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Rural Affairs committee calls for 10 Mbps USC
Tuesday 03 February 2015 11:57:39 by Andrew Ferguson

Another body has waded into the on-going war of words that UK broadband is useless and failing to meet peoples needs. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has published its Rural broadband and digital-only services report.

For anyone who has done more than read the headlines, it should have been clear that the current 90% of UK to get superfast broadband projects were going to miss perhaps half the rural premises, the phase 2 roll-out to 95% of UK premises improves this further, and the alternative non-BT solutions under test for the final 5%, seem to suggest that the Government is working on trying to understand what might work and not cost an arm and a leg to do the most rural parts of the UK.

"We were concerned to hear BT tell us that the present target of 95% of premises receiving superfast broadband by 2017 may slip. Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) must make it clear that the target date must be met. A target date for when the last 5% of premises will obtain access to superfast broadband coverage must be published. (Paragraph 14)

4. For many services, 2 Megabits per second (Mbps) is already an outdated figure, and 10 Mbps is increasingly recommended as a suitable USC for standard provision. The Government must reassess whether the 2 Mbps Universal Service Commitment remains a valid one. (Paragraph 20)

5. Millions of pounds are being invested in the rollout of superfast broadband at 24 Megabits per second. Within three years of the expected delivery date, however, that speed will no longer be considered ‘superfast’ by European standards. (Paragraph 22)

6. Councils need access to timely data from BT that allows them accurately to monitor take-up of broadband. Equally, they need access to timely data from BT about planned broadband coverage and speed. It has been argued that distributing information about broadband coverage on a postcode by postcode basis can be misleading. An ‘enabled’ postcode does not necessarily mean that each premise within the postcode is enabled. (Paragraph 25)

Extracts from report conclusion

This committee is not the first and won't be the last to call for a 10 Mbps, parts of Ofcom have suggested that 10 Mbps is a better figure to set, but given the European Union has already effectively set a USC of 30 Mbps minimum for 2020 and 50% subscribing to 100 Mbps then surely it would be better to work towards that. Of course the Government led roll-outs are heading towards 100%, but as yet no firm plans on how this will be delivered, largely because no-one wants to commit to spending an unknown amount, or working from what are now decade old estimates. The BT FTTC roll-out while not perfect is producing large improvements to many rural villages, it is the remote farmhouses and workers cottages that are yet to see any sign of help and infuriatingly for farmers it is at a time when they are being forced to do DEFRA paperwork online.

From watching the PAC meeting at the end of January and reading this report, the anger stems from the moving of farming data submissions to a digital system and the savings this creates not being used to provide farmers with training, computers and broadband connections. We can easily say satellite broadband is the solution, and the European Union has already said it is, and while it is not perfect or the cheapest solution it does offer a way to connect and do the key business needs online. The fact that HD Netflix viewing would be expensive in terms of data volume is of minor consequence, i.e. its nice to have but should we as a nation use tax-payers money on that, or a decent quality Health Service for all.

It is easy to criticise BT, they are a big target and makes lots of promises, but worryingly they appear to be working towards the contract targets for the phase 1 roll-out, the real debate should have been had before any contracts were signed. Dare we suggest that the degree of questioning while needed may actually put off other potential bidders for other contracts.

At the end of the day the committee report should have said just one thing, 'we believe the Government has done the superfast roll-out the wrong way round and should have done the roll-out from the most remote properties inwards, rather than from edges of current commercial outwards'.

In the mean time if you are a rural business, then its either do it yourself, or compromise order something that is available now, or wait for someone else to do it and risk political priorities changing.

Comments

Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
That's a fair question: Stick with the 2Mbps USC for now while pouring money into an NGA USC of 20Mbps by 2020. Or add an intermediate USC of 10Mbps.

The latter would obviously take some funding away from the former, and was something the Warwickshire BDUK project, for one, did not want to do.

But it is clear that the USC speed needs updating at some point.

Better read the rest of the report now...
Posted by jumpmum about 1 year ago
"should have done the roll-out from the most remote properties inwards" Anyone in the Industry should have known that you would have to provide 90% of the infrastructure to reach the remote ones, passing most of the rest and causing far more complaints about not providing service to them.
Posted by AndrueC about 1 year ago
With the amount of hassle and stick BT are being given I doubt even they will want to bother again. I think the whiny committee members should be told to go set up their own ISP and do the job themselves. Or talk to B4rn. Or..perhaps JFO (similar to JFDI but not as productive) :)
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
As the results in Surrey are not showing a good return for the customers not receiving 15 Meg down on (post codes long lines) but there are not many unable to get 5 + at the present time. There is work going on so the results could improve in the next few months.
Posted by 69bertie about 1 year ago
I'd have thought it obvious that the rural parts should have been dealt with first. After all, even 10 years ago, I was getting 6mb/s a mile away from my local exchange. Living in rural parts I'm lucky if I get 1.50mb/s. Too much planning has been given to those that already had a decent speed (you don't need 80mb/s to watch HD). Indeed, the more one reads, it's the haves (places like York etc) that continue to get the improvements in speeds. Meanwhile I wait and wait and wait. And to think my taxes are paying for it!
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
"The BT FTTC roll-out while not perfect is producing large improvements to many rural villages, it is the remote farmhouses and workers cottages that are yet to see any sign of help "
That might be the situation in 2 years time, but at the moment most of the BDUK rollout has been semi urban and larger villages
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
@69bertie
Your taxes didn't pay for the first 67% that BT covered, so I guess BT were OK to choose where they wanted with that part.

Likewise for the 50% covered by Virgin. And the commercial work in York with CityFibre, Sky & TalkTalk.

