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Homes in Cartmel Fell Still Without Broadband After 6 Weeks

Friday, January 7th, 2022 (4:34 am) - Score 3,024

Some homes in the remote rural hamlet of Cartel Fell, which sits in the South Lakeland district of Cumbria (England), have been left without access to a working fixed line broadband ISP or phone service for six long weeks. The problems began after Openreach’s local telecoms infrastructure was significantly damaged by Storm Arwen.

Exact details of the original situation are unclear, although Openreach has confirmed that they still have 12 telegraph poles that need replacing, and that’s after the “huge amount of work” that is said to have already taken place to help reconnect the community. The area is known to have suffered from a variety of major faults, which has made it particularly difficult and complex to repair.

The operator has been able to setup a temporary network to connect some homes, but this is not viable for all of the remaining properties. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the West Morland Gazette reports that local residents have been somewhat less than pleased with Openreach’s response.

The situation will no doubt also fuel complaints about the use of exposed telegraph poles to deliver vital telecoms services. But the high cost of service delivery often restricts what commercial operators can do in such small and sparse communities.

A Spokesperson for Openreach said:

“Following the unprecedented damage caused by Storm Arwen we’re still dealing with a small number of issues in this area but our engineers are working hard and have made good progress.

Wherever possible, we install a temporary network to get people re-connected while we complete the permanent repair, but this is not always possible.

A huge amount of work has already taken place, but there are still 12 new telegraph poles that need to be installed.

We’re hoping to get this work completed as quickly as possible and we’re in touch with communities directly to keep them updated on the latest progress.”

We should point out that Cartmel Fell has separately been working toward getting B4RN’s community built Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network extended into the area (here), although it’s unclear how much progress has been made. But they do sit just a short distance from the edge of B4RN’s live network, although it may take a fair bit of extra funding to tackle, and that won’t be easy for such a sparse hamlet.

In the meantime, locals remain dependent upon Openreach’s local infrastructure for their fixed line connectivity needs. We should add that any locals connected via ISPs that support Ofcom’s automatic compensation system (here) should be in line for quite a nice payout, which might help to soften the blow. Under this scheme, supporting ISPs must pay out £8.06 per day for delayed repairs.

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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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24 Responses
  1. Optimist says:

    Unless B4RN puts everything underground, then presumably its lines would be as vulnerable to storm damage as Openreach lines are. A wireless solution (FWA or satellite) with battery backup to cover power outages, might well be better long-term for this community.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      B4RN tends to do soft dig through fields, provided the local landowners agree to a free wayleave, and uses volunteers from the community where possible. So they have a more social than commercial approach to build, which can work better in remote rural areas where all the pieces fall into place.

    2. Barry Forde says:

      B4RN does put everything underground and does NOT use poles.

    3. Optimist says:

      Mark / Barry: Thanks for the info. Just shows how substandard BTOR’s service is!

    4. FibreFred says:

      A few properties not having access doesn’t make the service as a whole substandard. Its a rare event and it’s built on infrastructure that has been around for years and designed to provide voice.

      Are you suggesting openreach switch to ground feeding all properties because a few people have been cut off 😀

    5. Barry Forde says:

      @fibrefred – Unfortunately its not a few properties with occasional problems. In true rural areas like Cartmel Fell many of them will experience frequent problems which usually take days if not weeks to fix. In urban areas the cables are mainly ducted with only the last span or two from poles. In the rural areas the cables tend to be unducted and have sections many miles long all hung from poles and vulnerable. If OR were sensible they would work with community groups like B4RN who can build high quality networks much more cheaply than OR can and hence reduce their maintenance costs.
      Go talk to any community like Cartmel Fell and you will hear horror story after horror story of long outages and flaky connections which OR find very difficult to fix. Often the whole section from exchange to customer uses old copper (sometimes aluminum) with many junction boxes with oxidised IDC connections. Without replacing the whole run its difficult to make permanent repairs. OR does not want to take on board that sort of cost so it doesnt.

    6. FibreFred says:

      Thanks Barry. These areas sound unviable for BT then. As you say better served by a local community project

    7. MikeP says:

      Just to echo what Barry says re: rural overhead copper. Water ingress is a 6-month to annual event on our copper line. And ofc if there’s a couple of days of dry weather before OR start fault-finding, they won’t locate it.
      Last time, it turned out one of the pole-mounted connection boxes (there must be 20-30 to the exchange) had been positioned upside down….

    8. GaryH says:

      Well Barry hits the nail on the head same story with the lines around us, they leak repairs where the shallow dig OR cables get damaged by vehicles on the verges or ditch clearing, connector blocks wrapped in plastic bags in flooded chambers and year on year the reliability and speeds dropped.

      And Fibre fred misses the point entirely saying they’re unviable for OR as the old copper network is falling apart. That doesn’t mean fibres not potentially viable there.

  2. Rob says:

    We cancelled our broadband in Cartmel Fell last year. Line length meant it didn’t work properly anyway. Landline service is terrible too, breaks every couple of months. Went to a local WISP (Kencomp) and get good speeds.

