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Another committee to look into BT BDUK roll-out pace
Saturday 20 June 2015 10:59:48 by Andrew Ferguson

A group of MP's from the South West are joining an all party committee to call for greater transparency and guarantees of value for money from BT in the BDUK roll-outs. The motivation is the anger and confusion at the local level for what some see as a very slow roll-out of superfast broadband in various parts of the UK.

"Thousands of people are still left with a third-rate service or even no service at all as result of the delaying antics.

This was not the intention: a firm timetable was set because consumers have had enough of delay and dither, but yet again BT is failing miserably.

When you ask BT for clear figures on its progress, what they will say is that they are rolling it out as quickly as we can given it’s a very complicated project.

We’re not getting answers and we’ve now decided to take things into our own hands."

Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger talking to Western Morning News

One of the major problems since the inception of the BDUK scheme and it was clear to some, but lost in the modern world of PR and this was that from day 1 the scheme was aiming for national coverage targets whereas some coverage has led people to believe it was a pure rural scheme.

thinkbroadband has been working hard to keep track of the roll-outs and as the map shows coverage of superfast broadband is very variable and as we have said before when targets of 90% or 95% are set for superfast coverage even if the constituency is just 50,000 households that will be mean 2,500 to 5,000 premises will miss out, which in rural areas translates to a pretty big large number of villages.

Map of superfast coverage per constituency in the SW
Click image for full size version.

In terms of transparency we see a wide variation from the different projects in terms of what is published, but since we launched our availability checker that tracks coverage and speeds it is possible for anyone to see how different areas are progressing.

thinkbroadband calculation of Superfast Broadband Coverage in Devon and Somerset Constituencies - updated 23rd June 2015
In ascending order of fibre coverage
Area % fibre based % superfast (>30 Mbps) % cable % Openreach FTTP % Under 2 Mbps USC % Under 5 Mbps (new USO) % Under 15 Mbps
Somerton and Frome 40.3% 34.3% 22.8% 0% 1.2% 23.1% 41.4%
Tiverton and Honiton 55.1% 41.6% 0% 0% 3.1% 21.7% 38.9%
Torridge & West Devon 55.8% 43.2% 0% 0% 3.8% 22.9% 41.9%
Central Devon 61.7% 42.8% 0% 0.2% 3.5% 21.3% 44.1%
Wells 60.9% 53.1% 0% 0% 1.3% 14.2% 31.3%
Totnes 66.3% 60.1% 7.9% 0% 0.8% 12.6% 22.8%
North East Somerset 66% 60.6% 24.8% 0% 0.9% 12.2% 26.3%
Yeovil 70.3% 62.8% 0% 0% 1.6% 12% 20.4%
Bridgwater and West Somerset 71.5% 60.2% 0% 0% 2.1% 16.4% 28.5%
North Devon 73.3% 60.6% 0% 0% 1.9% 14.3% 26.7%
Weston-Super-Mare 73.9% 65.9% 0% 0% 0.6% 4.4% 17.7%
South West Devon 82.5% 78% 67.6% 0% 0.6% 7.6% 18.4%
East Devon 82.6% 72.4% 7.2% 0.2% 2.1% 9.6% 16.9%
North Somerset 81.7% 75.8% 42.8% 0% 2.2% 6.9% 14.8%
Newton Abbot 84.1% 75.2% 40.8% 0% 1% 5% 13.8%
Taunton Deane 84.3% 70.6% 0% 0% 3.9% 10.4% 20.2%
Bath 94.6% 93.1% 35.2% 0% 0.1% 0.5% 2.1%
Exeter 97.1% 96.9% 91.8% 7.7% 0% 0.7% 2%
Plymouth Sutton and Devonport 97.5% 97.3% 92.9% 0% 0% 0.7% 1.6%
Plymouth Moor View 98.9% 96.6% 88.8% 0% 0.6% 1% 2.3%

Update 23rd June 2015: Corrected the cable coverage in North Devon from 1.7% down to 0%. Increase in coverage over the period between 20th and 34rd and the overlap between FTTC and what was the believed cable coverage previously has meant that coverage has not gone down, but has increased in many of the constituencies. Also added Exeter and East Devon which was missed off the original table.

