Following the broadband money

MPs to query rural broadband roll-out

with 14 comments

Some farmers who will be able to get their CAP forms in on time dug their own fibre in the B4RN area.

Some farmers who will be able to get their CAP forms in on time dug their own fibre in the B4RN area.

MPs have launched an inquiry into rural broadband speeds following on-going concerns that nearly £2bn of taxpayers’ money is unlikely to produce the expected results.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said the government aims to provide universal access to standard broadband with a speed of at least 2Mbps and to ensure superfast broadband is available to 95% of UK premises by 2017.
The government  has budgeted some £780m for Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) to cover the areas not covered by the commercial roll-outs by BT and Virgin Media. This sum has been added to by county officials, who also applied European funding, and BT, which won all the procurement tenders. The total is close to £2bn.
Some £20m was earmarked for “hard to reach” communities and individuals under the Rural Broadband Programme.
MPs noted that from January 2015 all applications for the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) schemes will have to be made online. The Rural Payments Agency has committed to providing “a range of additional support” for customers who can’t get online, don’t have access to a computer or don’t have the necessary skills to use one.
The inquiry will examine the current broadband coverage in rural areas and the new digital─only services. It will also look at the “Assisted Digital” support being offered.
The committee want written evidence on
  • the extent of broadband coverage in hardest to reach rural areas
  • digital access and experience of digital─only programmes, such as the new CAP system applications
  • support available for those required to use digital─only programmes

Written submissions should be submitted via the Rural broadband and digital─only services inquiry page on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website.

The deadline is Wednesday 19 November 2014.


Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2014/10/31 at 18:41

14 Responses

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  1. And it won’t make a h’apporth of difference what we write to them. They won’t take a blind bit of notice. We have told them time and time again, in their ‘reports’, in emails, on social media, at seminars. We have been telling them for years. This is another pointless flamin exercise. If you want a country to be digital you don’t let a monopoly patch up an obsolete phone line and allow them to advertise it as ‘fibre broadband’.

    We need a decent regulator and a competent advertising standards agency.

    We need a few civil servants advising politicians who aren’t in the pockets of vital vision programming and who have a basic grasp of physics.

    We need the PAC to follow up the requests they made to the councils and BT in the spring and not let them get away with ignoring direct instructions.

    We need men and women of fibre. Moral and Optic.

    We certainly don’t need Defra ploughing money into teaching people how to submit returns from their ‘local’ online centres many miles away from the farms. This is just another snouts in troughs opportunity for more funding for pen pushers. The funding should go to building alternative networks providing competition. I notice that wherever B4RN goes that suddenly cabinets start to appear, in villages of 20 homes, whereas larger areas of 300 homes can’t get ‘superfast’. Strange that, isn’t it?

    I think cities would still be on dial up if it wasn’t for Virgin moving the goal posts. The same thing has to happen in rural areas. Competition is king, but the councils have just been hoodwinked into letting BT take the money for the urban fringe and ignore the areas the money was meant for. BT don’t even need the money, their efforts to get it are simply to prevent any altnet getting it. Think about it.

    Chris Conder

    2014/10/31 at 19:35

    • Chris – you’re right, of course, but you can’t not submit a report – just in case someone has turned his/her hearing aid on.

      Patrick Cosgrove

      2014/11/01 at 10:04

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with Chris Conder’s reasoning. I invented the term “Communications Rail Crash” back in 2009 in a Parliamentary submission. My point was that Public servants and politicians realised that they couldn’t continue to kill people through inadequate railway maintenance; yet that’s precisely what they were doing and continue to do with the ageing and not-fit-for-purpose PSTN.

    Since then we had our independent Ewhurst Broadband project, complete with a fully engineered and vital fibre backbone, destroyed by BT surely with the co-operation of Parish Councillors and public Servants ? I even had a fulsome apology from a DEFRA official at that time.

    Peter Cochrane provided evidence to the house of Lards Select Committee in 2012 but that too has been largely ignored.

    I, together with a South West Surrey constituent, had an audience with Jeremy Hunt, the then DCMS Minister, and bent his ear severely but achieved nothing. I have repeated the exercise with a letter via Anne Milton (my MP) to Ed Vaizey admonishing his continuing use of BT’s marketing phrases “Passing properties” and “Having Access” yet he continues to spout the same deceitful verbiage; the latest occasion I heard recently on the BBC Rip-Off Britain program.

    IMHO we cannot possibly initiate remedial works unless and until the gross deception is acknowledged and a sea-change in policy announced. This needs shouting from the roof-tops well before the General Election. Only then might the manifestos reflect the rural disaster we just have to rectify.

    In these circumstances the best we can do is to bombard the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs web site reminding them of this message and instructing them to cease plugging holes in the leaky dyke and start commissioning P2P symmetric FTTH. That is the ONLY future-proofed solution, regardless of objections from the Incumbent’s directors and shareholders. The prosperity of the nation depends upon urgent action NOW.

    Walter G M Willcox

    2014/11/01 at 16:43

    • Given that getting CAP will be only via on-line only methods, it seems reasonable for farmers and other rural businesses to seek quotations to install fibre links to their premises and warn the government that they will be setting off the cost against income. The CLA etc might wish to collate the quotations to ensure the chancellor can account for the decline in income from taxes in the next budget.


      2014/11/02 at 12:08

      • All that will happen is they will have to pop down to the village hall / pub / bank or whoever has access to the net. You don’t need an optical connection to submit a couple of forms…

        I’m guessing a lot of these rural folk have a ‘smart'(ish) phone so email communication via GPRS will work just fine for anything else.

        Now granted a lot of good can come from a connection, or a better connection but all this drive for the less attractive (commercial) user base could be argued is impacting the rest of the country.

