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Frustration with councils causes Maria Miller to write to them
Monday 29 July 2013 10:40:39 by Andrew Ferguson

The Culture Secretary Maria Miller has sent a letter to local councils to ask them to reveal more about their plans to the public and operators looking to potentially bid for work under the smaller RCBF scheme. The letter has been seen apparently by The Daily Telegraph and follows on from the complaints levelled at BT about them being too secret about their plans which was dismissed by BT who announced they had no objection to councils revealing the plans, and to some extent this appears to have been the case as some councils have published information on where and when upgrades will be taking place.

The Devon and Somerset project is the latest council to reveal its plans ahead of this letter, but apart from the slow loading page, the detail level is sparse, with the granularity only going down to the exchange level, when what the public needs is information about their individual property, or failing that their postcode.

The confusion amongst the councils becomes apparent when you see the exchange they had with someone asking about their area. It is a well known fact that Openreach only enables the cabinets on an exchange that it considers commercially viable, but the person responding on behalf of the council on twitter seems to suggest that as a cabinet is on an enabled exchange it will not fall under the projects remit due to EU state aid rules. The response contradicts the wording for the coverage map, where there is talk of the project providing coverage in some exchange areas that Openreach has already enabled some cabinets.

Openreach itself still has some way to go, as its own Where and When website can give people the false impression by only giving exchange level information. Our advice if they do not want to reveal the precise cabinet locations, would be to show a summary for the coverage levels on the exchange at least, e.g. 20 out of 28 cabinets enabled covering 65% of premises. Occasionally the Openreach site will show a flag for a specific cabinet if there are delays on enabling it.

Comments

Posted by New_Londoner about 1 year ago
I suspect the problem with showing the level of detail that people require (will I get service at this address, and when) is that there is a fair amount of uncertainty until detailed planning has been completed. And even then there is not 100% certainty until the work has actualy been done as there may be problems with buried services etc.

So I can see how you could get reasonably good data at an exchange level, not sure when you break it down to cabinets.
Posted by New_Londoner about 1 year ago
Of course practical considerations rarely trouble politicians of any hue when it comes down to it, but perhaps we get the politicians we deserve given we vote for them.
Posted by herdwick about 1 year ago
There's work to be done - perhaps a crowdsourced or TBB initiative to plug the gap. Northants has an interactive map which strays over the borders enough for me to see that it doesn't mark a village with no FTTC but on an enabled exchange as "grey". It does mark postcodes in a village on a commercial FTTC cab as NGA grey even though speeds will be <20M.

Unless Northants have specifically got hold of data to map neighbours I wonder if it's all in a BDUK database ?
Posted by mikejp about 1 year ago
Do we know if Miller actually asked the LAs to publish their SCTs when they are complete or was it a woolly "to reveal more about their plans to the public and operators looking to potentially bid for work under the smaller RCBF scheme."?

At some point, presumably, each LA will need to let each postcode know what its plans are for it, regardless of RCBF considerations?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
Was about areas covered, might be covered and won't be covered. So yes woolly enough to result in variation in information from the counties.

Firm guidance from BDUK would have avoided this issue.
Posted by JNeuhoff about 1 year ago
Since BT is receiving all the public BDUK money (as if they were a poor charity in need :) ), it should have then at the bare minimum published a complete list of all existing and future fibre cabinet locations. This could then be easily displayed on a Google Map. We did something similar for our local district. The visual representation on Google Maps already helps a lot when e.g. planning to relocate business.
Posted by herdwick about 1 year ago
The availability checkers etc will make it easy for end users to know what is available when it is actually available, and BT / LA publicity doesn't seem backward about coming forward.

Is the demand for forward looking information coming from users, or campaigners and competitors ?
Posted by New_Londoner about 1 year ago
@JNeuhoff
Its worth remembering that our taxes are not paying for the network, they are simply paying the difference between the economic and actual cost, with BT funding the economic cost. The reason for the subsidy is that no companies were planning to build fibre broadband in any of the areas served by BDUK - at least that's what the open market reviews concluded.

So we can't moan about the subsidy if we want coverage in these places can we?
Posted by jumpmum about 1 year ago
You have to remember that Openreach have already been 'told off' by the ASA for publishing info that is not realised, this has lead to a reluctance to publish anything until they are sure. The ruling has lead directly to this lack of information.
Posted by New_Londoner about 1 year ago
Fair point Jumpmum, I doubt councils will have any great wish to have ASA rulings against them.
Posted by gah789 about 1 year ago
That would be a very poor excuse. First, this is not advertising but the publication of information in an easily accessible location. Second, it is standard and trivial to preface the lists with statement that the plans are based on the best current information but they are not a commitment and may change in the light of further information and other circumstances.
Posted by gah789 about 1 year ago
The second principle is that if you accept public money, offered for the purpose of achieving a policy goal, then your right to claim commercial confidentiality is restricted. BT was not obliged to bid for BDUK contracts and, as a consequence, it cannot claim that its plans are commercially sensitive. In fact, I don't think that is its position. Rather it wishes to avoid the appearance of inconsistency when its plans change, as they are bound to.
Posted by New_Londoner about 1 year ago
@gah789
Whether you think this is advertising or not is moot, the ASA does and has ruled on it in the past. The comment was in relation to the councils though rather than BT, so your points regarding commercial sensitivity are not relevant, although the ASA ruling would apply to both.
Posted by fastman about 1 year ago
Gah most deployments will be minumum a three year period -- whay you might not be able to do today you may be able to do faster during the term of the contract -- evidence of that in cornwall - technology is advancing all the time greater coverage now than when 1st contracted
Posted by fastman about 1 year ago
jNeuhoff -- in response to your comment - i do jhope you have lobbied your on BDUK local authority to ensure that A you in thier intervention area or B your community will see some beneift from the project (based on the guidance issued by the LA)
Posted by JNeuhoff about 1 year ago
@fastman: No, we are not a free marketing agency for BT, BT is not a charity! It's easier to move our business elsewhere, as has already happened to others in our town.
Posted by New_Londoner about 1 year ago
@JNeuhoff
Odd comment - the county contracts have a finite value, its simply about trying to ensure you benefit from that investment. How do you equate that to free marketing?

Anyway, up to you if you decide to relocate instead. I'd resist doing that given the costs involved unless absolutely necessary, but each to his/her own.
Posted by JNeuhoff about 1 year ago
@New_Londoner: The decision was quite simple in our case. No fibre broadband, council not commited to ever providing it (despite the BDUK promises), EO lines only. Certain areas simply won't ever get proper telecom services. Campaigning and/or setting up an altnet is more expensive and time-consuming than moving. We are also looking into long-distance wireless links to bypass the town and local exchange altogether.
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