The village of Upottery mentioned falls into the Tiverton and Honiton Constituency and is one of those small exchanges where only ADSL based services are available. The Upottery exchange is around 80 postcodes spread over roughly 70sq km with just one cabinet and a lot of exchange only lines and really looks like one of those areas that falls into the 5% and will be waiting on the outcome of the various innovation fund projects underway.

The progress in Devon (excluding the urban jungle of Plymouth) is such that at the start of October 2014 superfast coverage was 40%, but since then around 70,000 extra premises can get superfast broadband taking coverage to an overall 59.5% at 30 Mbps or faster. As of 23rd June, the coverage of superfast broadband in Devon County has risen to 60.4%.

One aspect of the complaints that is confusing is that the MP's are calling for clear indications of when BT will hand over its financial contribution to the project, our understanding of the BDUK scheme is that BT pays for all the work upfront (apart from any demand generation schemes ran directly by local authorities) and then raises invoices which are paid from the scheme funds. Perhaps the MP's meant they want better transparency on the costs and invoicing so they can see whether BT is paying its share, or is everything being funded by public money.


Posted by PhilCoates about 1 year ago
My local scheme has just published a paper on the 'engineering challenges' facing BT. Many of these are blocked ducts.

BT as a private enterprise can run their business how they want but I am perplexed as to why BDUK funding is needed to repair BT infrastructure.
Posted by fastman about 1 year ago
the biggest challenge around duct is blocked., collapsed, conctreted over, silted up / waterlogged , tree ingress, home for badgers -- you have to blow fibre to get to cabinets, that's either through duct (may be of use / not use) either aerial or you have to create a new duct route of provide a repair to that route / get permission to prepare that route -if you csant get to chat cab it will be delayed or removed and another will take its place (BDUK is about X premises at Y Speed for Z money
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago

Because clearing those blocked ducts is all part of the cost of installation. Ofcom pricing for MPF doesn't include costs of pre-emptive duct clearing (which would be expensive).
If Ofcom were to allow for such costs, then it would put up line rental. So they don't. Ducts are repaired as required.
Posted by Somerset about 1 year ago
One blockage on the way to a Somerset village fixed today. Caused by the installation of a water main. Hopefully 2 cabinets will be working soon.

Will BT recover the cost from the water company?
Posted by burble about 1 year ago
I'm not surprised people are fed up with the BDUK roll out, take me, if I look at the first BDUK map my area is coloured light blue and I look at the side and it states "Superfast anticipated to be available between July 2014 and December 2014" sure enough the local cabinet was upgraded in that time frame but no superfast is available for me or even half the households covered by that cabinet.
Posted by burble about 1 year ago
Next I look at the 'new' BDUK map, it shows superfast is not expected to be available, but then something odd I see that just beyond the garden superfast will be delivered, but there's no houses there and if there ever was the lines would have to pass my house. Next I look at my friends area, there is a several mile strech of road which shows the side that has houses will not get superfast but opposite where there is only fields these will get superfast, t.b.c
Posted by burble about 1 year ago
what a load of bull, the map has been carefully drawn to give the impression that large areas will get Superfast broadband even though they don't have and will never have the infrastructure to ever get any form of broadband.
Posted by Llety about 1 year ago
I read a while ago ( that BT intend to switch off all analogue (they called it ISDN) equipment by 2025 and run IP only for all services. Is BDUK just making investment that BT would have to make anyway over the next 10 years, granted we don't want to wait 10 years more to have viable Broadband in rural areas, but if this is the case BT are being paid for work they would have to do anyway, unless the idea is to not provide any fixed line service to remote areas in years to come? discuss !!!
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago

ISDN is a low bandwidth service and comes in multiples of 64kbps (minimum 2 channels giving 128kbps). It is possible to combine multiple physical lines.

Only those locations that couldn't get ADSL at all will be affected by this as virtually any viable ADSL circuit will beat ISDN speeds. Those are also probably the locations that BDUK finds hardest to reach. So the answer is, in general, no.
Posted by Llety about 1 year ago

"Patterson highlights the future of the BT network on the analyst call, see the link below, where BT envisages their network will be a single IP core network replacing all legacy networks and platforms."

One respectfully suggests their use of ISBN, which includes PSTN, differs from your definition. Hence I believe the question which is related to the article still stands.

"As of August 2013, there were 3.2 million ISDN channels in the UK" so not talking trivial numbers of irrelevant rural people.
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago

Links are easier to follow if they are accurate. However, managed to work out the missing letter.

