Brentor residents who have no access to fast broadband are likely to be getting access to a new fibre broadband network thanks to the Broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) introduced in March 2020. The new network will be FTTP, providing a fast fibre connection directly into each property. Recently an Openreach surveyor has been making detailed plans for the new network, visiting every property in Brentor which is deemed to be eligible for the USO funding.
Getting this far has not been without its setbacks. Initially residents in West Blackdown were asked to contribute £42,457.20 each towards the cost of building the network. After complaining to BT (who are running the USO on behalf of the government), Ofcom (who regulate it), the communications ombudsman (who police it) and our MP (who is elected to represent our interests), Openreach (who build it) miraculously found that they could after all provide the network for less than the £3,400 per property that the government provides. The residents were contacted by BT and agreed to a £zero contract for the installation to their homes.
However the West Blackdown residents are not out of the woods yet, since BT are now saying that, should Openreach overspend on building the network, they will once again ask residents for a contribution towards the cost! If residents refuse to contribute apparently Openreach wouldn’t continue to build the network. Could they really stop building it and refuse connection after already spending £100,000s of government funds? All this despite lots of us having a verbal contract agreeing to a zero priced quotation. The ombudsman has judged BT not to be at any fault in this matter and unfortunately has no jurisdiction over Openreach, since they do not subscribe to the ombudsman service (!), so there seems little chance of changing what seems to be a very unfair situation.
Meanwhile, nearer the village centre, another group of residents are being asked to pay £8,358 each to be connected to the same network! They of course are also contesting this through the communications ombudsman’s service etc. It’s very hard to see how all this aggravation is necessary and how it could be part of the government’s grand plan to provide a decent broadband service in rural communities.
There is a small ray of hope for a smoother outcome – recently one resident near West Blackdown has been offered free connection to the new network within 12 months, without having to fight for it! Their terms and conditions still, however, reserve the right to charge something if Openreach overspends on building the network. Still, BT and Openreach could finally be getting the message. The notice below, that appeared on a telephone pole opposite Station House, seems to imply that the installation of the fibre network could be imminent, although the reference to Cornwall Council Planning does make us uneasy! Don’t worry – it’s already being questioned! And by the way, the email address on the poster doesn’t seem to exist! Ah well.
Despite all the aggravation it is nonetheless worth applying for connection to the new fibre network through the USO scheme. It will, if built, offer very fast and reliable broadband that isn’t affected by the weather, and users will have a choice of internet service providers, potentially introducing price competition. Let’s hope that the more of us that apply, the more is the likelihood that the network will be installed at zero cost to everyone.
To get a Universal Service Obligation grant you must register interest. To do this you should call 0800 783 0223 – the USO helpdesk. The staff you will speak to are very helpful and sympathetic and will just require your name, postcode and address, email address and telephone number and will talk to you about your current broadband connection. It is free to do and there is of course no obligation to take part in the scheme, even if you go as far as asking for a firm quotation of the cost.
Local residents have produced an advice sheet to help you with the USO registration process – click here to see it.
Click here to see Ofcom’s USO factsheet
Click here to see BT’s information on the USO
If anyone in Brentor has further information please contact the website Editor, Colin Dawes, by email at email@example.com.
For more information about how this issue has evolved in Brentor click here
You can check your broadband speed by clicking here. (Just click the button marked ‘Start Speed Test’ below the two dials).