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Openreach Community Fibre Project About to Fail - beware dreadful customer service!

Noblettski

Member
We (Langford Budville Team Broadband) started a CFP with Openreach last June, submitting 110 addresses in our rural Somerset village on 1 August - having undertaken an extensive marketing campaign which involved leaflet drops, social media and setting up a dedicated website.

If anyone is considering going down a Community Fibre Project route with Openreach, please beware and read on!

We are on the brink of ours failing due to one very simple reason - dreadful and completely unacceptable customer care!

We now have 165 addresses, including 40 businesses who have pledged their interest - a healthy number inceed but not achieved lightly, or easily.

Sadly, however, our dealings with Openreach has been a litany of lack of response, consistent failure to answer our serious concerns and questions, a lack of clarity, honesty and mixed messages.

It is impossible to speak to anyone - our Rural Engagement Manager takes many weeks to get back to us despite countless emails and phone messages and we now find ourselves seriously up against the Gigabit Voucher application deadline of March 31.

Having gone to Openreach with our initial 110 addresses, they finally came back to us mid-October with indicative costs and an additional list of 257 addresses, many of which are not even in our parish - they just happen to connect to the same exchange in the next village. At one point further along the process, they gave us the total cabinet connections of 360. They told us that adding these additional properties, or as many as we can, would not increase costs (it did) and have basically ignored the fact that Gigaclear is about to go live in the Milverton outreaches area (the infrastructure for this was built during 2017/18 and then halted when their contract with Connecting Devon & Somerset was cancelled and any hope of reaching our village for the foreseeable future finished). Additionally, many addresses around Milverton can already get much higher speeds than our paltry 0.5-3Mbps and unreliable BT connections so are not likely to be interested in yet another FTTP choice.

We are at our wits end and have raised our issues with our MP, who has so far been helpful in chasing this up for us.

But, did you know that the only way to raise a formal complaint with Openreach is by going through your MP?! We found this out today and are still in disbelief. Yes you can complain via their Live Chat facility - but there is no dedicated CFP button to choose so you will get through to an agent who may put you in touch with yet someone else who doesn't know the history of your project nor has had any dealings with it. In other words, don't bother, you will get nowhere and will achieve nothing!

Our next step in all this would be to accept OR's final offer within 60 days; this came through on 7 January and indicates quite a high shortfall thanks to the additional addresses we were forced to include. But with all the outstanding questions and concerns still unresolved nor addressed, we are nowhere near being able to agree or sign a contract (aside from the fact that extra time and money commitment is needed beforehand to set up a Community Interest Company in order to do this). Nobody with sense would consider entering into any kind of commitment with a company who operates in such an unprofessional, haphazard and frustrating manner.

If we continue to get no response from our Rural Engagement Manager (as of today, 22 January, we're still waiting) to discuss where we might go from here, we will have no option other than to abandon our project after months of serious hard graft. Our villagers will be no closer to getting a decent and reliable broadband connection and all our efforts will have gone to waste.

Please don't undertake this route if you're hoping for a simple, easy fix. The process is opaque to say the least, very difficult, very time-consuming and may well fail at the final hurdle!
 
Last edited:

Peter S

Casual Member
We (Langford Budville Team Broadband) started a CFP with Openreach last June, submitting 110 addresses in our rural Somerset village on 1 August - having undertaken an extensive marketing campaign which involved leaflet drops, social media and setting up a dedicated website.

If anyone is considering going down a Community Fibre Project route with Openreach, please beware and read on!

We are on the brink of ours failing due to one very simple reason - dreadful and completely unacceptable customer care!

We now have 165 addresses, including 40 businesses who have pledged their interest - a healthy number inceed but not achieved lightly, or easily.

Sadly, however, our dealings with Openreach has been a litany of lack of response, consistent failure to answer our serious concerns and questions, a lack of clarity, honesty and mixed messages.

It is impossible to speak to anyone - our Rural Engagement Manager takes many weeks to get back to us despite countless emails and phone messages and we now find ourselves seriously up against the Gigabit Voucher application deadline of March 31.

Having gone to Openreach with our initial 110 addresses, they finally came back to us mid-October with indicative costs and an additional list of 257 addresses, many of which are not even in our parish - they just happen to connect to the same exchange in the next village. At one point further along the process, they gave us the total cabinet connections of 360. They told us that adding these additional properties, or as many as we can, would not increase costs (it did) and have basically ignored the fact that Gigaclear is about to go live in the Milverton outreaches area (the infrastructure for this was built during 2017/18 and then halted when their contract with Connecting Devon & Somerset was cancelled and any hope of reaching our village for the foreseeable future finished). Additionally, many addresses around Milverton can already get much higher speeds than our paltry 0.5-3Mbps and unreliable BT connections so are not likely to be interested in yet another FTTP choice.

