Press Release from ESHB

We have just received the following report from Mike Turner of Ewhurst & Surrey Hills Broadband.

“Superfast” Broadband now available to most of Ewhurst (19/10/2012) – a brief summary from ESHBB (Ewhurst & Surrey Hills Broadband)

The long wait is over for most Ewhurst Residents and Businesses as the new green cabinet 20 near the Bull’s Head was made available for orders today following cabinet 19 on Cranleigh Road last week. Cabinet 18 (at the junction of Plough Lane and the Horsham Road) and Cabinet 6 in Cranleigh (which will serve Barhatch Lane) will follow shortly.

Several orders to upgrade have already been placed by Residents with their ISP (Internet Service Providers such as Plusnet, BT, TalkTalk etc.) We are told that one resident has been advised by his ISP that he will achieve 69Mbps early November.

If you want to try it yourself, go to http://www.superfast-openreach.co.uk/ and follow the instructions!

A lot has happened since March 2010 when Ewhurst & Surrey Hills Broadband (ESHBB) was set up to achieve decent broadband for the village. Following a feasibility study by Rutland Communications paid for by local residents, we agreed that the prime solution was to replace the slow copper wires feeding Ewhurst with fibre optic cable to new cabinets (Fibre To The Cabinet, FTTC) serving all users in Ewhurst. It was acknowledged that this might not upgrade outlying residents to an acceptable speed but that this secondary problem could be tackled only after identifying the scale of that problem after Ewhurst was upgraded to FTTC.

BT advised that they would not even consider upgrading Ewhurst or Cranleigh until 2018 at the earliest. This was not acceptable to us.

So we decided to apply for a grant available through SEEDA and obtained a quotation from Vtesse for a purpose built FTTC system. No other organisations were willing to quote including BT and Virgin.

Based on Vtesse quotation, a grant of £250,000 was applied for, which was duly approved.

The conditions that SEEDA imposed on ESHBB were onerous in the extreme and would have required a business to be set up to run the system with further costs. We were also required to stake the £250,000 and claim it back from SEEDA in stage payments. We found a very kind local resident to provide a bridging loan, but there were still many hurdles ahead.

BT subsequently around this time entered into a confidential agreement with SEEDA that they would now upgrade Ewhurst to FTTC in 2012 instead of 2018.

As a result SEEDA withdrew our grant offer as no public money would be required if BT did the work.

Without the £250k grant the Vtesse works could not happen so Chris Lyth and Mike Turner signed a non-disclosure agreement with BT in order to find out what was going on. The decision was made to maintain pressure on SEEDA/SCC/BT to ensure that BT completed their upgrade in 2012.

Mike maintained almost daily high-level contact with BT/Openreach and was assured that once the new FTTC cabinets were commissioned an assessment of the outlying problem areas would be made and that BDUK (a government body) together with Surrey County Council would ensure that funds were made available to ensure that “outliers” received a decent broadband service. Technology in this field is moving fast. Similar problems have been resolved elsewhere by installing extra mini cabinets or other devices and shortening the copper lengths to achieve better performance. Fibre to the premises/home (FTTP/H) will be available from mid 2013 for those willing to pay the premium.

By December 2012 the extent of the problem areas will be fully known and steps can then be taken to rectify these problems. In fact ESHBB have recently been invited to attend a high level meeting with SCC to discuss the way forward.

In the meantime, anyone interested in obtaining these new services should contact their ISP as soon as possible to see if the new services are available to them and at what cost for what level of service. A list of providers is available at http://www.superfast-openreach.co.uk; just select the provider that you wish to use and they will do the rest.

This entry was posted in Announcements, FTTC Roll-out, Grant Application. Bookmark the permalink.


8 Responses to Press Release from ESHB

  1. David Nye says:

    The suggestion in the last paragraph to contact your existing ISP will not always work, since not all ISPs currently offer FTTC services (Brian reports that Virgin is one example, and O2/BE is another). However, it should be noted that, if available, staying with your current ISP often provides the easiest upgrade path. But we do advise shopping around for the best package for you. Also note that the list you can reach via the above link is not necessarily exhaustive, and requires you to visit and search each ISP site, so we suggest also using the helpful and independent comparison compiled here for short listing, but prices and terms change rapidly, so also check the ISP sites.