And no, it changes nothing. Firstly most of those ISDN links are probably voice (it's common for exchanges).

Secondly, the end of life for the service appears to be 2025. That's ten years away. Heaven knows what the network will look like by then.

It may well be that what are currently ISDN services will be piped over IP using xDSL, or FTTP or leased circuits. No doubt it will use what will be available at the time.
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago
By exchanges, I meant private exchanges. PABXs as they are known.
Posted by Gadget about 1 year ago
Liety - there are two basic types of ISDN - ISDN2 and ISDN 30, and the vast majority of channels are the ISDN30 variety delivering bulk voice to switchboards.
Posted by Llety about 1 year ago
Yes, I know what ISDN is, thanks.

what a difference a missing "c" makes

Try the original article [ ] which says "As BT has set 2025 for the EOL for traditional voice services".

If you are saying that the most remote parts of the UK are going to have FTTP for sure by 2025, great, can you point us to the commitment please.

Today a non-trivial numebr of houesholds don't get an sort of *DSL, so that won't fly for unless there is a techology leap and money is spent.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
Article is nothing to do with FTTP or removal of a copper network but about how voice traffic is handled once it hits the phone exchange.

Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 year ago
To April BT were in receipt of £126m state aid in 2012/13 and £390m in 2014/15 for 12,500 cabinets installed and another 2,000 in pogress.
They have every right to question where is BT's investment.
Posted by godsell4 about 1 year ago
isnt this all a little, horse, barn, bolted, door, stable! i am sure there is a phrase there somewhere. so what powers does this all party committee have to recoup those costs if they come to the conclusion that BDUK was not value for money? or is it a case of they will make sure the contracts and metrics used to decide how the claw back mechanism will be implemented in future BDUK phases will work better? And what about those location which have just signed for Phase2?
Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 year ago
@godsell - perhaps, but the state aid measure can be amended so as to better secure the BT investment.
Phase 2 looks weird, with BT reducing its commercial footprint while taking subsidies, while substantial excess costs need to re-spent from phase 1.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
Where has BT reduced its commercial footprint? Or do you mean they've changed their roll-out plans, which is very different to changing the commercial footprint, since that suggests they are decommissioning cabinets.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
In Surrey the OMR is extending its footprint covering the commercial section by surveying ALL the Post Codes that are not receiving the 15 meg down. The money for this upgrade will come from the claw back plus the money in the pot.
The upgrade will extend fibre to location where it is cost effective from the money thus off loading the Cabs. There are some location where the customers are paying for this service ( fibre on demand ) fitted in the last month.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
The group has *no* official status whatsoever within parliament, just like all other "all party parliamentary groups".

That means the *best* they can do is to act in concert to "put pressure" on BT. However, they can't get BDUK to make changes, force contract or funding changes, overturn NDAs, get CDS to work differently, or get BT to make changes.

They can ask questions, and ask for changes, but they're going to be ignored if they choose to keep trash talking everyone involved in the contract.
Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 year ago
@Andrew BT have reduced their planned commercial footprint.
Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 year ago
@Blackmamba - nice to see, anything in the public domain? seeking evidence on nature of BT promised £11.8m for Surrey, would be delighted evidence of about £4.65m BT Capital. There should be a big budget left.
Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 year ago
@WWWombat they may be able to begin a process of change if the representations made by BT during the 2013 PAC and underlying the confidential agreements and the contractual terms are not alisgned with the evidence emerging in the NAO reports. Investment, costs and contingencies representations are all unsafe.
Posted by Outofprogramme about 1 year ago
FAO Andrew (staff member) Evidence that BT is trying to reduce its commercial footprint come from articles like this:
Where it is said "To prepare for the potential extension of the contract, a second Open Market Review (OMR) was carried out over November last year............Some postcodes that were deemed to be commercial in 2011 are now eligible (for state aid) because they have since dropped out of the BT commercial programme."
OFCOM needs to investigate this.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
Fully aware that some cabinets that were in original plans dropped out or switched from FTTP to FTTC instead, and there are still some to be enabled too.

There is no legal obligation on any provider submitting plans as part of an OMR to actually deliver anything at all.

BDUK originally should have gotten a legally binding clause attached to the BT plans if it wanted to avoid this.

