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Ewhurst and Surrey Hills community express concerns over BT fibre plans
Sunday 27 March 2011 03:21:08 by Sebastien Lahtinen

Broadband campaigners in Ewhurt and Surrey Hills are angry at what appears to be a change to a funding decision by the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) to help enable the area for high speed broadband. At present, many residents get sub-2Mbps speeds, with long lines in Surrey Hills being worst affected.

In a letter dated 1 March 2010 sent to the campaigners, Openreach said that "there are no plans for any investment in the network in the area centred around the village of Ewhurst" although at the time it did indicate its intention to bid for the funding which was expected to be raised from the '50 pence a month' levy on copper phone lines, a policy of the previous government which has since been rescinded.

The group worked with Vtesse Networks to put together a proposal which would enable the area to receive super-fast broadband with £150,000 funding by SEEDA. However, the group alleges that a short time before the contract was due to be signed in February 2011, SEEDA pulled back suggesting that an announcement was expected in the next few days which may affect the outcome. Several members of the group believe that BT will this week be announcing that infrastructure in Ewhurst will be upgraded support to fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC).

"In theory, this is good news for both Cranleigh and Ewhurst because public money need not be spent on the project. However, BT has a history of saying that it will upgrade areas as soon as local groups show signs of doing the work themselves, thus blocking projects - and then BT not doing or postponing the work.

A particular challenge for Ewhurst results from the long lines from the cabinet to the homes of those living in the Surrey Hills, which BT acknowledge are of poor broadband quality. They will experience an extremely slow broadband speed even with FTTC. To meet this challenge, the Ewhurst group wanted to use the promised enabling grant for a fully flexible enhanced solution from its chosen contractor, Vtesse Networks Limited to achieve its aims. These include techniques to improve the very poor lines and the installation of some fibre to the premises. By contrast, the BT cabinets will have no such facilities, thus condemning the outlying homes irrevocably to exclusion for generations to come.

Should the grant not be forthcoming to Ewhurst then Surrey must be obliged to ensure that BT provide a full facility universal service throughout the Ewhurst area within a reasonable time-scale and without the slippages that have occurred in other areas such as Haslemere and Brookwood."

Spokesman for Ewhurst and Surrey Hills Broadband

"We will not be going down this route again. I have wasted a lot of time and effort on this, and if all that happens is BT pops up at the last moment, then there is no upside, and I have better things to do. The losers, are, I am afraid, the residents, but there is not much I can do about it."

Aidan Paul, CEO, Vtesse Networks

This is not the first time that alternative broadband infrastructure providers have expressed concerns about BT's 'change of mind' once they have either gathered sufficient support from the community to begin rolling out a network, or soon after they start doing so.

A BT spokesman said they are expecting to announce further FTTC rollout soon, but could not comment on any specific exchanges at this time.


Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
yeah this happened with adsl also, nasty practice from BT, it seems one way to get BT to spend is to get an alternative plan in place and they will suddenly find your exchange viable.
Posted by billyliar over 6 years ago
Nothing new here.... standard BT modus operandi.
Shame for the people of Ewhurst and Surrey Hills... you were going to get great and now you are going to wait ages for crap.....
Posted by russianmonkey over 6 years ago
Shock, BT finds people want superfast broadband... if OpenReach do put the village on the rollout, are we going to scream conspiracy? It's a VILLAGE, it's probably tiny where the RoI is miniscule. Why should they do that when they can roll out to an area where there's no virgin service and a massive footprint of users...
Posted by cyberdoyle over 6 years ago
openreach will do it simply to stop vtesse and ewhurst proving they can do it better. openreach do not want people on fibre. they want them tied to obsolete copper phone lines. they will do anything to stop innovative projects and protect their cabal.
BT did the same in Lancs. City council had a great project to be funded by RDPE. BT told the county council they would match fund and do it better than us. The council cell for it, so now we get copper cabinets, and the outlying people stay on dial up. Just like ewhurst.
Posted by otester over 6 years ago
Really this isn't BT but the government as usual at fault.
Posted by TaRkADaHl over 6 years ago
"they want them tied to obsolete copper phone lines. they will do anything to stop innovative projects and protect their cabal."

