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Missed targets and confused messaging in North Yorkshire
Friday 29 July 2016 10:08:02 by Andrew Ferguson

Regular readers will be well versed in how the language used to describe broadband targets can be misleading, hence why we have to publish so many speed points when reporting coverage to try and cover all the eventualities.

To date the Superfast North Yorkshire project which was the first project to deliver a BDUK gap funded cabinet at the end of 2012 has been doing relatively well, perhaps a little behind original targets , now the BBC is reporting that the latest target in the county for rural broadband is to be missed.

For those living in working in North Yorkshire once the moment of outrage over this news has passed it should be apparent that the article does not make it crystal clear what the target being missed actually was. Some reading around reveals that there does appear to be a goal of 100% coverage, but this is described in a number of places as 100% high quality broadband which seems to be defined as 10 Mbps and faster - a big departure from the 100% superfast that will pop into most readers heads. Another confusion is any mention of 'by 2017' as in politics this often is a 12 month window, i.e. the public thinks it means by 1 minute past midnight on 1st January 2017, but it often is actually 1 minute to midnight on 31st December 2017.

We suspect one reason why the 100% may be called a high quality target is that fixed wireless has been openly embraced in the area and the coverage map ran by the project while showing VDSL2/FTTP superfast services restricted to their footprints shows fixed wireless as covering very wide areas with no gaps. Now if this was the fenlands with flat topography we'd accept the large polygons, but with the variation in height and shielding effect of trees we are pretty sure there will be gaps. If you are a fixed wireless provider in North Yorkshire and you have your coverage area available in a form we can use please get in touch.

We produced a round up of the North Yorkshire area back in September 2015 and now we are well past phase 1 we have excluded York from this update.

thinkbroadband calculation of Superfast, USC and Fibre Broadband Coverage across constituences that comprise North Yorkshire
Coverage figures as of 28th July 2016
(change since of 6th September 2015
Area % fibre based % superfast
24 Mbps or faster
% superfast
30 Mbps or faster
% cable % Openreach FTTP % Under 2 Mbps USC % Under 10 Mbps
North Yorkshire County (excludes York) 96.2% (+3.8) 86.1% (+5.5) 84.9% (+6.0) 13% (+0.1) 1.53% (+0.45) 4% 9.5%
Harrogate and Knaresborough 98.2% (+0.5) 95.2% (+0.9) 94.7% (+1.2) 75.5% (+0.8) 0.26% (+0.26) 0.6% 1.9%
Richmond 95.5% (+4.8) 79.7% (+5.7) 78.1% (+6.1) 0.1% (=) 0.22% (+0.1) 6.1% 14.5%
Scarborough and Whitby 98.2% (+2.1) 92.7% (+1.9) 92% (+2.4) 0% (=) 0.51% (=) 2.1% 4.5%
Selby and Ainsty 97.1% (+4.4) 86.1% (+9.9) 84.6% (+10.4) 0% (=) 4.79% (+1.3) 3.8% 8.1%
Skipton and Ripon 94.7% (+4.5) 82.5% (+6.1) 81% (+6.6) 0% 1.5% (+0.37) 4.6% 12.3%
Thirsk and Malton 93.3% (+5.9) 79.9% (+8.5) 78.4% (+9.5) 0.1% (=) 2.27% (+0.86) 6.5% 15.8%

Our figures for 10 Mbps and 2 Mbps do not take into account fixed wireless coverage and while people may wonder how the superfast coverage levels can increase more than the fibre levels in North Yorkshire there are an increasing number of infill cabinets appearing or FTTP clusters for longer lines.

Update Saturday 30th July 2016 Ok we found somewhere that gives a reasonable summary of the targets in North Yorkshire and it looks like nothing has actually been missed yet, just lots of worry about missing targets in the future, since for now only enough money to commit to a below 100% target has been reached. The phase 3 work comprises £7.3m from BDUK, £1m from ERDF and £12m from the council itself.