        What about all the people in urban settings who can’t get FTTC/P ? What about all the hundreds neigh thousands of miles of road & rail with no mobile signal?

        Open access for all on a level playing field – not special access for the few.


        2014/11/03 at 16:51

      • I agree there will be lots of people, tens of thousands, perhaps 3.25 million of us, who won’t be able to get a >24Mbps service from the BDUK roll-out, but the government has mandated online submission of the CAP and other forms, like animal movements. Is not an imposition to expect them to “pop down the pub” to do private and confidential work?

        On 3 November 2014 16:51, Br0kenTeleph0n3 wrote:



        2014/11/03 at 17:52

    • You are right, some folk will not get 25Mbps or above for the amount of money on the table. But of those we really need to ask the question what speed are they likely to receive if it does fall below the magic 25? Would getting 24Mbps instead of 384Kbps not be a vast improvement?
      Having seen some of the farmers “red-tape” and them struggling with even 512K anything is an improvement, and I would suggest that getting them over the 2Mbps hurdle would be one worthy measurement of success, more would be fine, especially if it enabled better streaming or multiple usable accesses to improve not only work but family life. Perhaps also how many could get over 10Mbps which seems to be rapidly being considered as a desirable, workable speed.


      2014/11/04 at 09:47

      • Martin Horwood MP has just made that point explicitly in a Westminster Hall debate today on the risk that Cheltenham (of all places) will have poor coverage by the end of the money. He noted that internet access is now part of everyday life for school kids to access and submit homework, for businesses to order and supply goods and services, etc. He could have added for the NHS to monitor patients at home. He said it was unacceptable that new housing developments can go ahead without provision for high speed broadband access. To his credit, communications minister Ed Vaizey agreed and said he’s set up a forum following talks with BT, Virgin Media and Hyperoptic so that developers could submit their plans and the carriers could synch their duct building programmes with the builders.

        On 4 November 2014 09:47, Br0kenTeleph0n3 wrote:



        2014/11/04 at 11:41

      • I sincerely hope Martin Horwood has emphasised that it isn’t just Chelmsford. The entire VDSL concept is similarly afflicted. I also hope that ALL builders provide over-sized ducts available to ALL Communications Providers and that ANY provider installs well-oversized fibre cables suitable for Point-to-Point fibre services.

        Walter G M Willcox

        2014/11/04 at 12:33

      • Ah, it was Cheltenham, which thanks to the presence of GCHQ, the UK’s electronic surveillance service, is probably the best-fibred town in the country. But he did say that if Cheltenham was likely to suffer such a poor result from both the commercial roll-out and the government’s supplemental spend, what hope was there for other towns, let alone more rural areas.

        On 4 November 2014 12:33, Br0kenTeleph0n3 wrote:



        2014/11/04 at 17:43

      • @ Gadget,

        Here is a sample calculation for a village we prepared last year. There are a few more we’ve now discovered can’t obtain any VDSL service at all and a further 8 lines from two DPs where they are now condemned yet their neighbours already have VDSL services. We assume this is because BT Openreach cannot afford the continuing maintenance visits nor the replacement of the substandard cables.

        More generally your comments are useful to examine what can actually be achieved for the “starving”. From a purely business model for the likes of farmers, a RELIABLE 2 Mbps download service would probably suffice for downloading a PDF form and then uploading the return of the data boxes – assuming the forms have been correctly designed. However the upload speeds on poor quality ADSL lines are substantially below 2 Mbps and sometimes even below 100 Kbps. Similarly almost all sub 15 Mbps VDSL services are tuned to provide less that 0.5 Mbps upload. Again this is probably adequate for PDF form filling but is almost useless for anyone attempting cloud computing or serious video conferencing. This is an unacceptable constriction for e.g. those farmers diversifying attempting to convert redundant barns etc into offices.

        As the Irishman said to the apocryphal enquiring stranger “I wouldn’t start from here to get there” !
        All these ponderings would thankfully vanish with a guaranteed 1 Gbps symmetric service at least up to 10 km line length if the UK were to adopt the designs of the B4RN stalwarts. However this process can’t start until public servants and politicians stop using deceitful phrases such as “Passing properties” and “Having access”. I am sure we are al very relieved to hear from Ed Vaizey (BBC Rip Off Britain) that he’s very pleased with BT’s “SuperFARCE” performance

        Walter G M Willcox

        2014/11/04 at 12:08

  3. No more than the folk who have to sit in a job centre or library to do there online banking, claiming of benifits & forced job applications

    The point I’m making is there is and always will be ‘another way’ be it a friend/neighbour or somewhat of a more private setting rather than the local pub in the middle of happy hour. VAT returns – wasn’t that an online only thing for a while? And now they have decided they will accept paper documents again due to people with connectivity issues, I suspect the same will come of this.

    I see plenty of people sitting up in major coffee houses doing all sorts of things that could be seen as private & confidential every day. I’m not saying any one individual may wish to do that – but people do up & down the land and obviously don’t think/worry/care about it.


    2014/11/04 at 00:05

    • So would you agree that if claiming CAP, which is directly related to the business of running a farm, has to be online, then getting an online connection is a business expense and therefore tax-deductible?

      On 4 November 2014 00:05, Br0kenTeleph0n3 wrote:



      2014/11/04 at 09:26

      • I don’t believe there would be an issue with someone claiming that as a business expense – the point I was making was there are many ways to get on-line that don’t need or involve farmers having access to gigabyte optical networking to fill out a form. You can already claim things like telephones (mobile & fixed) as business expenses so xDSL would be no different in that respect I suspect all these small business owners already claim there expenses/tax relief in-line with relevant laws the same as the likes of Starbucks etc.


        2014/11/04 at 19:50

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