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By: MarkJ - 27 October, 2010 (12:23 PM)
fibrecity dundee uk broadband logoThe i3 Group's Fibrecity project, which aims to offer "super-fast" 100Mbps Fibre-to-the-Home ( FTTH ) based fibre optic broadband ISP services to 68,000 homes in the city of Dundee (Scotland), appears to have stalled due to a sudden restructuring by i3 that has placed 150 jobs at risk.

The Courier newspaper reports that 52 contractor staff at Fujitsu, which is responsible for the roll-out of fibre optic cable in Dundee, have already been given their marching orders and more could follow. Staff were reportedly given just 7 days notice to clean up their sites in the Coldside area of the city, while i3 Group's office in the city also appears to have been closed.

An i3 spokesman said:

"Work on the project has been delayed slightly while the group's UK operation is restructured to bring it in line with the company's overseas subsidiaries. We expect this to take up to four weeks.

While we regret the confusion that this has caused in the marketplace, this restructuring will increase the efficiency of the organisation and place it in an even stronger position to use its innovative technologies and methodologies to deploy Britain's largest fibre-to-the-home network."

Local MP Jim McGovern has been told much the same but noted that the i3 Group did not raise the issue in a recent meeting. This suggests that the move might not have been planned in advanced and many are concerned that it could signal more problems for the future.

During August the i3 Group's more advanced project in Bournemouth was forced to scale back its ambitions after admitting that it had failed to reach an agreement for the use of Wessex Water's underground sewers (here and here). This had previously been a primary goal and made FTTH much more economically viable.

Instead they were forced to lay cable the expensive and old fashioned way, by digging up roads, pavements and causing annoyance for the locals who became unhappy with the contractors quality of work. At the time i3 claimed that the same problems would not affect Dundee, where it already had a deal with Scottish Water in place.

More ominously Scottish Water is now said to be seeking talks with the i3 Group, which isn't language you'd use in a positive working relationship. By contrast Wessex Water chose not to proceed with the project because of technical and business-related grounds. Whatever happens, we'll know in four weeks time.
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