  • Phase 1 & 2 have a target of 91% superfast (over 24 Mbps) by end of June 2017
  • Phase 3 to take coverage higher to 95% to 96%

Looking at the amount of FTTP that is starting to appear it is possible that a shift in technology choice is taking place as with other BDUK projects, i.e. as they reach the areas where VDSL2 makes less economic sense in terms of speed delivered full fibre is being used.

Comments

Posted by RuralWire 4 months ago
The BBC are referring to North Yorkshire County Council's long-standing commitment (AKA "The Vision"), which pre-dates the Superfast North Yorkshire project and the signing of the Phase 1 contract, to bring high quality broadband to all by 2017. Needless to say, progress to-date of the North Yorkshire County Council led community broadband projects in the harder to reach areas has been diabolical and abject failure has been looming on the horizon for quite a while. Hence the recent fundamental rethink and consultation on the new broadband strategy for North Yorkshire. Heads should roll.
Posted by WWWombat 4 months ago
@Ruralwire is right that the "vision" predates the SFNY project, and indeed the BDUK project.

It also has to be remembered as just "a vision". That means it is a glorious, but unfunded, target. It is stated to tell the populace "we're thinking of you". But it has no real legs behind it about how it would actually happen.

Obviously *now* we know that SFNY's 3 project phases make up a great proportion of the aim. And that the council continue to juggle (for the last few %) whether "superfast" is the right target, or merely the "high quality" that they themselves set to 10Mbps.
Posted by WWWombat 4 months ago
And yes ... a lot of infill going on now.
Posted by RuralWire 4 months ago
@WWWombat - Unfunded? What about NYnet? Wholly owned by the County Council if I am not mistaken. What about the more than £600,000 for community wireless broadband schemes which has been grossly underutilized for years? Why have County Hall been retaining and paying for the services of a Community Broadband Project Manager for more than five years? I could go on, but poor community engagement, lacklustre leadership and the absence of a credible community broadband strategy are the reasons why the County Council's vision to deliver high quality broadband for all by 2017 has crashed and burnt.
Posted by chilting 4 months ago
The final coverage for Fixed Wireless has to be demand led if we want to get to 100%.
For example - It is up to local residents in the valley to ask their neighbours on the hill if they mind having a repeater on their roof.
Posted by Blackmamba 4 months ago
Hi Chil.
The first issue is to get a footprint of the wireless covering the post codes which should be on TBB maps then the repeaters on section for the customers in the black spots valleys. (Slow speeds on Fixed lines under 10 meg). In Surrey all post codes are demand led registered on SCC. Webpage.BUUK plus the Constituenci Office. (Hindhead).
Posted by chilting 4 months ago
@Blackmamba
Unless there is direct line of sight the total coverage area will only be realised when demand exists in a locality. Why provide repeaters when there is no demand.
Posted by RuralWire 4 months ago
@Andrew - Regarding your update. What you are referring to there is the new/proposed vision of NGA capable broadband services for all, which was the subject of a recent consultation and a report to the Executive of the County Council, with an estimated timeline possibly stretching out until 2022. The BBC article was about the inevitable failure to deliver the old/existing vision of high quality broadband for all by 2017. That is/was a long-standing commitment by the County Council. The hardest to reach areas in North Yorkshire are now unlikely to see any improvement this side of 2020.
Posted by RuralWire 4 months ago
@Andrew - Here you go. To save you time, if you open/save the "08 Broadband Developments - LATE REPORT.pdf" you can go to Appendix A (page 13 of the PDF) for the "Connecting North Yorkshire" Vision document that was submitted to BDUK back in 2011. You will find the vision statement on page 4 of that document (page 16 of the PDF).

http://democracy.northyorks.gov.uk/Committees.aspx?commid=18&meetid=527
Posted by WWWombat 4 months ago
@ruralwire
NYNET is indeed North Yorkshire Council's vehicle, but the work it was funded for was for amalgamated public services, schools, council etc. And, IIRC, it could sell access to businesses.

