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WightFibre Under Fire for ‘Chaos’ Caused by Full Fibre Rollout

Friday, October 15th, 2021 (7:55 am) - Score 3,000
wightfibre engineer with ftth cable

Several councillors on the Isle of Wight, which sits just off the South Coast of Hampshire (England), have criticised ISP WightFibre‘s £85 million commercial rollout of a new gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network, which they claim has caused “chaos” and disruption across the island.

Back in April 2021 ISPreview.co.uk revealed (here) that WightFibre, which is backed by Infracapital and began their first street works in 2018/19, had so far covered 26,000 premises, and they expected to reach 41,000 by the end of 2021. The long-term goal is to achieve almost universal coverage of the island (c.70,000+ premises) by the end of 2025.

NOTE: Infracapital also owns or has stakes in Gigaclear, Ogi (Spectrum Internet), Neos Networks and Fibrus etc.

At the time, the operator confirmed that their build was running around six months behind schedule due to complications caused by a shortage of fibre engineers and disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a number of local councillors have now called for the operator to be hauled before one of the council’s scrutiny committee meetings in order to help explain the alleged “chaos” being caused by their rollout.

According to the Island Echo and Cllr Michael Lilley (Mayor of Ryde), “whole towns … get completely blocked up” by the work (a reference to some perhaps poorly timed road diversions) and there is “no real consultation with Island Roads or the highways team.” Lilley then highlighted the “patchwork pavements and horrendous disorganisation“, while Cllr Phil Jordan later also made reference to the “chaos” being caused by all of this.

John Irvine, CEO of WightFibre, said:

“We do co-ordinate closely with Island Roads. WightFibre will be happy to make this clear to the council’s scrutiny committee.

Further, WightFibre typically reinstates our work to a higher standard of repair than the original condition of the footway or roadway. WightFibre will also be happy to make this clear to the scrutiny committee.

If we do get approached by the Scrutiny Committee we will respond to them directly.”

As it stands the council has not yet heard the Island Roads side of this story, which may or may not paint a different picture. But 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, CityFibre and many others).

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 finish the work properly and hopefully any future council meeting will be able to confirm that this is taking place, or encourage a correction if it is not. We can probably expect to see a lot more articles, like the one above, as the UK full fibre rollout slowly starts to peak over the next couple of years.

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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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9 Responses
  1. GARY says:

    We want infrastructure upgrading but don’t want it to be visible or the construction to have any impact on our hum drum routine status quo.

    I’d like to see some evidence from MR Lilley of whole towns completely blocked up, or possibly he’s being a little creative, to be expected from a Green party i suppose.

  2. cheesemp says:

    As someone who lives just over the water from the island I’d very happily take some substantial disruption to get any form of modern connection in my town. I suspect it is a few people making most of noise (and almost certainly those who don’t need a connection for work). Councillors always seem to gravitate to this sort of noise so they can look like they can/are doing something visible.

    1. Lexx says:

      Probably 3-5 people who are on the local Parish Council (the type of people who want speed bumps on there road, but just to rid Lerner drivers)

  3. Yatta! says:

    Whenever there are infrastructure improvements, the conceited councillors conduct their fellow NIMBYs into a cackling cacophony of complaint.

  4. Aled says:

    See below link for local info. Seems to be particularly relevant to the town of Ryde. Tbh I just looked at Google Maps traffic live status and it does not seem particularly horrendous.

    https://www.iwradio.co.uk/news/isle-of-wight-news/wightfibre-hits-back-over-councillors-claims-of-chaos-roadworks/

    Reading between the lines, methinks there are probably 1-2 long diversions and traffic light delays. But one of the biggest moans is that locals were told the roads that were in crap condition (potholes etc) were going to be resurfaced imminently. Since WightFibre started rolling out fibre, the council delayed the road re-surfacing works by 2 years to save cash (technically a good idea, but understandably annoying).

  5. aled says:

    Ha, I might retract my last comment. Check out the current roadworks on this site https://www.islandecho.co.uk/traffic-travel/

    It looks like there are 5 decent size roads going into Ryde (only 1 appears to be open). Several are completely shut for 2-4 weeks.

    1. Paul says:

      One might be tempted to laugh at traffic jams on the Isle of Wight compared to M25 at Heathrow junction on a Friday evening…

      But closing 4 out of 5 roads seems pretty ridiculous in terms of planning. I hope people get 6 months free FTTP as compensation.

      Cheers for the update Aled.

  6. PW says:

    Unless the IoW operates completely differently from the rest of England, it is the council who approves permits allowing road works and would set the schedule, as they have to coordinate all utilities and operators. So might look ridiculous but suspect not all down to WF.

  7. Andrea says:

    Surely co-ordination of Roadworks is part council, part construction partners in conjunction with the proposed schedule of rollout of the company involved.
    Perhaps the island doesn’t have a robust system if it allows uncoordinated work to proceed.
    More likely though to be exaggerated perception of Roadworks interruption as people generally seem much less tolerant to the prospect of any delay faced.
    If you want Fast Broadband the chances are you have to put up with some minor and temporary disruption.
    I often wish it was more widely available in the village where I live.

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