capable network by the end of 2021 and then 8 million are expected to be “substantially completed” across 285 cities, towns and villages – c.30% of the UK – by the end of 2025 (here). This will also cover around 800,000 businesses, 400,000 public sector sites and 250,000 5G access points.

However, such work can be quite disruptive when it takes place, which is something that was raised by Councillor Lovelock in Tuesday’s (19th October) council meeting. In response, the Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, Tony Page, warned of consequences if the current situation didn’t improve. But he also indicated that progress was being made on the issue.

Councillor Tony Page said:

“I can also address very legitimate concerns that colleagues and members of the public have raised about the street works and excavations being undertaken in connection with the rapid deployment of fibre optic cabling in Reading.

Last week senior RBC officers met with City Fibre and their contractor Instalcom to raise concerns about the disruption being caused by the fibre rollout programme. Specific details of breaches have been recorded and further evidence compiled by our Highways and Streetworks Inspectors has been passed to City Fibre and Instalcom.

I appreciate and share the immediate concerns of councillors and residents. Our officers have relayed our very real dissatisfaction with the performance of City Fibre and Instalcom to date. We have warned them that should no improvement be seen then we could call them to a special public meeting of the SEPT Committee meeting which would be reputationally damaging to them. Ultimately, we could seek to remove the contractor from working in Reading. I hope this option will not be necessary but it depends on a much improved performance.”

Both CityFibre and Instalcom are said to have made a commitment at senior level to “address all our concerns” and have apparently reiterated their strong desire to work with the council and to “assure us that they are competent and experienced in this area.”

The company will also provide the council’s Streetcare Services Manager with their next tranche of programme, which commences in January 2022, so that they can try and co-ordinate the works with the local authority’s own extensive residential road resurfacing programmes (i.e. to better avoid cases where roads were dug up again, after only recently being resurfaced).

Some of the operator’s engineering gangs are now due to move into West Berkshire, which may also help to reduce the amount of work taking place at the same time in Reading itself. Meanwhile, CityFibre’s Health & Safety lead has “assured us that they will put an extra resource in to ensure that the gangs on site are adhering to the full range of safety requirements … they are also aware that the HSE are clamping down on these issues as well.”

Stacey King, CityFibre’s City Manager for Reading, said (Reading Chronicle):

“We are liaising with Reading Borough Council and Instalcom, our build partner in Reading, to address some concerns that have been raised about our ongoing works in the town.

We always try to keep disruption to a minimum and we are implementing a series of additional training sessions for Instalcom’s construction team to ensure the rollout is delivered effectively and efficiently.

As we carry out this £58m investment to deliver a town-wide full fibre network that will future-proof Reading’s digital future, we want to want to thank residents for their continued patience.”

Apparently, further meetings between the parties are already being planned for the future to review the corrective measures and promised improvements. But sadly, this is not the only area where CityFibre has been receiving complaints. Over in Bournemouth (Dorset) they attracted gripes, albeit via a different contractor, after some of their noisy works ran outside of the extended working hours permitted by the council and residents claim not to have been notified (here).

As we always say, 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 Openreach, Virgin Media and many others – it’s pretty much par for the course when you’re digging streets up outside houses.

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

Nevertheless, operators do still have a clear responsibility to conduct and finish the work properly and hopefully any future meetings will be able to confirm that this is taking place, or encourage a correction if it is not. In this case, we highly doubt that the council will need to remove CityFibre’s contractor.

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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
15 Responses
  1. Paul says:

    Maybe Tony Page’s efforts directing traffic will be more appreciated in Reading than his desire to keep morse code going for a few more decades?

    This country also has MILLIONS of monumentally lazy Benefit claimants on a 52-week-a-year full expenses paid holiday courtesy of British Tax Payers. These people should be summonsed by the courts for permanent and mandatory 40 hours a week community service for litter picking and sweeping up the mess from such projects as FTTP rollouts.

    1. It's an OUTRAGE!!! says:

      It’s clear the “monumentally lazy Benefit claimants” live in your head rent free… how else could your ‘mind’ irrelevantly link them to this article?

      Paul sees a story about a cat stuck up a tree, Paul’s response “I BLAME THE MILLIONS OF BENEFIT CLAIMANTS!!!”

      Put down your Daily Express / Mail, you might find that you don’t need the beta blockers any more… just imagine the potential tax payer savings!

    2. Miss Me says:

      Hey Outrage, why not spend a week with the RBCs rents chasing team to hear the excuses or the housing team where being in a rat infested room in a HMO on your own is preferable because the room you are being offered isn’t big enough for your designer wardrobe

    3. It's an OUTRAGE!!! says:

      Hey Miss Me, why don’t you try to write something that’s remotely lucid and rational?

  2. CC says:

    Can we swap? All of the CityFibre contractors around here seem to have disappeared – and one.network show’s no permit requests in the next 12 months at all.

  3. Yatta! says:

    Cllr. Tony “NOT IN MY BACK YARD” Page should stick to smug self-importance and leave CityFibre’s contractor to complete the rollout, rather than whinging and prolonging the disruption.

  4. Optical says:

    Send those City Fibre contractors down to Bath,then I could get CF fibre sooner.

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      You could change the word “Bath” to quite a lot of UK towns/villages Optical.

    2. Fastman says:

      optical i would assume that if such things happened in bath your local authority would also be of a similar vein and probably sooner

  5. Just a thought says:

    Not to worry it sounds like a prime site for 3 other companies to come and over build and create more disruption. Council could have laid trunking/ducts themselves and then rented it to each of the fibre nets!

  6. James Beatrix says:

    Yep, these ideas are very useful and you have a nice exposure to this type of experience. Thanks for sharing this fantastic article.Ted Lasso Jacket

  7. Dean says:

    But she still went shopping with you, and later, picked up some lattes. You had a vision in mind, complete with red lipstick and rock ‘n roll vibes.John Wick Black Suit

  8. Alan Haugh says:

    Why do we need CityFibre? A fibre network was installed throughout Reading, complete with pavement green junction boxes several years ago and is still there. This system cannot be saturated already. I believe it is now operated by Virgin Media. As part of the deal why does the Council not require instalcom to completely renovate the whole of the pavements that they are digging up.

  9. Erika Davis says:

    Thanks for sharing useful information. I want to tell you about Write for us “Technology”, send unique content.

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