We are at our wits end and have raised our issues with our MP, who has so far been helpful in chasing this up for us.

But, did you know that the only way to raise a formal complaint with Openreach is by going through your MP?! We found this out today and are still in disbelief. Yes you can complain via their Live Chat facility - but there is no dedicated CFP button to choose so you will get through to an agent who may put you in touch with yet someone else who doesn't know the history of your project nor has had any dealings with it. In other words, don't bother, you will get nowhere and will achieve nothing!

Our next step in all this would be to accept OR's final offer within 60 days; this came through on 7 January and indicates quite a high shortfall thanks to the additional addresses were were forced to include. But with all the outstanding questions and concerns still unresolved nor addressed, we are nowhere near being able to agree or sign a contract (aside from the fact that extra time and money commitment is needed beforehand to set up a Community Interest Company in order to do this). Nobody with sense would consider entering into any kind of commitment with a company who operates in such an unprofessional, haphazard and frustrating manner.

If we continue to get no response from our Rural Engagement Manager (as of today, 22 January, we're still waiting) to discuss where we might go from here, we will have no option other than to abandon our project after months of serious hard graft. Our villagers will be no closer to getting a decent and reliable broadband connection and all our efforts will have gone to waste.

Please don't undertake this route if you're hoping for a simple, easy fix. The process is opaque to say the least, very difficult, very timely and may well fail at the final hurdle!
We are also in discussions with Openreach regarding a CFP and have found response times to be dreadful. I have formed the view that Openreach have no interest in committing resources to rural builds at the moment, preferring to prioritise urban FTTP rollouts where they are facing stiff competition from the likes of Cityfibre.

I believe Openreach have recently introduced a new pricing strategy for rural builds and are choosing to “no bid“ some large local authority contracts covering these areas.

On a positive note, It has been suggested to me that there may be some flexibility around the BDUK voucher cut off date of 31st March and that BDUK are planning to launch a new follow on voucher scheme which may offer more generous vouchers.
 

Meatball

Pro Member
Peter S is I think correct.

Connecting Devon & Somerset state on their web site that they are awaiting the "New Procurement" which is the DCMS Out In initiative that will start to be tendered this year. Other LA initiatives are likely to follow the same route as it makes funding easier and with wider scale hopefully cheaper (for them).

The FTTP rollout landscape is changing drastically now and it is clear from the OR and City Fibre announcements which parts of the UK they are likely to focus on.

This will inevitably will place pressure on the CFP as not only is it likely to be a finite resource in itself but it may not simply be a question of getting the supporting vouchers and customer sign-offs. There is a significant commercial investment in equipment and allocation of resource by OR. Each plan probably goes on a business case route and will be reviewed by individuals that are party to the rollout plans, the potential Out/In targets or other engineering priorities (e.g centralisation). Any decisions are unlikely to be detailed or explained.

There is a lot of uncertainty for the Industry going forward and OR will seek to maximise every investment.

OR CFP is more likely to be successful where there is significant OR FTTP activity in the nearby towns and are not likely to be where Cityfibre are.

Although there are FTTP roll-out locations where there is Cityfibre, OR and VM (already) like Worthing elsewhere it appears OR are avoiding Cityfibre where VM are also present.

My personal view is that if there are Vouchers going then engagement of a smaller Network/ISP may be better in the current climate.
 

Noblettski

Member
Thank you. We suspect you’re both right. But would things not be so much easier if this was either explained or obvious from the beginning?

Airband have been awarded the CDS contract for our area just before Christmas but are not able to tell us if & when we might be within their plans, so that is the next option. We were hoping to avoid having to wait yet several more years!
 

Meatball

Pro Member
Well that's probably the answer then. OR may be reviewing their position regarding the CFP within their internal wheels. With significant FF activity in Tiverton and Taunton OR may return in later phases.

Airband appear to be proposing full fibre so that's good. The only down side is "The plan and build for the wholesale network will commence in early 2021 and is projected to finish at the end of 2024" and as its CDS it only targets those with no "Superfast" therefore it is premise specific.

