Parish Councillor challenges Bill Murphy of BT over superfast roll-out
The reality of what a UK wide target of 90% superfast coverage really means is becoming clearer to many people now, since it started for those looking behind the press coverage it was clear that the urban areas were going to pull up the figures for the rural, i.e. the project was never about getting 90% of every parish with the option of a superfast connection.
This reality has hit home hard in Upottery, Devon where the village and neighbouring Rawridge are not part of phase 1 and five minutes spent looking at a map reveals why this is probably the case, the cabinet is ideally located in the middle of Upottery but Rawridge which is a major cluster would be at a 1.3km radial distance from the cabinet and most definitely not get superfast speeds. Of course deploying FTTP or several mini-cabs (FTTrN) would resolve this, but when the choice of cabinets and areas is so large there are plenty of other cabinets to choose from that would allow Devon and Somerset to hit its target within budget.
|thinkbroadband calculation of current fibre and superfast broadband coverage in Devon and Somerset - March 2015|
|Council||% fibre based||% superfast (>30 Mbps)||% cable||% Openreach FTTP|
The long list of council areas above breaks down the situation for Devon and Somerset to a much more granular level than we have published before. The questions raised by Graham Long (Upottery Parish Councillor) are summarised below:
- Why is it looking like that only 15% of people rather than 90% in Upottery will have a chance of getting superfast broadband by 2017?
- Why with BT as the de facto monopoly owner of the UK's telecoms infrastructure do the phase 1 contracts contain confidentiality clauses.
- Why is BT threatening to withdraw from phase 2 tender if Devon and Somerset were to insist on an open market tender the next phase, rather than existing BDUK framework.
- BT is investing some £41m in the phase 1 for Devon and Somerset will a similar proportionate amount be invested in phase 2 and how much will that investment be.
The Phase 2 project for Devon and Somerset had its funding announced in January with a target of 95% coverage at some point in 2017 and the stated goal of continuing to work to deliver Superfast Broadband to 100% of premises by 2020.
We suppose that at the end of all this the question has to be asked whether the public money committed to the eventual 2020 goal and its actual target of 100% coverage is value for money and whether it is taking too long to achieve? If the 100% superfast goal really does exist, as frustrating as it would be to be in the batch that only saw improvements in 2019-2020 one has to accept that as the roll-outs need new infrastructure that takes time to build then someone has to be first and someone else last. Throwing more money at the problem might speed things up, or choosing a technology that needs less infrastructure might help, though there is also a lot of pressure to include more infrastructure in the form of FTTH/FTTP which means many more hours of labour compared to a cabinet heavy roll-out.
One wonders whether BT has actually considered simply not bidding for some of the extension projects and then we can see if the alternative operators both large and small are willing to step up to the plate. Oddly the winners if there was competition between neighbouring projects might not be the residents but the civil engineering firms who are often contracted to do a lot of the work.