Following the broadband money

When push comes to shove in rural broadband

with 15 comments

Culture secretary Maria Miller may be calling for a shake-up at BDUK, the agency tasked with delivering high speed broadband to the “Final Third”, but she might do better going to Kent to beat the bushes for the Ultrafast Underriver project.

Underriver is hoping to contract Gigaclear to provide a 1Gbps fibre to the home (FTTH) service to homes in its area. They are unlikely to get >2Mbps via BT ever, despite almost £20m of taxpayers’ money going to the telco.

After first pitching the idea in the depths of winter, and getting a resounding “Yes, I’m interested” response, the organisers are now doing the hard graft of signing up customers. Gigaclear won’t move until it has 190 firm customers, and the organisers are 60% there.

Mike Clyne, who is leading the project, says progress so far is normal, but he is looking to push so that the diggers can move in.

He faces two main problems: ignorance and apathy. To reduce ignorance levels the organisers have sent out FAQs and their answers.

So why are some people being shy?

“Anecdotal evidence seems to primarily fall into two categories. The first is about cost and the second is ‘do I need more internet speed?’,” he says.

Taking the cost issue, Gigaclear is offering 50Mbps symmetrical plus phone line starting at £43/month plus £100 connection fee, and a 1Gbps for £69/month. That’s about 2.4x what TalkTalk is advertising (£18.00/month), but likely 25x what TalkTalk could possibly deliver to these homes.

As the speed question, the real question is What’s your time worth? That’s pretty easy to answer. A more subtle question is, What could you do that you can’t do now? That requires imagination and perhaps courage to take advantage of the service and change your life.

By the by, Clyne says the local parish councils have raised Underriver in their discussions of broadband issues. “Sevenoaks District Council have also listed our project on their website. Kent County Council have declined our request to list the Ultrafast Underriver project on their website.”

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2013/06/25 at 22:14

15 Responses

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  1. It’s also important to compare the features being provided. Symmetric speeds are not available for FTTC products but are important especially for business users who require video conferencing, Cloud Computing etc. Universal speeds at any line distance are only available with a fibre solution. Service reliability without a nightmare overseas call centre discussion designed for “customer diversion” rather than fixing a problem. This situation is seriously exacerbated with VDSL modems locked down so you can’t see the draconian actions of Dynamic Line Management algorithms which cap speeds according to the worst incident but are never released without a site visit.

    Merrow Drover

    2013/06/25 at 23:02

  2. Anyone trying to squeeze any sense out of BT and the BDUK scheme would do well to look at the link Ian has provided to the underriver webpage and navigate down to the notes of a meeting with BT on 13 Feb and see the responses from Peter Cowen to the necessary questions the project asked. Not one of the important questions was answered. The notes are littered with

    ” (As at 25th February, Peter Cowen of BT has been unable to provide any further information – so the situation remains as given at the meeting and reported in these notes)”

    Obviously some depend on the KCC contract, but questions like “is there an SLA minimum speed” and clarification re Infinity on “You must not use the service for any commercial or business purpose whatsoever unless we have given you permission to do so. If we find that you are using the service in for business or commercial purposes we reserve the right to limit or terminate the service immediately.”???

    Come on.

    mike phillips

    2013/06/26 at 06:41

    • That’s because they are reading the Residential Terms. There are 31 Communications providers using FTTC/P.


      2013/06/26 at 08:17

      • Should have added ‘for business’.


        2013/06/26 at 08:26

  3. I can sympathise completely with the ignorance and apathy statement. The only advice I can give is to be persistent. Very persistent and the message will get through eventually. One of the problems is that unless you are interested in IT, then the intricacies of broadband are pretty dull and the other one is that people expect the big telcos to deliver which in lots of cases they will but many they will not.

    The situation in the B4RN area now is such that the community are now very engaged and are digging faster than the fibre can be put in which is a great position for the community to be in, but it has taken some effort to get to this point.

    Also, now that customers are receiving the service and seeing the benefits this makes it more real for the people who maybe weren’t so sure at the start. Just take a look at some of the guest blogs that have been sent in to get an idea of how it is affecting people.

    Martyn Dews

    2013/06/26 at 06:58

  4. Perhaps we are all becoming aware of the obfuscation and restrictive practices employed by the largest UK rural monopoly incumbent ?

    Merrow Drover

    2013/06/26 at 08:27

  5. Do we know if the ‘extra £250million’ for broadband post 2015 in the ‘Ginger Rat’s presentation’ today in the house is ACTUALLY ‘extra’ or is it a convenient £50million less than originally promised from the licence sales?

    mike phillips

    2013/06/27 at 12:49

    • I have asked.


      2013/06/27 at 13:04

    • The 250m is indeed from the BBC’s 300m. I am waiting to hear what they’ve earmarked the balance for. Ditto the 60m unallocated in the Urban Broadband Fund.


      2013/06/27 at 13:29

      • Ahh, so it ties up with what Mark at ISP Review just tweeted me then. So rather than £250m extra it’s £50m less. Is that how you understand it to be?

        Martyn Dews

        2013/06/27 at 13:33

      • DCMS says the 250m comes from the 300m that DCMS has expropriated from the BBC licence fee. We knew about this before. DCMS says the ‘missing’ 50m is still ‘in the pot’, presumably to be allocated later. The same holds true for the ‘missing’ 60m from the Urban Broadband Foundation which is to contribute 90m to the voucher system for high speed urban access. I understand the 60m is earmarked for capital spending, eg Wi-Fi access points, FTTC, etc. Pity most of it will be for public sector premises; not sure how much public access there will be.


        2013/06/27 at 21:42

  6. This may / may not (delete as appropriate) be of interest:


    2013/06/27 at 13:10

  7. I fear ‘may not’. Could not see any reference to the post 2015 spend? Do you have a link?

    mike phillips

    2013/06/27 at 16:29

  8. The ‘Register’ reminds me of the old joke “How do you know a politician is lying?” when it observes that

    “Way back in 2010, then Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that he would take £300m from the BBC licence fee’s digital switchover budget to help pay for faster broadband connections to reach the final 10 per cent of the UK’s population.

    Just yesterday, taxpayers hoping for faster broadband connections in 22 cities across Blighty were dealt a crushing blow after the government scaled back its ambitions by skimming off cash from the £150m Urban Broadband Fund pot to help pay for small biz digital skills. The rest of the money (up to £90m) set aside for broadband will now be spent on vouchers that businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible for.

    The DCMS disagreed with claims that it had “watered down” its original plans. ®”

    and that it will take until 2017 (so the ‘politician’ says – watch his lips) to put us at the ‘forefront’ of European Broadband (by which time…………..guess what?). By 2015 we will ‘nearly’ have achieved our 90% ambitions (don’t you just love the words?). 2017 to 2020 is a preciously short time to jump to the EU target, is it not?

    The government’s pdf on the big ‘infrastructure plan’ that you really need to read is at (broadband is at page 49 after the other laugh and tear up stuff) and interestingly there is little mention of fixed wireless apart from ‘exploratory’ work and the ‘big cities’.

    I am now braced for the next government in 2015 firmly to allocate blame on the previous (I can see a possible problem there) for why we ‘failed’.

    mike phillips

    2013/06/28 at 07:35

    • Actually, on a serious note, apart from his traditional ‘startled rabbit’ face, I though Jeremy didn’t look awfully well on TV on Thursday – a little gaunt. Let’s hope if so, the NHS will be there for him……………………

      mike phillips

      2013/06/28 at 07:38

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