Where does Brentor go next for its Superfast Broadband? There is no question that those residents who have a line of sight to one of Airband’s transmitters have access to superfast broadband, although there is evidently little choice of providers and no access to the major internet service providers as originally promised by Connecting Devon and Somerset and Airband. For the rest of the village there is only a prospect of continuing with the current poor internet speeds via the Openreach copper cable system until we all have a right to demand a minimum of 10mbs in 2020 through the Governement’s proposed ‘Universal Service Obligation’ for broadband provision. But how will even this modest increase in internet speed be achieved? More Airband? Openreach fibre to the village via a fibre cable across the moor from Mary Tavy – with us paying through a Community Fibre Partnership? Or even some new technology such as ‘white space’ that uses the television transmitters?
The website Editor, Colin Dawes, wrote to Geoffrey Cox MP to bring these matters to his attention. Mr Cox in turn contacted Openreach and received the following letter:
Dear Mr Cox
Thank you for your email of 1 December about Geoffrey’s constituent Colin Dawes of The Old School, West Blackdown, Brentor, Tavistock, Devon, PL19 0NB. I’m sorry for the delay in getting back to you.
I understand the frustration felt by Mr Dawes and other residents of Brentor over the slow broadband speeds to the village. I appreciate their need for a faster connection and the benefits that this would bring to the area. I have looked into the matter and I am now in a position to respond.
Current ADSL Copper broadband service
As Mr Dawes mentions, many residents of Brentor are unable to receive a faster ADSL broadband service. The reason for this is the distance of the premises from Mary Tavy exchange that serves the area, rather than any inherent defects with the local network.
Our records show that Mr Dawes should currently be receiving speeds of up to 4Mbps. This is the speeds that we would expect to see on his line due to the distance of his premises from the exchange. It may help if I explain that for ADSL broadband to work effectively, the ideal cable distance of the line from the exchange to the user’s premises is up to 6km. Unfortunately, broadband speeds are slower across Brentor as you move further away from the exchange.
We have investigated the condition of the local cable network. Our local engineering manager has confirmed that there are no underlying issues that are impacting on broadband performance. Also, the fault volumes for the area are below the national average. All this confirms is that the local network is up to the required standard. Moreover, our records show that there’s ample capacity in the local network to cope with any requests for new telephone service.
If any residents are experiencing problems with their telephone or broadband service, they need to raise with their Service Provider (SP), with whom they have a contract and pay their bill to. All SPs have dedicated contact points within Openreach if they need to request an engineering visit or escalate an issue.
Fibre broadband availability
Mary Tavy exchange is one of our smaller exchanges, with around 700 premises connected to it. However, the good news is that it was upgraded in November 2016 to deliver fibre broadband with support from the Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) project.
The technology CDS deployed in this exchange area is largely Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC). The cabinet serving Brentor has been upgraded, but like ADSL Copper broadband, FTTC is also a distance-related service.
For FTTC to work reliably, the cable length of the copper line from the fibre cabinet to the premises needs to be up to 1.5km. Anything over this limit, there’s a degradation in speed before the service fails altogether. Unfortunately, Brentor is too far from the fibre cabinet and so sadly, out of range to receive FTTC services. Mr Dawes’ premises are some 3km away – simply too long benefit from a FTTC product.
We’re very much aware that premises in this situation present us with a specific set of engineering challenges, but the issue affects a relatively small number of lines. Technical solutions such as Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), extending the fibre cable route to bring it closer to the area/community or deploying alternative technology are being implemented in many areas right now. However, they are economically challenging and as such they are usually only deployed via the public funding route.
Having looked into Mr Dawes’s concerns, it’s largely about a wireless solution that has been provided by Airband to deliver high-speed connectivity with support from CDS. This is not a service Openreach has provided so we can’t offer any comment about its quality, cost or performance. This issue is best raised with CDS or Airband directly.
Community Fibre Partnership (CFP)
We’re having great success with a new initiative called CFP – specifically intended to help communities – that are unlikely to be covered by private commercial plans or publicly funded projects. This will be the remaining few percent of UK premises.
Across the UK we have worked with over 400 communities directly and delivered fibre broadband sooner than otherwise would have been possible.
A CFP involves a local group working directly with us. Mr Dawes mentions being quoted £50k to run a fibre service across the moor to serve Brentor, but our CFP team cannot find any record of providing any such quote for this area.
If Mr Dawes is interested in this in this option, then more details on CFP can be found on our website. He can have a discussion with other residents who are in a similar situation to him and would also like to enjoy the benefits of fibre broadband. There are a lot of details on CFP on our website below:
We’ll be happy to engage with the local community and meet with them to discuss their options and advise of the sum they need to pay. We try to do everything we can to provide support and make it affordable as possible, such as looking for alternative solutions such as overhead cabling. The more residents participate in the scheme the better it is as this will help to bring down the cost for each householder.
I’m really sorry that I am unable to provide a positive response for Mr Dawes at this time, but I hope it helps to explain our position.
Please get back to me if there’s anything else you need relating to this matter. If you have any other Openreach related constituency enquiries, please continue to contact Michael Salter-Church or Denise at email@example.com. If you have constituency issues relating to BT Group (including EE and BT Consumer) please contact Clova Fyfe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Customer Resolutions – Openreach High Level Complaints
The website Editor replied to Geoffrey Cox MP in response to this information. In turn Mr Cox wrote again to Openreach and received a further letter in reply:
Dear Mr Cox
Thank you for your further email regarding your constituent, Colin Dawes. I’m very sorry for the delay in getting back to you.
I’m sorry to hear that Mr Dawes has received conflicting information regarding fibre availability to his area. As mentioned previously, his area is fibre enabled, however the it is unlikely to work to a satisfactory level due to the distance his property is from the cabinet.
I have spoken with our Community Fibre Partnership (CFP) team regarding the matter and they would be happy to discuss the matter with him and provide a quote for a CFP. If Mr Dawes is interested, he can contact our CFP team direct. More information and contact details are available at the following link:
Mr Dawes also refers to receiving 10Mbps in 2020. BT had made a voluntary offer to the Government to help achieve its goal of delivering a universal minimum 10Mbps broadband service across the UK. BT’s proposed Universal Broadband Commitment (UBC) did not rely on public subsidy and was an alternative to a broadband USO which would also require legislation. It will also ensure that the majority of connections will be well in excess of 10Mbps.
After weighing up the benefits of both options the government has opted to go with the USO model which aims to give people the legal right to access a broadband connection of at least 10Mbps by 2020. We respect the government’s decision and Openreach want to get on with the job of making decent broadband available to everyone in the UK. We’ll continue to explore the commercial options for bringing faster speeds to those parts of the country which are hardest-to-reach.
Alongside this, we’ll work closely with Government, Ofcom and industry to help deliver the regulatory USO. We look forward to receiving more details from the Government outlining its approach to defining the regulatory USO, including the proposed funding mechanism.
I hope this helps to confirm he situation for Mr Dawes, but I’m sorry I don’t have any positive news for him at this time.
Customer Resolutions – Openreach High Level Complaints
So that is where those of us without Airband access are at the moment – ‘No positive news’. If anyone in Brentor has further information please do contact the website Editor, Colin Dawes, at email@example.com. It might well be worth lobbying Geoffrey Cox MP to ensure that the Government’s commitment to the USO (Universal Service Obligation) as mentioned in the above letter actually becomes law!