I don't know whether this would blight voucher applications in the covered post codes.
 

Peter S

Casual Member
Thank you. We suspect you’re both right. But would things not be so much easier if this was either explained or obvious from the beginning?

Airband have been awarded the CDS contract for our area just before Christmas but are not able to tell us if & when we might be within their plans, so that is the next option. We were hoping to avoid having to wait yet several more years!
Well that's probably the answer then. OR may be reviewing their position regarding the CFP within their internal wheels. With significant FF activity in Tiverton and Taunton OR may return in later phases.

Airband appear to be proposing full fibre so that's good. The only down side is "The plan and build for the wholesale network will commence in early 2021 and is projected to finish at the end of 2024" and as its CDS it only targets those with no "Superfast" therefore it is premise specific.

I don't know whether this would blight voucher applications in the covered post codes.
Thank you. We suspect you’re both right. But would things not be so much easier if this was either explained or obvious from the beginning?

Airband have been awarded the CDS contract for our area just before Christmas but are not able to tell us if & when we might be within their plans, so that is the next option. We were hoping to avoid having to wait yet several more years!
Interestingly we are in a similar position to you as Airband have recently been awarded the local authority contract in our area ( Cheshire).

We are concerned that Airband doesn’t appear to currently have any wholesale agreements in place that could provide us with an alternative choice of ISP If prices rise or service is poor.

According to their website prices start at £38 p/m for a 40 mb service, which is considerably more expensive than similar packages Sky or BT offer over Openreach’s network.

We are hoping that their involvement in our locality won’t impact our plans for an Openreach based solution.
 

Meatball

Pro Member
That's an issue Ofcom appear to be currently ignoring. Localised monopolies whether Government sponsored initiatives or New Build.

But Airband do use the term "wholesale" and many ISPs will be actively seeking agreements.

It will be harder for larger providers such as Sky unless the network provider has an economic level of presence. Some smaller ISPs have Sky reseller agreements particular on New Build (no individual aerials and dishes) but that doesn't apply to existing.
 

Flagrag

Member
The area that I live in started a CFP in September for 65 confirmed interested properties out of 110 houses.

We have been chasing Openreach for months to get the confirmed quote and they actually sent two engineers to do surveys, we finally got the quote this week and they have included all properties in the area and added in 25 commercial properties as well which most already have dedicated Ethernet leased lines some at 10Gbps so they won’t switch to FTTP

The quote given we consider to be very high considering we know that we are only 233 metres from Aggregation node that we would be connected to this was confirmed by engineers during survey this has also already had the spline cabling done as also serves another housing area over the road from us that is currently being FTTP enabled as part of a commercial rollout.

They have quoted £43,000 contribution required and as we fall as part of a small town no rural vouchers available to us.

We cannot believe that it is going to cost them what they are quoting especially as they should exclude their commercial contribution it’s a 2016 build area with underground ducting that is very clear and I was told (off record ) needs 233metres of fibre from agg mode and 3 splitters as the ONTs and the fibre from splitters is paid for by ISPs

To us it seems that Openreach really are not interested in these CFPs unless they think they can stop an alt net jumping in before them especially as they claim once signed it may take 12 months to get built
 

Noblettski

Member
The area that I live in started a CFP in September for 65 confirmed interested properties out of 110 houses.

We have been chasing Openreach for months to get the confirmed quote and they actually sent two engineers to do surveys, we finally got the quote this week and they have included all properties in the area and added in 25 commercial properties as well which most already have dedicated Ethernet leased lines some at 10Gbps so they won’t switch to FTTP

The quote given we consider to be very high considering we know that we are only 233 metres from Aggregation node that we would be connected to this was confirmed by engineers during survey this has also already had the spline cabling done as also serves another housing area over the road from us that is currently being FTTP enabled as part of a commercial rollout.

They have quoted £43,000 contribution required and as we fall as part of a small town no rural vouchers available to us.

We cannot believe that it is going to cost them what they are quoting especially as they should exclude their commercial contribution it’s a 2016 build area with underground ducting that is very clear and I was told (off record ) needs 233metres of fibre from agg mode and 3 splitters as the ONTs and the fibre from splitters is paid for by ISPs

To us it seems that Openreach really are not interested in these CFPs unless they think they can stop an alt net jumping in before them especially as they claim once signed it may take 12 months to get built
We have also been quoted around £45k contribution (after vouchers) and so has our sister (smaller) CFP just down the road. Makes you wonder if that's just luck or deliberate, to put people off persuing it. Or, like you say is a ploy to keep competitors at bay.
 

