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Anger in Stocksfield as FACTCO’s 3 Year FTTP Broadband Build Drags On

Monday, Jan 8th, 2024 (9:17 am) - Score 1,080
Stocksfield-UK-Village-Google-Map-Overview

Three years have now passed since UK broadband ISP FACTCO confirmed that it would be deploying their new gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network across the small commuter village of Stocksfield in the south of Northumberland (England), but so far not a single property in the community has gone live.

At present, the best fixed line broadband connectivity available to the village comes via Openreach’s older Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2 / SOGEA) network. But locals had been hoping to gain access to gigabit speeds for the first time after FACTCO secured support from the Government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS) in January 2021 to deploy a full fibre network across the village.

NOTE: The wider ‘parish’ of Stocksfield also expands to cover the smaller communities of Branch End, New Ridley, Broomley, Hindley and the Painshawfield.

Since then there has been plenty of build activity, which one local described as being a “mess” of seemingly “endless” activity (Chronicle Live), and yet the deadlines for when the service is due to start going live keep shifting. Back in September 2022 we were told that they would “go live in 2022“, which obviously didn’t happen and neither did it happen in 2023.

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FACTCO acknowledges that their deployment has faced a “number of unexpected hurdles“, albeit without clarifying precisely what those were. But we do know that the project took a hit after they were affected by Project Gigabit’s wider suspension of its voucher scheme in the county. A lot of UK voucher projects by other operators have been impacted by similar suspensions, which formed part of an effort to update coverage maps to avoid wasting taxpayer’s money in areas that didn’t need it.

The operator’s most recent statement on the matter is similar to the one they gave ISPreview back in June 2023. This is except for the fact that the June statement said that their “efforts are currently focused on two major sectors, 1 and 4, which will allow connections for 725 premises shortly,” while the January 2024 one forecasts that “close to 700 premises will be ready for service imminently once the backhaul is connected.”

A Spokesperson for FACTCO said:

“In 2023, FACTCO made considerable progress in providing Stocksfield with full fibre broadband. Although it’s fair to say we’ve come across a number of unexpected hurdles, which have prolonged the build more than we wanted, we are currently forecasting that close to 700 premises will be ready for service imminently once the backhaul is connected.

Our largest network build to date has certainly not been without its challenges, however, we remain fully committed to delivering a state-of-the-art, full fibre network which will serve over 1,700 homes and businesses for generations to come.”

The Government’s Building Digital UK (BDUK) team said they were “aware of the delays” to FACTCO’s voucher rollout “in Stocksfield and the surrounding areas” and were working with them to “help resolve these issues“. The agency added that the ISP had also “submitted a change request to increase the voucher project scope which is subject to review … The supplier will only receive funding once connections are live and residents and businesses confirm that they have received and are content with the new service.”

In fairness, building a new FTTP broadband network, particularly for smaller and more rural communities, is often a very slow, disruptive and expensive process. Delays are not uncommon in such areas, although operators do need to have a good level of local communication in order to ensure that residents and businesses are kept fully informed about progress. Hopefully 2024 will be the year when Stocksfield finally goes live.

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Mark-Jackson
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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
7 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Obi says:

    Very much share their frustration as someone stuck on ADSL, despite landlord approval for fibre installation in 2021 (in my case Community Fibre). The government should introduce some form of accountability/ audit for these types of situations.

    1. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      If FACTCO and other altnets were more open about the specifics of the delays, then their potential customers could put pressure on elected representatives to unblock the problems?

      Three years of build activity and not a single property connected, not a single voucher cashed in can’t possibly work for either the intended customers or for the company. What have they been doing? What were the blockers? Who could have unblocked matters? Hiding behind “commercial confidentiality” doesn’t give people any confidence.

    2. Avatar photo John says:

      As much as it’s easy to rag on new companies, there are many cases in which the voucher funding is pulled from altnets, resulting in the rollout getting cancelled

      As for community fibre, there may be another blocker besides landlord, from high costs to low resident interest to simply missing the net. Maybe you could try customer service

    3. Avatar photo Obi says:

      I think greater transparency would go a long way, but would be unlikely that the government would introduce such regulation over fears the alters would be scared off.

      In my case, my MP raised an inquiry, CF sent me a letter saying installations would be underway soon, only for ISPReview to report rollouts have been paused.

  2. Avatar photo Cheesemp says:

    This seems to be a common problem with altnets. I saw Trooli kick off building in my area 2 years ago. Registered interest via email. Was told 9 months. 22 months later and they finally enabled part of my street but nothing for me – looks like they’ve decided to skip 3/4 of the street (even though cables are assessable from manhole at the end of my drive!). Similar story with giganet but only 18 months wait so far (and zero sign when they’ll do my street). VM/Nexfibre out of nowhere came and laid the entire street in a week but won’t go live until the whole area is ready – been told 3 months wait for that (lets hope they can estimate better than the altnets!). It’s all just one big waiting game…

  3. Avatar photo Jonathan says:

    Wierd outline for what you think is Stocksfield on that image. I am not sure the residents would agree with it. What is outlined is mainly the Painshawfield Estate which makes up a part of Stocksfield but is not separate from it.

    What you don’t mention is Openreach put Stocksfield on their commercial list after Factco made the announcement they where going to cover it but have done nothing. Wonder why they did that.

    In general the broadband in Painshawfield is fairly rubbish, to the point where there is some FTTPod which is unsurprising given the average house value on the estate. I would expect makeup to be decent if they actually get it working.

    It is a running joke with my sister whether Factco will get Stocksfield done for her before GoFibre get Tayport done. Been running for similar periods and still nothing in either case.

  4. Avatar photo Paul Willson says:

    You think that’s bad … they’ve been installing in Bolam County Durham since 2019 .. really poor performance and I’m not sure how they can really call themselves installers

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