Following the broadband money

WSCC/BT roll-out to duplicate wireless broadband coverage

with 15 comments

It’s becoming increasingly clear that BT is prioritising rural areas where it faces competition for its initial taxpayer-funded roll-out of next generation broadband.

The latest example comes from West Sussex, where BT has already upgraded the coastal belt in its commercial roll-out, and is now moving inland.

The official West Sussex County Council interactive map (which is not up to date in terms of its colour-coding; it still says the coast is “under evaluation”) does not reflect any choice of suppliers of high speed broadband.

BT's taxpayer-funded roll-out will largely duplicate Kijoma's privately-funded wireless coverage (outlined in black).

BT’s taxpayer-funded roll-out will largely duplicate Kijoma’s privately-funded wireless coverage (outlined in black).

However, BrokenTelephone has made a more up to date map which shows roughly how BT’s taxpayer-funded coverage maps onto the coverage provided by wireless internet service provider Kijoma (outlined in black).

Interestingly, the WSCC says that two of the exchange areas shown as pink are “partly in the commercial roll-out”.

“These are Billingshurst and Bosham. The rest are outside of the commercial roll-out and therefore in the area eligible for funding by the project.”

When the BDUK procurement framework was first mentioned, wireless was excluded as not being capable of meeting EU targets of 30Mbps for all, and 50% of the population on 100Mbps service. The European Commission later relaxed its stance on wireless, but BDUK and local councils appear to ignore the change in contracting for next generation broadband networks.

We have asked WSCC for clarification as to precisely which areas in Billinghurst and Bosham (bottom left of map, just south of Kijoma coverage) are in the commercial roll-out, and what the time-frame is for the roll-out to the non-commercial parts are. We’ll update this story if we get a reply.

This is not the first sign that BT is being allowed to use public money to overbuild privately-run networks. The most egregious so far is BT’s roll-out of a fibre through the

Lune Valley, Lancashire - site of the BT/B4RN broadband battle.

Lune Valley, Lancashire – site of the BT/B4RN broadband battle. (Click to open.)

Lancashire village of Dolphinholme, where residents have spent time, money and effort digging towards the B4RN network to ensure that their village doesn’t miss out.

While BT’s Dolphinholme roll-out looks good in terms of “homes passed”, the actual availability of a fibre connection to those homes not on the road appears slight. The more likely reason for the fibre link is that the road through Dolphinholme leads to a radio mast, and the fibre is there to backhaul mobile radio traffic, not to carry residential broadband traffic. But its presence is a threat to B4RN, which, try as it might, is unlikely to persuade mobile network operators to use its fibre, at least in the short term.

Tunstall, another Lancashire village in the B4RN coverage area in BT’s sights, is on the road to Kirkby Lonsdale and there is already fibre in that road. BT is also targetting Whittington, which is the hamlet after Arkholme and Docker on the way up to Kirkby on the opposite side of the Lune valley to Tunstall.

Two weeks ago Gigaclear scrapped plans to roll out a 1Gbps-capable FTTP network in the Dun Valley, Wiltshire, after the Wiltshire County Council said it would apply BDUK money to BT’s “up to 80Mbps” FTTC roll-out in the area. This followed months of discussions between residents, Gigaclear and the council as to their roll-out plans for the valley.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2014/02/20 at 07:01

15 Responses

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  1. Ian

    I have been saying for years that BT simple does not want competition, anywhere, any size, any time.

    Small local operators could earn a decent living with the crumbs that BT leave behind on the table but Openreach insist on sweeping up the crumbs removing the table cloth, table and now looks like the whole damn restaurant is disappearing.

    …and this is not about coverage or speeds or passing homes – this is all to do with advertising revenue that BT are planning on getting through BT vision – the more customers they can get on board to that increases the money they get from advertising revenue and directed marketing. They don’t need huge megaspeeds at the moment to deliver a decent TV service.

    Rutland Telecom’s network has been totally overlaid by BT – initially the council ignored what RT had done but even then BT came along ‘with its own money’ and installed FTTC throughout the county.


    Mark Melluish

    2014/02/20 at 07:21

    • Agree Mark, the push now seems to be on ‘content’ (starting with football) and billions will be poured into that, and then when everyone starts using it the incumbent will keep increasing phone line rental and data usage charges, because the poor suckers will still be on phone lines and have no choice, then the system will go into meltdown and it will be nationalised again as BT will have spend all the money they should have invested in upgrades.