  3. Ex Telecom Engineer says:

    I’ve had a look at Cartmel Fell on Google Maps, and the area consists of very few properties, all spread out. It has a Church, but I wouldn’t class it as a typical village, with a Village Green and a cluster of properties. It’s basically a road with a properties sparsley spread out, with some seperated by woodland, and some set off from the main road. I don’t see how any company other than Openreach would be interested in Fibering out somewhere so isolated and spread out.As a previous poster mentioned, Wireless might be an option, if line of sight isn’t an issue due to tree’s, terrain, and Frequencies used by the provider.

    1. Jonathan says:

      It’s what I would describe as being actually rural as opposed to someone who lives in walking distance (aka ~ 1 mile) of a large Sainsburys supermarket in Kent thinks is rural.

    2. GaryH says:

      Ex, took a look also after reading your comments, Cartmels housing spread looks pretty much like the my area and the entire north east of Scotland. The towns and villages stop abruptly with hundreds of miles of roads like this spiders webbing between.

      Not only aren’t we commercially viable but even the SGovs ‘R100′(R98) project didn’t want us.(Well not as any part of an actual managed rollout, we have had the kind offer of a £5000 voucher, though I’m not entirely sure what that’s supposed to buy considering even a FWA solution would require a massive infrastructure build to site a tower where it could service a high enough number of properties to make one viable.

      If 5k per property passed isn’t enough, the future for anything other than 4G/LEO doesn’t look good

    3. Hungry Dog says:

      Obviously economically not feasible for an UG fibre service.

      However where tree cover and line of sight is not an issue there are viable solutions from the new generation of LEO satellite networks such as Starlink and the forthcoming services via OneWeb.

      Alternatively gigabit class WISP would be an ideal candidate.

      Off-grid ‘island’ renewable power may also be something worth considering if the power distribution network is suffering from consistent outages.

    4. barry forde says:

      The area round there is typical B4RN country, nothing unusual, and they manage to make it workout financially. The secret sauce is a mix of community activism, vouchers, topups and takeup. Typical dig distances run out at about 200-250m per property, build costs around £10-£15/m, do the sums and thats about £3000 per property on average. The more community support the lower the cost. A good level of support etc. can make it work. Its not easy but the numbers can stack up and B4RN has around 10K connections so its not hypothetical!

  4. Mike Robinson says:

    Parts of Northumberland have the same problem no service as of the 7th Jan since the 26th Nov. B4RN are build ING in the Allen Valleys and these people live for the B4RN service. A really secure service all underground with the core route as ring main so if broken the service continues. Also the back all connects to both Manchester and Edinburgh , what’s not to like abouta full gig for £30/mnth

  5. The witcher says:

    Probably the sort of small, dispersed population that OR would rather do without. The sooner an alnet gets there, the better for everyone.

    1. Gary H says:

      The ALTs cant afford this type of deployment, the return simply isn’t there. These type of deployments are pretty much the worst, It’d be cheaper to connect a single more remote property than all these individual houses.

  6. Gary H says:

    Looking at ThinkBroadband maps , it doesn’t seem anyone in Cartmel Fell gives a hoot about broadband, not a single speed test for miles.

    Theres a chunk of OR FTTP postcodes immediately north of it mind you , Bowland bridge and Crosthwaite Green so someone decided that kind of area needed doing at some point

    1. Barry Forde says:

      I think you will find that the speed tests get done when the property gets upgraded to see what they are getting. Currently they are all on slow or very slow lines and they know it so not much incentive to do a speed test. I’m not in B4RN anymore so dont have access to current data but if my memory serves me correctly they had approaching a 50% sign up from the ~140 properties round Cartmel Fell so there clearly is interest.

  7. Just a thought says:

    If there’s so much to replace pity it’s not being done with fibre from exchange to a local node or cabinet with the option to go full FTTP at a later date. Even if they need to string a DC feed to the cabinet alongside the fibre it would appear better than re stringing miles of copper which will then need to be replaced with fibre in the future.

    1. barry forde says:

      You are right but I think OR wont recable with copper anyway but will wait till they can do an FTTP rollout. Unfortunately it could be a long wait for the folk out there.

  8. GaryH says:

    Everytime something rural comes up we have people suggesting fwa or Leo, as the ‘costs of fibre are too high to install’ while always ignoring the also massive cost of building fwa towers providing back haul and power and the ongoing running and maintenance liability. Same story for Leo, a massive cost in sattelite production rocket launches and power consumption and ongoing replacement due to the short lifespan of Leo Sat’s. Fibre deployment isn’t all about giving people speed.

    1. Gordon Hughes says:

      It is simply not the case that there is a “massive cost of building fwa towers” or operating them either. Any competent community WISP can build a new tower for between £2K and £5K depending on site features and reliability required. Solar panels, perhaps with a small wind turbine, avoid the need for power cables. Backhaul is easy in an area with FTTP within 5-10 miles. The whole setup can work with 10-20 paying customers provided that there is community involvement – no wayleaves or site rental. All of this is similar to B4RN but on a much smaller scale and in more rural areas. We (Borders Online) serve many areas in precisely this way.

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