Those combine to be about 76%.

After that, government strategy & targets pretty much guaranteed that the first phase would be the easiest 14% of the remainder rather than the hardest 5%.

There are sound technical & financial reasons for that order. They could have chosen differently, at a cost. Probably not a small cost.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
@gerarda
Well, phase 1 will be hitting its 90% target in something closer to a year, but you're right - the small villages are only really done in the projects that have finished phase 1.

What size village? In England & Wales:

80th %ile = 13000 people, 5500 premises
85th %ile = 5600 people, 2500 premises
90th %ile = 1900 people, 850 premises
91st %ile = 1500 people, 650 premises
92nd %ile = 1100 people, 500 premises
93rd %ile = 825 people, 350 premises
94th %ile = 600 people, 260 premises
95th %ile = 300 people, 130 premises
95.2 %ile = 100 people, 45 premises
Posted by ahockings about 1 year ago
Agree on doing the worst cases first. Down here Totnes has all it's main cabs done but most of my customers there don't want/need it. They get 15 meg already from the main exchange. Harberton on the same exchange but 4 miles out has it's own cab right in the village but BT didn't do it. WTF?? They have gone from 1.5meg to 80 meg under BDUK (about 200 dwellings there) and take up has been mental.. obviously. Really can't see why BT couldn't see this.
Posted by ahockings about 1 year ago
Agree on doing the worst cases first. Down here Totnes has all it's main cabs done but most of my customers there don't want/need it. They get 15 meg already from the main exchange. Harberton on the same exchange but 4 miles out has it's own cab right in the village but BT didn't do it. WTF?? They have gone from 1.5meg to 80 meg under BDUK (about 200 dwellings there) and take up has been mental.. obviously. Really can't see why BT couldn't see this.
Posted by ahockings about 1 year ago
Duplicate post, browser crashed, sorry! :)
Posted by ahockings about 1 year ago
Following from the post above….. the fibre from Totnes to Harberton was a fairly easy run too, ducted mostly as a lot of it had been replaced a few years ago. Surely it was obvious to do this cab first? They knew take up would be bonkers. Dartington about 2 miles out of Totnes has three cabs on the Totnes exchange. Speeds are around 3-5 meg ADSL2. Quite staggeringly BT weren't going to do these either including one cab covering the famous Dartington Hall estate (where they get about 2-3 meg).These are now done under BDUK. I don’t normally knock BT but is this going on elsewhere??
Posted by cooperfarncombe about 1 year ago
@Blackmamba
Where the SuperfastSurrey postcode checker says that a “fibre” service is available in the intervention area, the BT Checker data says 6,848 have no service; 9,242 are less than 15Mbps and 7,336 have less than your new 5Mbps threshold. These spread across 93 exchanges where according to SuperfastSurrey the project is complete. How will BT improve the lot of such a dispersed population?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
Do they need to do anything? Has the Surrey contract got a target of 100%?
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Andrews Staff
The target for Surrey is 99.7% over 15 meg this was stated at the Dorking Meeting plus in the SCC minutes customers aprox 1400.
Posted by cooperfarncombe about 1 year ago
As Blackmamba says, I also recall the launch at Dorking when indeed the SCC mantra was superfast broadband (at the time defined by SCC as greater than 24Mbps) for almost everyone in Surrey. BT backed away from 24Mbps when asked by me at the meeting for a definition of superfast. This hype at the launch became 99% access to “fibre” and greater than 15Mbps for 94% of premises in the intervention area once the reality of the contract (which was already in place at the time of the Dorking meeting) became known.
Posted by cooperfarncombe about 1 year ago
(cont.)
The data I posted above is the BT best estimate (FTTC A down high), so reality is likely to be worse, especially in rural areas. The 6,848 represents 7.35% with no fibre access and 9,242 represents 9.6% premises less than 15Mbps (with 299 just getting in with exactly 15Mbps). So, it seems that there is still work to do to meet the contract requirement.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi John
I have just checked two number in Hindhead who are at a range of 1800 Mtres and they have been removed from SFB last night. On this post code we have a recording of 12.50 meg and holding at this leval for the last two weeks after a card change in the new Cab FTTC.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
@cooperfarncombe

Where did you find that data? I would like to do a similar exercise on Suffolk
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi John
At the range of 1800 Mtres the A and B range is not fit for purpose unless there has been an error in the contract because of market shift.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi John
The post codes are GU102NZ and GU102NY and you may recall that they were not on the list at the Dorking Meeting when everybody was given the post code list for Surrey the team did say it was a rush out copy. From the results you have stated the % will be running at 89% not the 99.7%. When we returned home we calculated the distance runs to post codes from the 70 Cabs from there locations using GPS.
Posted by herdwick about 1 year ago
The chair of the EFRA committee on the radio said that 18% of her North Yorks constituents - or possibly farmers in her constituency - or something - were being missed out by the BDUK work.

Sounds quite good if aiming for 95% across the board.
Posted by cooperfarncombe about 1 year ago
@gerarda
I can help by explaining the method. Please contact me via email as on www.texp.co.uk.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Gerarda.
I am checking on an exchange in suffork Copdock as my daughter is on a long overhead line work is in progress on this exchange area she is on a EO line some Cabs are open and taking service.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
@herdwick

Not good if you are one of the 18% who have been left out, many of whom will be on sub 2mb
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi John.
Today I have rechecked the above post codes at over 1 mile from the FTTC and it has shown that the ( A and B range ) rules out the A banding for SFB Surrey Target 15 meg unless there is a marketing ploy or an error in the contract.
This morning new customers should have access 3rd march for SFB it could be extra tie pairs required on the CAB.
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