      2014/02/20 at 11:45

  2. It just proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that competition is King, and if the BDUK funding had gone to the altnets BT would have used their own profits to upgrade many areas rather than lose them. The crime is using public money to knock out innovative self help projects and new businesses. ie the Altnets.

    I could imagine this happening under the previous government, but not with a conservative one who reckon they support new business.

    Maybe the politicians from all parties have been on the vital vision brainwashing jolly? Or maybe its just the old boys network in action as this covers all parties and the civil service is rife with it.


    2014/02/20 at 08:29

  3. Here’s another example:-

    All rural BT FTTC deployments leave the worst & most needy bereft. Ewhurst there are now 68 who have no prospect of ANY VDSL FTTC provision. (The 59th achieves 5.3 Mbps VDSL sync speed whereas the user had a sync speed of 7.712 Mbps on ADSL i.e. G.DMT Annex A ) See:-

    Click to access Broadband%20Performance%20Ewhurst%20-%20Issue%202.pdf

    Meanwhile those on THCN Ewhurst cabinet 20 have been unable to order new VDSL services since last July possibly being resolved for one user next week. Ewhurst THCN cabinet 18 lost availability early this month and was presumably promised the last 28 services on the 5 March 2014 according to BT Wholesale. That promise vanished but now services are apparently available again but for how long?

    What a horrible example, in my opinion, of the Local Authorities’ (and many other public servants’) seemingly negligent disregard of BT’s predatory tactics destroying our SEEDA grant-approved Ewhurst project and the annihilation of a true competitor.


    2014/02/20 at 09:04

  4. In Cumbria, BDUK money has been used to put at least 1 cab in Great Salkeld where clearly has a superfast presence as declared in the OMR. Great Asby and EVD also seem to have been sacrificed under the BT gravy train steamrollering its way through rural UK.

    I am hearing rumours that another community-funded and well-supported altnet is also about to suffer 3 BT cabs using ConnectingCumbria money but am awaiting confirmation.

    This has to be stopped now. BT, central government and local authorities have clearly overstepped their remit, ignoring duties of care and corporate and monopoly law, to the detriment of vast swathes of this country, and no doubt there are also legal issues now which could/should/would come into force.


    2014/02/20 at 10:54

    • Alternatively you could take the view that the comparisons between the superior service from the altnet (faster, cheaper, less contention etc) proves to government that fibre/fiwi is a far better solution than the copper cabinets as long as the altnet has a large enough customer base to continue, and most of them will have due to the support of the communities who are fed up with the incumbent’s empty promises. It seems to me that only the councils have any faith in the hype from a greedy monopoly determined to stamp out any competitor. Its a shame Ewhurst in Surrey don’t have any other alternative provider as their project was killed before it even got started, and they have loads of evidence how rubbish the cabinet solution is for so many. Isn’t there a law about this sort of behaviour? Do we have a regulator 😉


      2014/02/20 at 11:36

  5. Meanwhile, those stuck with BT and no choice face situations such as Ewhurst (this blog, multiple times), Upottery, Binfield Heath etc etc etc.

    BT are doing well with our dosh, aren’t they?