But it was never funded to provide a high degree of residential coverage. NYNET had no money, nor remit, to do anything beyond the 50% coverage of VM or BT's commercial superfast nets.

NYNET is good for purpose, and for running SFNY. But it wasn't funded to meet the vision until BDUK came along.
Posted by WWWombat 4 months ago
Yes, NYNET also allowed the piggybacking of community schemes for backhaul.

Even so, a £600k scheme does not approach the definition of "funded". Some funds certainly, but chicken-feed compared to the total needed.

Once phases 1, 2 and 3 are done, the total will reach something near £60m. You could probably spend another £10m on the last 3%.

Community projects work for some, but when the money available is less than 1% of that necessary, I think the vision was indeed unfunded. When considering the big picture.
Posted by WWWombat 4 months ago
Thinking further, I think the word "vision" gets used by councils to indicate some aim that they think important, and want their public to know they will be working towards, and won't forget. But an aim where they don't have funds available to start on a complete plan ... and only small pots available for interim work ... that, who knows, might get added to in future.
Posted by WWWombat 4 months ago
There was a similar media kerfuffle a while back, over phase 2. Some media saw the repeated "100% vision" and the phase 2 funding announcement, and announced that NY had really funded 100% coverage. Not even close!

One aspect that makes the current round of media look more of a failure is that York (which bumped up the coverage figures) left SFNY and joined SFWY, but that seems to get ignored (not here though)
Posted by WWWombat 4 months ago
Finally, a note on the £12m from "the council's own coffers."

£7.8m actually comes from BT's "overage", which is the repayment for reaching coverage targets. At the last council meeting, this was described as an early repayment, conditional on being spent with BT. I wonder if this condition holds? And, if the money was part of phase 1, why it needs to go through phase 3 at all?
Posted by 69bertie 4 months ago
@Blackmamba
Unless there is direct line of sight the total coverage area will only be realised when demand exists in a locality. Why provide repeaters when there is no demand.
I live in a village in rural Lincolnshire which has FTTC, you'd expect no demand for wireless and yet, I still see fixed wireless aerials being installed. As to the trees, my understanding (e.g. Quickline) is that line of sight isn't always required.
Posted by RuralWire 4 months ago
@WWWombat - Think of the now defunct County Council (not BDUK) vision of high quality broadband for all in North Yorkshire by 2017 as a blank canvas. The County Council (not BDUK) community wireless broadband initiative was seen as way of potentially filling parts of the canvas in the hardest to reach areas. The County Council (in partnership with NYnet, a number of CISPs, Rural Action Yorkshire, representatives from the local councils, parish councils, local communities etc) needed to establish their community wireless broadband credentials and make the case for further funding.
Posted by RuralWire 4 months ago
@WWWombat - The commercial roll out of superfast broadband, the emergence of Phase 1 and then Phase 2 of BDUK were viewed as a way of filling other parts of the canvas. However, without a successful outcome of the community wireless broadband initiative within a tight timeline, the vision of high quality broadband for all by 2017 was doomed. Originally, high quality broadband was not defined by the County Council in terms of a download speed etc.
Posted by RuralWire 4 months ago
@WWWombat - The new County Council (not BDUK) vision of NGA capable broadband services for all in North Yorkshire (no specific timeline for completion this time around) is set out in the recent "Superfast Broadband in North Yorkshire" consultation paper (dated 1 June 2016). The consultation paper and map are still on the County Council website. Phase 3 will be a "move towards" completing a vision of NGA for all in North Yorkshire rather than a vision of high quality broadband for all in North Yorkshire by 2017.

http://www.northyorks.gov.uk/sfny
Posted by WWWombat 4 months ago
@ruralwire
The blank canvas concept is a good analogy, where paint is the commodity in short supply.

And I obviously missed June's consultation...
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