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Another British farce worthy of a comedy award
Monday 13 May 2013 11:22:05 by Andrew Ferguson

The signs that all was not well with the hyper-connected cities projects, which to date have been more of a political PR exercise than an actual attempt to improve things in cities seems to have ground to a halt.

There was the objections by Virgin Media and BT to the project in Birmingham, which was attempting to roll-out dark fibre in small parts of the city, and then the consultation on changes to the project and the final straw appears to be the EU is saying that a state aid investigation could take 7 to 18 months (part of a DCMS statement over on ISPreview.co.uk).

The result is that the money is now likely to be spent on things like blanket Wi-Fi coverage for sections of the cities and possibly a voucher scheme for businesses to allow them to use it to buy services from the commercial sector.

We have always wondered how the concept of state aid approval was going to work in the cities, where the level of competition is greatest, and this goes beyond the usual BT and Virgin Media as there are many other telecommunication providers who can offer fibre services in the cities.

If Virgin Media was not offering 100 Mbps cable broadband and BT had not invested heavily in FTTC (and announced FTTP on Demand - though it is unclear if anyone has successfully ordered this since its launch) then the case for spending in the cities would be the same as the final third of the UK.

Voucher schemes while slipping under the state aid radar due to their lower value, may be an attractive way to try and improve things, but having seen how some operators adjusted pricing to exploit the Welsh not-spot voucher scheme, we can expect more of the same.

If any politicians are reading this, can we suggest that the cities be allowed to do their showcase WiFi projects, but a good chunk of the funding be passed over to the Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF has just £20m of funding currently) to help stimulate the most rural broadband projects.

Comments

Posted by dandodex over 4 years ago
Right, I've mentioned this before, central London (EC1V), no VM, exchange only line around 4km to exchange, 5.5Mb ADSL, no plans for EO lines (not that a cabinet right by the exchange would help me much with 4km of cable to my house.

And you are proposing the money is given to RCBF? I have a few words in my mind that I shall not write down.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
dondodex - I can understand frustration but take a look at what some cities had planned and it was not about bringing speeds for the slow spots up to super fast levels, but about ultra fast for business.
Posted by ratty2012 over 4 years ago
@dandodex Are you sure you are on an EO line? That seems a bit too far from the exchange to be an EO line.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
EO lines can be any length from 100m to 10km

Posted by dandodex over 4 years ago
@ratty2012 EO lines are found mostly either very close to the exchange, or very far from the exchange in infilled newly developed areas. It's a common misconception to think that most EO lines are close to the exchange. I am 1.5Km from the exchange as the crow flies, but BT's copper in London goes around in circles
Posted by dandodex over 4 years ago
@andrew You are correct, reading the "London Super Connected Cities proposal (cg).pdf", for London the money is going to be spent in some WiFi in westminster's council estates and FTTP for the shoreditch/old street area, that's it

But come on, for any deity's sake, can't get much more central and developed in the UK, 5.5Mb and no plans for improvement? Surely central London shouldn't be any less deserving than an isolated farm in rural britain?
Posted by herdwick over 4 years ago
The incremental contribution to the economy from hooking up notspots may arguably be better than giving city centre residents more speed ?

I wonder if the mobile operators will make a State Aid complaint about loss of bandwidth revenue from wi-fi, or will they enjoy the relief of the extra capacity.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
@dandodex: You are right, EO lines can be very long and wide spread. Our town of nearly 10 000 is almost exclusively served by EO lines, with no plans whatsoever to introduce modern telecom services, neither for business nor for private premises. You should seriously consider moving elsewhere if you need better broadband. However, I must admit it is a bit of a postcode lottery, because finding out about the exact NGA broadband from BT is difficult.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
JNeuhoff is not part of your issue that the local authority has dipped out of the BDUK process too?
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
@andrew: As far as I know the local district was never applied for any public funding in the first place. They used to be a bit more cooperative a year ago in that they e-mailed a list a cabinet locations from a neighbouring town some 20 miles away, but now they don't answer our enquiries anymore about up-to-date lists of FTTC/FTTP locations. This makes moving to a new location more difficult.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
The local district council does not apply. The county council makes an overall application, and the district councils then usually add a bit of money. So have you checked at the County level too?
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
I know of Essex County Council who plans to have a BDUK contract awarded to a supplier later this summer. However, our local district council has no plans in this whatsoever, so that means our town will be in final 10 percent, without adequate broadband services. We sent 2 enquiries to the local district council during the last 2 weeks, no response from them. Hence our decision to move as soon as we can.
Posted by bosie over 4 years ago
Still nothing beyond ADSL in most of central London. I don't know where the money is being spent but it certainly isn't here.
Posted by Somerset over 4 years ago
@JNeuhoff - which is your town, is it Brightlingsea?

Some random checks:

CO7 0BP is served by Cabinet 8
CO7 0HG is served by Cabinet 5
CO7 0JF is served by Cabinet 1

So there must be at least 8 cabinets, is it just the centre with EOs? Essex website says that district is included for BDUK.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
Gotta agree here - it has to be a far better use of gov funds to reach further into the last 10%, including the EO lines untouched by BDUK.