Don't believe this is in Ofcom remit, but the BDUK and courts perhaps.
Posted by godsell4 about 1 year ago
@VFM so since in 2013 the PAC said it did not like what it saw how BDUK was being implemented, now in middle of 2015 we see a new group with not a lot of clout, getting together to have a talk about it, so lets assume it will be 9 or 12 months before they disclose any thoughts, it will then take another 12 months for to put something in place subject to an OFCOM review or something similar. So does that put us in middle of 2017 until there might be some new *proposed* rules which future BDUK Phases will be run under?
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
Your terminology is wrong...

BT don't use the term ISDN for all analogue services, and it certainly doesn't "include PSTN".

The PSTN is the lowest common denominator. ISDN is a niche service that, in basic-rate form (2 channels = 144kbps), makes use of the PSTN access network. In primary rate form (30 channels = 2Mbps) it really requires leased lines ... so is most certainly *not* part of the PSTN.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
Most of the 3.2m channels will be primary rate, and are almost certainly going to be capable of swapping to a modern ethernet-based leased line instead, well beyond 2Mbps.

That world, and the one that BDUK subsidises for broadband, almost entirely fail to overlap.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
@Llety 2
I don't think BT have officially set 2025 as EOL for all traditional voice services; that would be *big* headline news.

However, in their response to the government's long-view "Digital Communications Infrastructure Strategy" consultation, they did indeed say that they anticipate that most customers will have migrated their voice service to an "application" carried over an all-IP network in the timescale of the consultation - which was 2025-2030.

I imagine they have plans to help this along too, but that isn't the same as declaring all analogue services EOL.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
You mention some waffle about MPs being able to force some changes ... but any individual MP can force this on their own to the same extent that the group can.

Unfortunately, your "if" is a huge conditional statement ... and not one that an MP individually, or this group in concert, will be able to prove. They won't have access (or right of access) to the information necessary, and won't have the technical ability to understand it anyway.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
The auditors, whether at NAO, BDUK, or county level will be the ones to access this data and make use of it. This is part of their job,marrying the data with all the stuff you think as unsafe. And they will do this even if the MPs go and sun themselves in Benidorm.

On the whole, I don't see this group of MPs adding any value whatsoever into the chain of providing broadband to the people.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
@outofprogramme, @vfm
As BT have set threshold limits to what constitutes "commercially viable", and the engineering surveys are an ongoing process, it is to be expected that some boundary cases shift both one way (out) as well as they other (in) as cost estimates get clarified.

There's evidence that cabinets get moved into the programme, as well as out, but the former don't make for scary FUD headlines.

While there is indeed evidence of this kind of boundary adjustment, there is no evidence of widescale systematic abuse.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
As an example, the 3 cabinets in North Yorkshire that weren't going to be included commercially, as originally expected, was because the cost of getting power to them became huge.

£90k for 3 cabinets is well beyond the norm.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
In Surrey the information in the Public domain was there you only had to look at the data that was advertised at the Dorking Meeting. EG 99.7% with access to fibre at 15 meg down over 450k lines. The information on fibre to the home was not advertised. I was asked how the the above results could be achieved in the Hindhead Area I did say that fibre should be used at a Wormley Exchange location which could not receive 15 meg on the FTTC.
Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 year ago
@WWWombat it was just boundary cases, the matter would not be raised. It many 000 of properties in some counties. The OMRs for SEP have some of the detail.
Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 year ago
The NAO work is triggered by PAC a body of Parliament. Without the added pressure BDUK would still be seeking a milestone to cash process.
Our institutions are certainly weak, but all the more reason why there concerns should be dealt with and not ignored.
Not too long ago, most folk here were accepting the notion of an average of £50k for a cabinet and fibre path. It is now half that before BT's contribution.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
The £25k per cabinet average is interesting, as suggests some are even less. What is the range and sample size for producing this range.

Means including commercial cost is £1.7bn plus the price for around 180,000 FTTP lines.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@vfm what rememdy should be applied on this cabinets dropped from commercial plan? If its 10,000 premises still probably only 50 to 60 cabinets. Given the 200 to 300 being enabled per week it is hardly the end of the world.

A legal obligation to roll-out within X years if you declare future coverage in an OMR?
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
It only takes 3 cabinets to affect 000 of people. That's not evidence of anything systematic ... and obviously isn't evidence of anything being put back in.

I see SEPs cautiously marking areas that are at risk, because it is the sensible approach to take. But no evidence of anything systematic ... save perhaps previous signs of cock-up in Suffolk.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
PAC is an official body of parliament, unlike APPG, so has (some) power, though not as much as DCMS. NAO has official status to report, though not to intervene.

