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People of Orton, Moray to be told soothing words rather than truth
Monday 24 February 2014 16:03:08 by Andrew Ferguson

The reality of the original 2015 superfast coverage target of 90% of UK premises which is now a 2017 target of 95% of homes having the option of a superfast broadband connection is of little comfort to those on the smallest exchanges in the UK.

The people or Orton, Moray may have seen the first Scottish gap funded FTTC service going live in Buckie and be wondering when this will reach them. The Northern Scot talks to one resident of Orton and there will be a local meeting on Monday 24th people in the area where people will meet with the BT Scotland director and Stewart Robertson from the Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

We suspect this meeting will have some soothing words and talk of planning and uncertainty on exactly which areas will be enabled yet via the project, but looking at the area from a cold outside perspective, we must say that Orton looks very like it will be in the 5% of Scotland that still does not have superfast broadband by the end of 2017.

The Orton exchange is somewhere in the IV32 7QE postcode, and our estimate is that it serves just seven postcodes (IV32 7QG, IV32 7QF, IV32 7QQ, IV32 7QE, IV32 7QD, IV32 7QB, and IV32 7QH) with around 47 premises (locals suggest 71 broadband customers, so obviously our boundary for the exchange is missing some properties). Certainly the spread out nature of the premises means that FTTC is unsuited to the exchange, and the geographic spread would also make FTTP expensive.

The exchange last saw an upgrade in 2010 which was probably a transition from the old 0.5 Mbps only service to a rate adaptive up to 8 Mbps product, though the one speed test we have for the area still looks to be a 0.5 Mbps fixed speed service. It is possible a retail provider (BT in this case) has never upgraded the consumer to a Max product.

With the number of homes in Scotland around 2.37 million, a 95% target actually still leaves 118,500 homes without superfast broadband, hence why we suspect Orton is going to in that final 5%. If the fifty or properties were within a small cluster then we would hold out hope, but for now the only hope would look to be fixed wireless, 4G or satellite internet which should already be available.

Alternatively residents could adopt the DIY approach as a number of communities have done in the more rural parts of the UK where they have grown tired of promises that never seem to materialise.


Posted by PhilCoates over 3 years ago
The question on most rural dwellers lips is probably - 'If the BDUK project was set up with the SPECIFIC intention of improving BB availability in rural areas (1st paragraph of their website introduction), why are these areas not sorted first and the remaining cash used to best effect elsewhere afterwards? Its inevitable I guess with a single commercial partner.
Posted by themanstan over 3 years ago
BDUK was not set up specifically for rural, it was for the next 30% or so, which is urban, suburban and rural.
BDUK is responsible for "managing" the rural BB programme, with local authorities responsible for
other aspects.

Misquotes of this has resulted in all BDUK funds being for rural, which it isn't.
Posted by mikejp over 3 years ago
Phil was only pointing out the 'rhetoric' from the BDUK 'Mission Statement' - not a 'misquote' - NB - 'particular'?

QUOTE: This guidance covers plans to continue to improve the UK’s broadband network, with particular emphasis on making high-speed broadband available in rural communities.
Posted by PhilCoates over 3 years ago

mikejp has got it and corrected your misinterpretation of my statement.

This however 'Misquotes of this has resulted in ALL BDUK funds being for rural, which it isn't.' is presumably another piece of 'rhetoric'. In most if not all BDUK County Council projects, it is rural communities which are told 'not this time' - as evidenced by the article (and for that matter here in Staffordshire).
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
I think the trouble is that in peoples heads rural = farm land and solitary properties.

In DCMS world, rural is anything outside of a major city
Posted by 21again over 3 years ago
The problem for the rural areas with low populations and 20CN exchanges with no cabinets is that superfast BB via an exchange isn't going to happen. The other alternatives like wireless can't compete with ISPs using exchanges with regard to costs passed on to end users, too expensive.
As an OR guy said the fast can get faster but the slow stay slow.
Posted by mikejp over 3 years ago
The group in which I worked with my LA on the BDUK scheme were at pains to warn against raising 'expectations' too high. Unfortunately the politicians have been up on their back legs and doing just that for a few years now. The result is that the great 'unwashed' are mostly all expecting something many of them will not get. Yes, many will see speeds they could not have imagined 5 years ago. Yes I live in hope that all will see 'at least 2mb' although I foresee some fudges there.
Posted by mikejp over 3 years ago
They will not, however, in the main see any 'meteorites' from BT landing in their gardens as their kids stare wild-eyed into space.............
Posted by chilting over 3 years ago
It is clearly the case that FTTC is not viable in this area. Also the area looks to be a wooded valley, therefore, wireless is probably not an option for many of the properties. This just leaves satellite. Rather than prat around untill 2017 why not simply fund a small scheme to supply and fit a satellite dish and router for any of the locals who want the upgrade NOW.
Posted by brandscill over 3 years ago
Looking at O2, Vodafone, Three and EE the only providers with coverage are EE and Three and EE has the most coverage.

Sort of limits the options greatly. Virgin Mobile (uses EE) and EE/Orange/T-Mobile don't offer very generous data allowances and the Three Coverage might not work.

Be interesting to see some up to date speed tests from the area.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
Once BT finish commercial coverage (at 67%), the country will be approx 75% covered for SF speeds (after accounting for VM's areas that don't overlap).

Funds for BDUK-1 therefore only really account for 15% of the country: 75% -> 90%.

By Ofcom's definition of rural, 14% of the country are classified this way.

So, while politicians call BDUK "rural", the truth is that it isn't. It probably covers 11% of the country classed as semi-urban, plus 4% classed as rural, and leaves out 10% classed as rural.

BDUK-2, as-yet unplanned, will be the truly rural part.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
ONS has a definition for "built-up area" which accounts for 95% of the population, and seems a good way to visualize the way people cluster their houses into hamlets, villages, towns etc.

It seems likely that BDUK-1 and BDUK-2 combine to reach the 95% within these "built-up areas".

The smallest BUA?

It apparently has a population of 100, and you assume this maps (at the average household size) to 40 houses.

That gives you the kind of idea where BDUK-2 funding runs out.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
I keep pointing out that the BDUK project is not real rural, and the latest funding while in the rural areas still misses some 1.4 million properties.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
I think I've come to the conclusion that none of it is really rural (in that farmland & individual property sense) too. Even BDUK-2 to 95% will not get the truly-hard-to-reach.

The really-rural 5% is the prime part of the B4RN rollout, and hopefully Wansdyke too.

The real trick, politically, is to get BT and B4RN to stop trying to kick lumps out of each other, and recognise that they are each better at their own part of the network. The philosophy of each is not replicatable in the other's portion.

Posted by clivegm4fzh over 3 years ago
We live in an area of SW Scotland and suffer less than 0.7Mbps speeds. Our infrastructure is antiquated, the line profile takes 3 days to amend, we have poor 2G coverage, 3G and 4G are just pie in the sky and BT doesn't care. The government rural area schemes seem to finish at the 30mph de-limit signs in a village. The UK and Scottish Governments don't seem to care.
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