How about a plan that commits to removing those lines with excessive lengths of copper? Either by swapping to fibre, or by deploying smaller active cabinets deeper in the network than the PCP. Might be a long-term plan though.

Another plan could be to set a rising USO. 2Mbps is pretty paltry in the current plans, but the "lucky" recipients of an upgrade to 2Mbps in 2015 shouldn't have to continually fight for an extra 1Mbps year after year.
Posted by Somerset over 4 years ago
Adding FTTC cabinets for EO lines is called 'network rearrangement' in D&S.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
@Somerset: I know about some cabinets out the outer fringes of the town. At least half the town is EO-lines. The local district counncil has no plans to my knowledge to participate in Essex BDUK project, at least they refuse to reply to any of our enquiries on this.

As regards FFTC cabinet for EO-lines: FTTP can be directly served from the exchange. In some cases VDSL can be served from the exchange, too, depending on crosstalk noise problems being solved.
Posted by dandodex over 4 years ago
Two questions:
1) Why is the BDUK funding for the whole of the UK except for London? Surely there are parts of London where it is not commercial to deploy superfast.
Posted by dandodex over 4 years ago
2) By the end of 2013 all BDUK projects will have started so anyone can check with their postcode/address if they will get the universal (10%) 2MBps or the superfast (90%) solution. By the end of 2013 EO lines in London (estimated at around 10%) won't yet have a plan. Why am I less deserving of information? How can I make a decission on moving/get a second line and bond them/satellite/leased line when I will not be provided with information?
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
@dandodex: Your question about moving hightlights an issue we are fascing too: It is nearly impossible to find proper coverage and/or availability information of telecom services for given addresses from BT, we tried that in the past, without much success.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
@JNeuhoff
I moved 250 miles, and found a property with an 80/20 fibre connection using the DSL checker alone, having mapped a large portion of the town I moved to. It isn't *that* impossible, and is even easier nowadays with the extra data from the checker.

For yourself, have you tried looking at the BDUK white/grey/black coverage maps from Essex County, rather than the local district council?
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
@dandodex
1)BDUK adjudged Greater London to be commercially viable, and I'm sure it would have been told by councils and by BT if there were areas that weren't viable.

2)Untrue. BDUK projects mostlt don't offer postcode lookups, so people still won't know. EO lines *may* have plans by end-2013, you're just guessing. If BT don't know what is going to happen, how can they give you information about what will happen? It doesn't make you undeserving, it just means BT don't have a crystal ball.
Posted by Somerset over 4 years ago
@JNeuhoff - your council is listed here - http://www.superfastessex.org/About.aspx
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
As far as I can see, that lists every council in Essex. Is there really a council that has opted out of BDUK?
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
@WWWombat: Our local district council persistently refuses to answer any enquiries about broadband fundings and availability, even though parts of some neighbouring towns already have and will have NGA broadband, so there must be some coverage information available somewhere. it is easy to spot green cabinet boxes, but there is no guarantee a nearby property will be connected to it.
Posted by Somerset over 4 years ago
@JNeuhoff - check here - https://www.btwholesale.com/includes/adsl/main.html
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
@Somerset - Thank you for the link. I still have to hunt down the estate agents to give me the postcodes of premises we are interested in, but other than that it should work for present broadband services.

Are there any places where you can find details about future planned fibre-services for certain streets/towns? Kind of coverage maps for cabinets?

Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
@JNeuhoff
Does your local council actively refuse to answer (ie they answer, and refuse to give you information) or do you mean that they just ignore you?

Perhaps you would do better to talk to the department that has something to do with the broadband rollout - which will be at county level.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
Here is my method for searching out FTTC performance in general, and specifically.

1) Use Royal Mail's postcode finder to find the postcodes for all the addresses in a street.

2) Use BTW's DSL checker (somerset's link) to check coverage at addresses in those postcodes (use address checker specifying just postcode, then select an address, rather than the less accurate postcode checker). This tells you speeds and identifies cabinets.

3) Use Google maps & streetview to seek out cabinets (near addresses with high speed predictions).
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
Near future plans may be visible in the DSL checker results.

Coming-soon plans can be sought from Openreach's email, but you probably want to ask about certain addresses when approaching them, not just vague areas.

BDUK plans will be best sought via county council. They'll have signed NDA for future operator plans in the open market review, but will have produced the black/white/grey maps to show where SFBB services are intended in the commercial rollout.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
Detailed BDUK plans will only become known perhaps 6 months after the contract is awarded. How easily you can access those plans depends on the county.

Surrey is the only BDUK project I know of so far that has their own checker for service plans. Other projects tell you at exchange level, but don't seem to go deeper than that.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
@WWWombat: Thank you for sharing your method for searching out FTTC performance.

Perhaps Thinkbroadband could create a page along these lines, because I can imagine that there are quite a few businesses and private households thinking about moving because of the poor telecom situation at their old premises.
Posted by lelboy over 4 years ago
It's a sad state of affairs, but unfortunately quite common, for local councils (and higher up the food chain)to "blank" legitimate requests for information.
I would ask them once more - by telephone - then advice them that you are making an FOI request (freedom of information): it's been my experience that councils often provide, minimally, what is required, then.
Posted by lelboy over 4 years ago
Ignore typos and bad spacing - toothache!
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