But you seem to misinterpret their role so far. They haven't been the bodies that have put in place a M2C process ... they have merely reported its presence and effectiveness (and PAC has a tendency to ignore stuff reported to it anyway).

All these processes are going on in the background irrespective of NAO reporting or attempts by PAC to grandstand/interfere.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
PAC/NAO haven't caused cabinets to become half the price. They merely report back what is happening to figures being fed back by LA's.

Go back and look carefully, and you will see DCMS, BT and individual civil servants refute the points put by PAC. They don't really accept anything from them, and don't indicate that they will be making changes as a consequence.

You have the cause & effect backwards.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
As for the notion of a £50k cabinet that, apparently "most folk here" accepted.

The problem is that the £50k cabinet is one of your own invention, created by taking statistics in the wrong way. You based a lot of your content on the internet on this fallacy.

The cabinet that is "half now" (you suggest £25k) is another one of your inventions, by taking different statistics in the wrong way.

I'm not sure "most folk" accept either.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
Remember that the £25k figure used by @VFM is NAO's running average of subsidy per cabinet.

As that represents the "gap", you need to add BT's own contribution to get the total cost. That amount is harder to pin down.

It is also a temporary figure, as it represents the average *so far*, across a large subset of BDUK projects, so only represents the easier cabinets (and very little FTTP). NAO expect that number to increase.
Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 year ago
@wwwombat I did check with NAO and they were certain the number identfied included all costs.

The average is likely to hold as BT network remains homogenous (in terms of difficulty) until you reach about 90% coverage.

The £50k cab comes from believing £2.5bn/ 50,000 commercial cabs. I wish to believe the latter but cannot accept the former give Ian Livingstones statements and the shift from FTTP.
Posted by herdwick about 1 year ago
So another group of politicians is going to look into what another group of politicians, civil & public servants have procured because they don't like it ? All part of the enquiry led recovery no doubt. I'm sure they got what they contracted and paid for, even if they didn't fully understand it. If they thought the cabs were expensive they should have bought them and free issued them to BT.
Posted by ValueforMoney about 1 year ago
@herdwick - the issue is not civil servants but the representations BT relied upon at the point of contracting where state aid is present.
Officials had no real choice but to accept what BT told them. If this is not accurate there must be room to re-set targets before 7 years or even 36 months.
Posted by Somerset about 1 year ago
@VFM - who or what are the officials in 'Officials had no real choice...'? Do they have no skills in running a major engineering project? We must feel sorry for them doing this with no help.

However you ignore the experts employed by BDUK and councils who will completely understand the finance and the technology. eg.:
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
BT did not just drop cabinets out of their commercial rollouts but also premises that due to BTs inability to read a map were beyond the reach of their cabinets
Posted by herdwick about 1 year ago
"Official" or "civil servants" call them what you will managed to engineer a procurement process in which the ended up with a single bidder for large tranches of the country. It's clear to me where the blame lies. As usual Govt stands in the marketplace throwing money around and commercial interests make the best of it.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Gerarda.
You are correct over the Cabs not being dropped out of the commercial section because they were just left out untill the contracts were signed and plus stated they were redundant and not in use.
Posted by Llety about 1 year ago
@WWWombat Based on the discussion above, it seems The Register have got it wrong ?
Posted by Somerset about 1 year ago
From twitter:

BT won't be awarded the new contract to continue roll-out of superfast broadband.”Supported by North Somerset .Fed up with their attitude.
Posted by Somerset about 1 year ago

One result:

It looks like superfast broadband may not be available in your area yet, but it could be coming to you soon through Government and local authority investment.

looks like
may not
could be

This for an installed and not yet live cabinet.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
It's the register. More pertinent would be the question of what they got right! (eg DSL isn't a USO)

On balance, the gist is right - BT would most certainly want regulation changed. But your posts earlier in this thread weren't about regulation.

BT haven't announced end of life to analogue yet, but they have announced a vision, in which end of life would become a factor. Change of regulation would be a factor too. Change of LLU too.

To me, it is all very worthy of discussion. Just like the original Ofcom NGA policy discussions in 2006 and 2007.
Posted by godsell4 about 1 year ago
Does this committee have a list of members yet and a page we should be able to see on ?
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