    2014/02/20 at 13:34

  6. We have a similar situation on the Isle of Wight. We submitted an extremely detailed response to the Isle of Wight Council’s (IWC) Open Market Review (OMR) and in it we included our coverage status for 30 Mb/s ‘superfast’ services into every single (complete 7 character) post code, declaring, demonstrating and proving our pre-existing coverage of around 85% of the region. The IWC’s project lead officer told us at a chamber of commerce board meeting that the deal between IWC and BT/BDUK was unstoppable BEFORE IWC HAD EVEN EVALUATED OMR RESPONSES. We had known for some time that IWC officers intended to exclude any/all OMR responses and draw up the ‘intervention area’ for public funding without reference to existing coverage provided by us in the region. IWC then wrote to us informing us that not a single square millimeter of our existing coverage was being ‘accepted’ when determining the intervention area. The result was that BT will receive millions of pounds from the public purse to overbuild our existing coverage.
    This is a travesty for the tax payer as it means that BT will receive millions in public hand outs to install FTTC (broadband over copper wires) into areas already able to access genuine superfast services over the Wiber network. This is a waste of public money and it distorts the market by artificially subsidising one operator – giving BT an unfair advantage and supporting them in maintaining their monopoly position.
    IWC officers have been determined from the outset to turn a blind eye to the infrastructure, coverage and services of existing operators who have invested commercially in the region to provide high speed connectivity into areas where BT refused to invest in improvements. We have made repeated attempts to engage with IWC on this to ensure that public money was not wasted ‘overbuilding’ where services already exist – to help IWC ensure that the limited money available for our region can be targeted to reach those genuinely in need and be used to maximum effect. Our attempts have fallen on deaf ears and IWC have demonstrated no apetite whatsoever to engage with us or other local providers and have been determined to ignore and disregard anything and everything we have submitted and provided to evidence our coverage.
    IWC and BT and BDUK continue to be complicit in misleading the public by widely publicising that ‘Fibre Broadband’ is coming as a result of this project when the truth is that 100% of the publicly funded infrastructure will deliver services to premises using copper phone lines – no Fibre will be used between cabinets and premises. So this is a ‘COPPER BROADBAND’ system, not ‘Fibre Broadband’ at all. The ‘marketing speak’ using the term ‘fibre’ for a service delivered over ‘copper’ is extremely misleading for consumers, who see BT’s TV adverts depicting fibre optic cables falling from the sky into their garden, and read in the press that IWC and BT are deolpying ‘Fibre Broadband” accross the region – and unsurprisingly the consumer forms the conclusion that they will get access to a Fibre Optic Broadband Service soon – when that ‘assumption’ could not be further from the truth.
    If the public realised how loose and obtuse the project terms are in terms of what BT has to actually deliver, and that the system is ‘COPPER’ not ‘fibre’, and that anyone more than around 800 meters line length from a cabinet won’t stand a chance of getting ‘superfast speeds’ at all, and that public money is being wasted over building existing operators when people in genuine need will be ‘left out’ of the project scope entirely, and how BT were the only eligible bidder – a 1 horse race – and how they have inflated equipment prices to push up contract values and consume more pulic money, then there would surely be an outcry and an enquiry into how and why this could all be allowed to happen like this.
    We are all for genuine competition. We are all for fostering a fair and level environment where commercial investment is encouraged and is made viable to solve rural connectivity issues. We are all for the principle of public money being used to supply services into areas where no provider is willing or able to invest commercially.
    We are against the BDUK unfair and biast procurement model that excluded dozens of viable specialist regional bidders from being able to present local authorities with viable and far more cost effective solutions – leaving auorities with the choice of only 1 provider offering only 1 technology – expensive, inflexible and (in rural areas) poorly performing FTTC copper broadband. We are against local authorities excluding and ignoring existing superfast coverage that genuinely exists, is well known, and is provable and popular, and being complicit in wasting public money deploying BT’s FTTC into areas that already have other equivalent or better options available. We are against the secrecy that prevents anyone finding out which post codes will be included and which won’t be included in the project so other providers have no way of identifying where to target their own investments to ensure that those ‘left out’ of the project will be not be left with nothing but will have access to commercially funded alternatives.

    Wiber - High Point Infrastructure Ltd.

    2014/02/20 at 14:58

    • That is an absolute scandal! Does Margaret Hodge and the PAC know about it? Does our ‘regulator’ OFCOM know about it?


      2014/02/20 at 15:07

    • So, so far we have BT overbuild of existing commercial and community projects with public money happening for the following reasons:

      1) Councils refusing to take any notice of the OMR, despite what State Aid says on that matter
      2) Wireless submissions to OMR being ignored despite the change in EU policy permitting wireless as a superfast solution
      3) Community projects being overbuilt because BDUK money takes priority over Defra RCBF money

      Any others?


      2014/02/20 at 16:54

      • Just to flout their total omnipotence BT then decide to deploy priority areas where there ARE other providers (E.g. Dolphinholme & Tunstall etc.) rather than relieving those places desperately waiting for ANY solution such as the exchange only lines.


        2014/02/20 at 17:49

  7. […] This interesting article reveals how BT wants to see off all competition, while making no commercial sense. Do read the full article for the references to B4RN towards the end. […]

  8. […] is already trying to “white ant” altnet coverage areas, making it difficult for altnets to provide coverage without overbuilding BT’s subsidised […]

  9. […] is already trying to white ant altnet coverage areas1, making it difficult for altnets to provide coverage without overbuilding BT s subsidised coverage […]

  10. Whilst Kijoma may in theory cover Billingshurst they have been completely unresponsive for the last four years – not a single reply.

    It is still the case that the edges of Billingshurst are in limbo between the commercial rollout and public-funded initiative. For us, FTTC was pending due to ‘high demand’ on the exchange but has now dropped off the availability checker completely.

    The latest Government promise of 10Mb speeds for everyone by 2020 show the complete lack of understanding. By that time, 10Mb will be the equivalent of 2Mb now and rural areas will continue to be denied access to the emerging services.

    Paul Tweddell

    2015/11/11 at 08:14

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