We’ve done it! Much of Brentor village centre to get free superfast broadband connection

Not only West Blackdown homes but also up to 31 homes in Brentor village centre will definitely be getting access at no cost to the new fibre broadband network being built by Openreach.  West Blackdown should be connected by the end of August (over a month later than originally quoted), and BT announced on 10th March 2021 that enough residents had signed up for the government-funded Universal Service Obligation scheme for the north side of the village centre to also be connected. 

BT says……  “The funding for this project has been achieved and the BT USO help desk have submitted your Network build request to Openreach. If you are part of this network build, you’ll receive an email shortly from BT confirming the build is underway.”

Burying the fibre conduit across Gibbett Hill

Barden Network Engineering Ltd have been sub-contracted to Openreach to install  the network. Tree trimming in advance of the installation started in West Blackdown on 9th April, but stopped short of the village centre, at Station View.  The fibre installation underground across Gibbett Hill is complete but work to connect  the centre of the village is not being carried out at the same time as West Blackdown’s installation.  Some village centre residents received text messages from BT advising them that they would have fibre broadband by June, but this has clearly not been achieved.

Homes in the parts of Brentor being connected will benefit from the latest high speed ‘fibre to the premises’ (FTTP) technology that can offer internet speeds of up to 900mbps.

So how did this happen?  The government-funded USO scheme allows Openreach to claim a grant of £3,400 for each of 70% of eligible properties, whether they register or not. That’s 22 of the 31 in this cluster, leaving a shortfall of £8,358 to be raised locally.  Once 25 properties registered, a further 3 x £3,400 could be claimed in grant, covering the shortfall – simple!  Remember – BT confirms that if you register interest there is ABSOLUTELY NO COMMITMENT to sign up later for a fibre connection.

Don’t forget that you can still register interest so that you are connected when the network is built – the number to call is 0800 783 0223.

A number of residents in the cluster of 31 who are currently connected to Airband are now being offered Universal Service Obligation funding, despite the rule that only houses with less than 10mbps are eligible for it.  They have been told that their connection is deemed not sufficiently reliable to count as being over 10mbps.  If you already have an Airband connection but are unhappy with its speed and stability, it will be worth contacting the USO help desk to see if you can register for the USO scheme.  The telephone number is 0800 783 0223.

But what about the rest of Brentor parish?  Lots of us are still missing out!

Another ‘cluster’ in Brentor comprises 13 properties in the Darke Lane area, who have been quoted £36,871 to be connected – that’s over £2,800 per property.  The 13 properties cannot attract enough USO grants to cover the cost quoted, even if all register interest.  We have to question why it costs so much more to connect these properties compared to others in the middle of the village – some will be very much nearer to the new fibre cable than houses in the cluster of 31.  However, once the cluster of 31 is connected, BT suggest that residents in the 13 cluster should re-apply for connection through the USO scheme and they may receive a much more favourable quotation. Dear   A pity that they can’t do this straight away and get the network built in one go!

Properties in the Bearwood Farm area and on the Lydford-Tavistock road are not served by Airband but so far have not been allowed to register for the USO because they have some access to a 4G signal.  South Brentor is largely served by Airband.

The Liddaton and Lydford Station areas of Brentor Parish are even more disadvantaged regarding their broadband connection and are served from the Chillaton and Lydford telephone exchanges. Residents in these areas are working to find other ways of connecting to a fibre network.

Getting to this favourable outcome for part of our parish has been an uphill battle.  BT and Openreach have managed to turn what should have been a positive and beneficial project for Brentor into a complex and frustrating experience for residents.  It is unfair and divisive to split a small village community into arbitrary ‘clusters’ with vastly different installation costs. Openreach needs to explain clearly why the costs vary so widely.  But really it’s about time that they get their act together and get our whole network built within the generous funding parameters of the USO scheme.  If they can do it free of charge for the spread-out West Blackdown community and half of the village centre they should be able to do it for the rest of our village.  There are plans for Openreach to phase out its copper network by 2025, following a rule change from Ofcom that now allows this, so when that happens in Brentor everyone in the parish will have to be connected by fibre.  It is hard to imagine Airband customers staying with the occasionally unreliable service this company provides once they can access a new superfast fibre network with a competitive selection of internet service providers.

It’s not easy to understand the facts about the Universal Service Obligation scheme.  If you want to contribute to the information in this article please contact the website editor at editor@brentorvillage.org .

For more information about how this issue has evolved in Brentor click here.

You can check your broadband speed by clicking here.