Superslow broadband comes to Surrey
BT has told Ewhurst that it won’t fulfil its initial promises on its fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) roll-out to the Surrey village.
According to the Ewhurst website, “Openreach (BT’s infrastructure company) appear to have finally accepted that the FTTC works are not on target. Just 10 days before the original RFS (ready for service) date they have rolled back the ‘planned’ date for ‘WBC FTTC’ to 30th June 2012, for all Cranleigh exchange (which serves Ewhurst) lines we have checked. However, we understand that some cabinets may still go live before then, whilst others may be delayed much longer, or not upgraded at all.”
Ewhurst was denied a development grant of £180,000 to upgrade its broadband because BT was going to do it. Ewhurst had planned to spend its grant money with Vtesse Networks following an open tender to which BT offered a non-compliant response.
As Ewhurst started meeting with the Surrey County Council to finalise the Vtesse contract, BT approached the council, asked it to sign non-disclosure agreements, and presumably revealed its plans to roll out fibre to the cabinet in the area.
Under EU state aid rules, public bodies should avoid spending taxpayers’ money if they would duplicate what the private sector is about to do.
The council then reneged on its promise of the money to Ewhurst.
Walter Willcox, who led Ewhurst’s bid for the development grant,notes that had the Vtesse contract been allowed to go ahead, Ewhurst villagers would by now have been enjoying high speed broadband for a year, and some would have had fibre to the home connections.
Willcox says the one Ewhurst cabinet that Openreach has upgraded has only FTTC capacity to serve 100 homes rather than the 500 that are connected to the cabinet.
“One has to question the motives of the BT Group who still appear to be a very long way from having their inferior service available even for just one cabinet,” he said in a comment on the Ewhurst site.
Meanwhile, details have emerged where BT refused to replace a length of aluminium cable that prevented a customer from getting more than 15Mpbs from an Infinity cabinet that BT promises will soon deliver “up to 80Mbps”.
The story develops in a series of postings on the PlusNet community blog. At one point the customer says, “BT have stated that they are not willing to replace the aluminium cable with copper due to the costs associated with digging up the directly buried inferior cable. If only they had run the cable in a duct…
“BT have apparently quoted long lead times and a cost of several thousand pounds because they would need to negotiate permission to dig up other residents’ front gardens. This may not be too difficult as everyone on the estate is aware of the service strip under which all utility cables are buried…
“If BT are truly treating the FTTC trial as a method of developing their 21CN customer service methodology, then problems like this are good learning opportunities and should not be filed away as ‘too difficult’.”
Although the exchange between the customer and PlusNet (a BT subsidiary) is from November 2010, it is indicative of the problems customers have in getting BT to deliver the service it promises.
The fact that Ewhurst has lots of aluminium cable and some of its ducts are in poor condition may have something to do with Openreach’s revised timetable. Or not.