Cyberdoyle yet further proves how uneducated she actually is. Either grow up or do us a favour and keep quiet.
Posted by mervl over 6 years ago
It's the inevitable result of this country's obsession with "competition" to the exclusion of everything else. It's why successive governments rant furiously about supporting "local" business and do nothing about it. Short term gain for long term pain: the result is waste, a distorted "market" as competitors withdraw out of frustration, and infrastructure which is a national disgrace. Sadly nothing will change. Think about the £150K notional "saving"; and that BT's our national chanmpion on the international stage, ha ha!
Posted by New_Londoner over 6 years ago
AS a tax payer, if this avoids the need for public funding then I don't see any problem whatsoever. SUrely public funding should only be on offer if there is no chance that the private sector will provide a service?

And the villagers will be getting better connectivity with a wide range of service provider options. Not sure that would have been the case had the SEEDA project gone ahead?
Posted by ian72 over 6 years ago
The biggest issue I see here is that it costs companies a lot of money to design an infrastructure and access the government funding. If they keep doing all the work and then not getting the job because BT come in as the last minute hero then those companies won't bother bidding for the work any more.
Then the only company that will get any gov money will be BT as they are the only ones left to absorb the up front costs.
Posted by ian72 over 6 years ago
cont. BTs solution may be the best from a wholesale perspective but if they decide in future they don't want to go into an area even with gov funding then no-one else will want to do it just in case BT come in later and waste all their time, effort and costs.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago

"openreach will do it simply to stop vtesse and ewhurst proving they can do it better. openreach do not want people on fibre. they want them tied to obsolete copper phone lines"

Total rubbish, as usual
Posted by mabibby over 6 years ago
I do sympathise with the situation, although just a comment regarding Aiden Paul's comments. Rather bitter and unprofessional if you ask me.

It reads more like an internal communication.

Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
Question really is whether BT is abusing market position, or just doing what any other commercial operator in an area would try and do.

If the latter, then how does one stop it happening, without creating lots of mini monopoly areas for the smaller teleco's?

UK comms market is centered on competition, do we need to reverse this?

Posted by mabibby over 6 years ago

My view is that to try and regulate a private ownership of any utility is difficult.

Ideally Telecoms should be made a public service and therefore have dedicated funds pumped into it to ensure the country is provided a service not just by profitability.

Broadband/Telecoms is a key utility that could make or break the economy of the country, and the government continues to leave it to the corporates to pick and choose what they do.

It's all very so wrong.

Posted by Rocklett over 6 years ago
A reasonable idea would seem to be to have OFCOM force BT to provide a list of exchanges where they WON'T be providing superfast broadband. BT currently say they will provide superfast broadband to 66% of the UK, OK define the remaining 34%, those communities can then make plans.
Posted by musical_uk over 6 years ago
I know this area of Surrey very well. It is very wealthy indeed. These people paid a premium to live in the green belt and resist any attempt at any new development in their rural 'idyll'. Well, the 'rural idyll' includes includes 'rural' telecoms as well as frequently the non-availability of gas.

Why should the taxpayer pay for their broadband when we are already paying higher house prices to keep their 'idylls' pristine and we have aircraft carriers with no planes and are closing medical wards? Priceless.
Posted by musical_uk over 6 years ago
Let me add that, if they went ahead and financed this themselves, the cost would probably be less than their expenditure on conservatories or 'garden buildings'.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
While I don't doubt some very well to do people live in the area, not everyone will have an idyll such as you describe.

Posted by otester over 6 years ago
Wouldn't it be easier to just make rural areas not not profitable in the first place?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
ostester - if that were easy surely someone would have done it?

One way is to make people pay more based on precisely where they live, so those close to an exchange pay less than those further away. Encouraging people to cluster around facilities.
Posted by Matchstick over 6 years ago
Andrew, wasn't that effectively already being done with the Market 1 levy which seems to have resulted in no additional investment from BT in most of those exchanges.

We've already been paying more and getting less.
Posted by otester over 6 years ago

I was thinking more along the lines of allowing a monopoly as long as certain goals were met.

Then you also have removal of VOA etc.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
@matchstick was thinking more if on a rural exchange people were clustered onto one cabinet then any ftth/c rollout would be cheaper.

market 1/2/3 affects all users on an exchange equally, so you can be on the edge of an urban exchange and be a not spot.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
If a firm is allowed a local monopoly, what happens if another firm wanted just happened to install 4G/wireless that just happens covers the area? Are they stopped from doing that?

For Ewhurst, think wimax in Guildford/Dorking that just reaches out with decent speed to the Ewhurst area.

Would another monopoly be better than BT ten years down the road?

Posted by csimon over 6 years ago
@andrew "UK comms market is centered on competition, do we need to reverse this?"

Posted by otester over 6 years ago

I take back my previous comment.

BT should get full control back over there own assets. No more regulation and artificial competition.

