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By: MarkJ - 3 January, 2011 (8:13 AM)
BT FTTC-FTTP UK superfast fibre optic broadband cablebt fttc uk superfast broadbandThe BT Retail UK Race to Infinity campaign, which sought to gauge how much demand existed for its new "super-fast" ( FTTC / FTTP ) broadband products, has today announced the winning five six communities (telephone exchanges). Each will receive an early upgrade (before 2012) to its Next Generation Access (NGA) 40Mbps+ services.

The campaign originally set out to find just five communities where demand for super-fast broadband was highest, but because six areas all achieved extremely high levels of votes, BT has said all six will be among the first to enjoy its new broadband services.
Winning Six BT-Race to Infinity Communities (alphabetical order)
* Baschurch, Shropshire
* Blewbury, Oxfordshire
* Caxton, Cambridgeshire
* Innerleithen, Scottish Borders
* Madingley, Cambridgeshire
* Whitchurch, Hampshire
Much as we reported in late December (here), more than 360,000 votes have been cast right across the UK in the three-month long survey that finished on 31st December 2010.

Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT Retail, said:

"The Race to Infinity really captured people’s imagination. We’ve been so impressed by the passion and commitment of the people who signed-up to campaign for their areas up and down the country. They’ve done a brilliant job and we’d like to thank them for their time and dedication and of course all the thousands of people all over the UK who have voted.

Congratulations to the winners and commiserations to those who haven’t been successful, but all their efforts haven’t been in vain because their votes will help influence our plans in the future."

BT originally pledged to engage with any area not winning the competition where at least 75% of homes and businesses had voted (minimum of 1,000 votes) for super-fast broadband, yet at the last count only 8 telephone exchanges mentioned above had reached that point (this includes the above 6).
Additional Exchanges in BT's 75% Bracket
* Marton (Warwicks)
* Capel (Surrey)
Overall some 23 communities managed to rack up more than 1,000 votes. However there has been considerable concern over the potential for voting abuse, with BT's system appearing to allow an individual to cast votes for other addresses in their area.

Indeed the winning 6 communities all managed to receive an almost implausibly high 100% response from all homes and businesses. Blewbury also racked up just over 100%, although some of these areas have been running very active campaigns. Several local residents of the associated communities have complained to us that this cannot be correct because many of their neighbours had no knowledge to the campaign.

A BT Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk (response to an open letter of concern):

"BT Retail has used industry recognised, publicly available data to set exchange size and has completed a number of audits of the votes cast (especially during December as the Race was drawing to a close) in order to remove any votes that it believes to be either invalid and fraudulent.

BT Retail’s Race to Infinity team has been in regular communication with campaigners to ensure they were kept informed of any voting irregularities. In summary, whilst we recognise that there are inherent difficulties in identifying individual premises in exchange areas, we do not believe there is any systemic distortion in the Race to Infinity results and we believe the relative ranking of exchanges in the Race is sound.

The fact that a few exchanges have achieved a voting penetration of > 100% reflects some of these inherent data issues but moreover, the fantastic efforts put in by many campaigners."

As it stands BT looks set to continue, despite the concerns, by upgrading the associated six communities with superfast broadband by 2012. This will be conducted under BTOpenreach's Exchange Nomination Scheme, which other UK ISPs are also taking part in.

BT is currently investing £2.5 billion to deliver its 40-110Mbps FTTC and FTTP ( FTTH ) based broadband internet access services to 66% of UK homes by 2015. It's also promising to match government investment in rural areas, which could see that figure rise even further. The vast majority will only receive its 40Mbps FTTC broadband service, with just 2.5m premises gaining the true fibre optic 100Mbps FTTP product.

UPDATE 1:05pm

BT has just informed us that they are considering expanding the exchange upgrades from 6 to 10 due to the high level of feedback. Further details here.
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