Update Session for Parish and Town Councils
Thursday 27th November 2014
This is an update meeting report following on from the first meeting report I made on 29th January 2014. (To see these notes please visit http://www.carter-davies.com/better-broadband-for-nottinghamshire/)
The programme is reported to be running well. 13,625 premises of the proposed 52,100 have been connected to super-fast broadband since its inception in April 2014. 82 green cabinets of the proposed 400 have been installed and switched on. Things seem to be on track to achieve 95% coverage by the completion of this £20m project in March 2016.
From a parish selfish point of view, our local exchange Harby is in the next tranche or works and Langar cum Barnstone should expect super-fast broadband anytime between April 2015 and September 2015. The fact that Harby is in Leicestershire should not make a difference to the timing of our installation. Rather bizarrely BT work by line numbers and the Government grant and County Council work by post codes. Unification of these two working practices sounded so labyrinthine as not to bear thinking about. The exchange being just out of county is a common problem apparently.
Generally speaking the pecking order for which villages receive upgrades and when is down to economic viability. The project has to prove value for money and so looks for the most properties connected for the least investment as a baseline decision point. This methodology, unsurprisingly, has thrown up some anomalies that were eloquently highlighted during the meeting. In some cases half a street has been upgraded and the other half has to wait for the next phase.
It was emphatically stated several times that by 2017 there will not be 100% coverage. The 95% coverage is across the whole county and will not be even. Some areas will fall well below the 95% projection whilst other areas will enjoy the full 100% super-fast broadband. To address this is a new £5.2m fund has been announced. This Contract 2 (as it is known) is specifically aimed at Rushcliffe, Bassetlaw and Newark & Sherwood as these are projected to be the areas with the least coverage. Even with this additional fund projected to be completed by 2017 there will still be only 97-8% coverage. The final 2-3% will have to look for local solutions to connect to the network. This could include local satellites or using mobile networks. Once Contract 1 is complete and Contract 2 is planned then it will be known where the 2-3% are located and conversations can begin in earnest to address they (un)connectedness of the communities.
The Better Broadband for Nottinghamshire project aims to leave us all with at least 2MB download with the possibility of up to 24MB for as many as possible within the budget.
By this stage of the meeting there was the distinct mood of the project officials being on the defensive and the parish council representatives being on the attack. I felt this was an unfortunate state of affairs as the stances precluded real dialogue around the issues, namely how do we achieve 100% coverage if not within the scope of Contracts 1&2?
For those parishes fortunate enough to achieve super-fast broadband within this project there is still a job of work to do. Once the infrastructure is in place and switched on there is no automatic speeding up of services for parishioners. Individuals will need to opt in to service contracts to benefit from the upgrades. For us as individuals this will mean taking out new broadband contracts with our favourite providers (BT, Talk Talk, PlusNet etc.) to switch from our existing copper to the new faster system. Apparently those areas that have already benefitted from the new fast system have seen a disappointing take up, averaging merely 5% switch over. The project officers shared the suspicion that this is due to people not being aware that they need to take individual action. Failure to act will not mean anything except the continuation of the existing poor connection speeds and patchy stability that we are currently enjoying. When the parish is connected we should promote the switchover action widely so that the villages fully benefit from the new service.
- The official “Where & When” page for Nottinghamshire: http://www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/living/business/broadband/where-and-when/
- The official “How do I get fibre broadband?” page: http://www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/living/business/broadband/getfibre/