Completely scrap the VOA tax.

Posted by musical_uk over 6 years ago

I accept that not everyone in the area will be extremely wealthy, but even three bedroom ex-council semis sell for £350,000 and many houses for one million pounds or more.

Broadband is now becoming a 'must-have' for home buyers or renters, and hence will add a great deal of value to already very valuable property. So, the owners should collectively be able to fund. Why should the state get involved at all? It is hardly an area of social deprivation - quite the reverse in fact.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
M1 exchanges are always going to be a problem. They are the dregs. The places where - for whatever reasons - it's difficult to get an adequate return on investment. In the worst cases it may even be difficult to operate an existing service at a profit.

Unfortunately Ofcom's attempt to control pricing doesn't seem to be helping. Traditionally they wanted to keep prices low to encourage take-up but I suspect for M1 exchanges what this actually means is 'not as high as companies would like'.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
People need to get away from the 'we pay more for less' mentality. It doesn't reflect the actual economics. People on M1 exchanges are hard to service. There is always going to be compromise - either you pay significantly more than M2/M3 or you get a significantly worse service.

You cannot ignore the basic economics, geography or demographics of the situation.

M1 exchanges might cost /more/ but they probably don't cost as much as they /should/. Ofcom won't let anyone charge enough to give you M2/M3 levels of service. If they did you would probably refuse to pay that anyway.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
Throwing the cat amongst the pigeons, how much would BB be if it had increased by the rate of inflation in the last ten years?

BB is about the only commodity that seems to be going down in price.

120 years ago, cheap gin for the masses, is bb the modern gin?

Posted by musical_uk over 6 years ago
The demand for 2M+ speeds is all about iPlayer. On demand, high-def television is becoming a 'must-have'. I wouldn't buy a house without decent broadband speeds or a TV without an Ethernet port and pretty soon neither will a granny in Dixons. With YouView, or whatever else arrives in its place, this situation will intensify.

Not sure in this case the £150K is providing gin for the masses here. More like iPlayer for the stockbroker belt...
Posted by craigbrass over 6 years ago
@Andrew: ISPs really are not needed any more. Previously, ISPs did a lot in the days of dialup but since broadband, they have been needed less and less. E-Mail is provided free by Google along with DNS. They even provide an office suite and web hosting. What more is there for an ISP to do? (Continued)
Posted by craigbrass over 6 years ago
(Continued) To fund building these networks from the private sector, possibly with a small percentage of Gov funding, the infrastructure owner needs to be also the retail provider. Obviously a guarantee of good service and pricing needs to happen. Community Interest Companies (CICs) are a way to do this ->
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
@craig:That's an interesting point you make. The only thing I use my ISP for really is the connection. Okay so I also choose to use their DNS service but I don't have to (and some of my fellow BEings would say I'd improve my experience by not doing, lol).

Maybe that's the leap we have to take. I'm just not sure how that works. You can look at electricity provision as an example except that price wars there first off resulted in capacity shortfalls and now arguably just aren't working anyway.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
So if we dispense with the ISP based model - where do we go next?
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
"BB is about the only commodity that seems to be going down in price."

How much lower can you go? £16.49 for PlusNet fibre, ok its got usage limits sure but still... 16 and a half notes!!!!
Posted by craigbrass over 6 years ago
@AndrueC: Well in terms of what NextGenUs do, they gather enough community support in an area and then deploy fibre or wireless with wireless being a stepping stone to fibre. At the point of a service being deployed, you take service directly with NGU cutting out the ISP. Service quality and price is ensured by it being a CIC.
Posted by rizla over 6 years ago
Nothing new here.

Way way back when ADSL was new and shiny BT told the residents of the Western Isles they would NEVER get ADSL. No ambiguity at all.

Residents started their own rollout of wireless BB, soon as they got funding - oh look BT rolled out ADSL even to places that are still uneconomical to this day.
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
andruec lol for a moment I thought you meant the M1 motorway, it travels near cities not been barely touched by BT FTTC yet. Its route goes through various BT wastelands so to speak.
Posted by RandomJointer over 6 years ago
Shocking that providers that are looking to receive tens of thousands of taxpayers hard earned pounds have a proposition that is so weak it can't withstand competition.
Posted by kijoma over 6 years ago
it is funny to read this old bulleting about Ewhurst when there is a high speed service available to Ewnhurst and the Surrey Hills. The Duke of Kent school, National Trust are all long term customers with 24Mbps+ . Local activists are doing their best to prevent its use though.
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