ChrisOwen

Member
Thanks for the warning. We (Farnham Royal, Bucks) originally got our MP to complain about our 2mbps service but OR just said no, ...'commercial decision',... no reason given.
Likewise we made a USO request, and BT said we should all (500 of us) get their 4g routers in an area of bad reception. We tried complaining to Ofcom, but they won't deal with individual complaints
Now they are suggesting applying for the CFP, which fills us with dread after reading your story. We applied one month ago, but received nothing so far. I can't understand why we should be doing all this work when they should be doing it. As you said, this is just a ploy to delay and keep competitors away.
 

Meatball

Pro Member
@ChrisOwen.
Things are changing all the time. You are very close to the current OR Fibre First activity https://api.superfastmaps.co.uk/fibrecities/1.0/?city=Slough and CityFibre appear to have started rollout in October.

You may also be covered by the Large Procurement Area to the north of Slough which may be tendered this year. Both companies would have an interest.

Either way a CFP would flush out the timescales as it is unlikely vouchers will apply if either initiative is likely to cover you.
 

CharmingCent

Casual Member
Our CFP experience is quite similar. Weeks go by without a response from our contact. Even then, only one of several questions is addressed.
 

Peter S

Casual Member
With the 19th Feb being the cut off date for BDUK voucher applications under the current RGC scheme, i was wondering whether Openreach have managed to address some of the delays you have been experiencing ?

Has anyone heard whether BDUK voucher funding under the follow on scheme (which is due to launch in April), could be more generous ?
 

Peter S

Casual Member
It's expected to receive over £250m:

Thanks Mark, but for those of us in places like Cheshire who don’t get Local Authority top up’s, I was more interested in hearing whether the value of the individual vouchers may be more generous, rather than the overall funding package.
 

SlimJ

Casual Member
It's expected to receive over £250m:


But critically, less areas are covered (Area 2/3), so this should ensure there is more funding available for those postcodes in Area 3.

Someone over on Think Broadband had an email sharing the Ofcom Postcode Areas, I've attached this below FYI.
 

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  • Ofcom postcode areas.txt
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Peter S

Casual Member
But critically, less areas are covered (Area 2/3), so this should ensure there is more funding available for those postcodes in Area 3.

Someone over on Think Broadband had an email sharing the Ofcom Postcode Areas, I've attached this below FYI.
Thank you, at least for those of us in area 3, we have the option of waiting to see if the new BDUK vouchers are more favourable. You would hope they are as this would help to address the post code lottery that is local authority top up funding.
 

tikka69

Member
Same here for me, have a CFP in progress with 720+ properties in scope and have been waiting now since December for the DCMS approval to come through for the vouchers before the demand-led scheme can start. Luckily we do fall into Area 3 so will still be eligable but all a bit of an unknown at the minute !
 

countryside

Member
We are in month 15 of our CFP with OR. No sign of an end date and emails go unanswered and those few that are answered often ignore our questions.

Take the 12 months with a pinch of salt, I doubt this project will ever finish.

Tempted to sign up to Starlinks service that Elon Musk has launched now in the UK but the 89 pounds a month is quite steep, plus there’s an outlay of 420 pounds for the equipment and dish, but I feel it may be our only option in the foreseeable future.

Really terrible customer service from OR. Wouldn’t do it again if I could go back in time I would try and find another party for the CFP.
 

SlimJ

Casual Member
We are in month 15 of our CFP with OR. No sign of an end date and emails go unanswered and those few that are answered often ignore our questions.

Take the 12 months with a pinch of salt, I doubt this project will ever finish.

Tempted to sign up to Starlinks service that Elon Musk has launched now in the UK but the 89 pounds a month is quite steep, plus there’s an outlay of 420 pounds for the equipment and dish, but I feel it may be our only option in the foreseeable future.

Really terrible customer service from OR. Wouldn’t do it again if I could go back in time I would try and find another party for the CFP.
As per your other post..

When did you get the go ahead for the 'Delivery' stage? Have you prodded OR on Twitter - this seems to be a good approach for a response?

We moved to the 'Delivery' stage on 15th February, advised by our REM it would be a while before we saw any activity (ie, roadworks, cabling, etc) but to expect it to be completed within 10-12 months - it was demand led so no contract.

It is likely that the Pandemic will not be helping the situation - you have to appreciate that.
 
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