  2. David Nye says:

    I am told that the above statement was “issued just to balance Walters comments in the Ewhurst Village News”. I hope that Walter will post his article here for reference.

  3. Walter says:

    Thank you David for the invitation. The following is the typescript before it was adjusted to fit the page layout. (We also believe that the Peaslake Road lash-up will be replaced in mid January 2013; see separate article here.)
    ____________________________________________________
    I have been asked to provide a personal view of the Ewhurst superfast deployment. I welcome constructive dialogue at walter.willcox@ntlworld.com

    The combined actions of Governments and all politicians hinder almost all commercial alternatives except for a few isolated cases, e.g in rural Lancashire http://b4rn.org.uk and Appleton, Oxfordshire http://www.appletonbroadband.co.uk/. Nor can BT match the superior Virgin Media co-axial cable solution. They install optical fibre only as far as street cabinets and don’t adequately maintain the telephone lines their superfast solution depends upon**. Yet they accept State Aid and delay fibre development to protect their ill-fated investments.

    Why should Peaslake Road residents have no phones for 25 & 28 days because BT can’t reconnect 12 wires properly? The current lash-up leaves six users, (including the Thames Water high-reliability telecontrol link) without any spares, instead of the previous 14. Sun 9th September was the replacement date but we still wait.

    The derelict line protection unit in Moon Hall Road is still in circuit, the lash-up at Coblers Brook on Ockley Road remains as do four derelict electricity poles with BT services. The network integrity is damaged by such short-sighted maintenance policies.  Insufficient routine replacement of distribution cables leaves consumers with inadequate services even at the slow speeds available now.

    We now have three small capacity cabinets being connected in October 2012. Perhaps everybody was deceived that the replacement would be an equivalent solution to the SEEDA grant-approved one BT destroyed last year? We had ample capacity for 500 services from each cabinet and a comprehensive new fibre spine running through Ewhurst including some trial fibre to homes and premises. The substitute cabinets can provide only 100 services instead of their 256 maximum; they lack connectors and duct space. BT have ignored our pleas. The fibre distribution point is near Sayers Croft with a shared quad tube routed to the cabinets without sufficient space in some places to increase that capacity. Major expense for road works and more cabinets seem the only solution as now demonstrated twice in Chilworth. How long can consumers be expected to cover these unwarranted costs? It is vitally important that all investment in infrastructure, particularly taxpayers’ state aid, is properly planned to provide a full symmetric fibre service to every premise as a replacement for the worn-out twisted pair cables.

    We must rely on the BT Wholesale checker at present, but if it is accurate, there are many outliers with poor quality lines that can’t obtain a reasonable superfast connection. No plans have been announced to replace the sub-standard cables, many directly buried e.g. almost all of Barhatch Lane from Barhatch Farm upwards, much of Horsham and Somersbury Lanes etc. are currently condemned by the checker. Even overhead cables such as those in Wykehurst Lane seem substandard.

    More details are available on the web site very kindly provided without charge by David Nye.  http://www.ewhurst-broadband.org.uk/

    Here are some pictures
    http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/3878077

    ** “One of the worst mistakes humanity has made”: Quote from the contribution to the recent House of Lords Select Committee on Communications by Dr Peter Cochrane OBE, formerly BT’s Chief Technical Officer. See also:- http://www.slideshare.net/PeterCochrane/why-ftth-fibre-to-the-home

  4. Walter says:

    The following comments refer to the original press release article.

    The news from Mike Turner re BT and Ewhurst’s faster broadband connectivity is to be welcomed but I trust that he will not mind that I raise a few issues pertinent to his statements.

    Re the reference to negotiations which Mike has alluded to and to which I have no knowledge or made any contribution. If these negotiations took place then, it surely demonstrates that BT and SCC potentially colluded to make promises under NDA to ESHB before BT were awarded a contract by SCC.  More worrying for readers and Ewhurst residents – what would have happened if BT had not got the contract?  How might the competing bidders feel about the suggestion of collusion?  Perhaps this might indicate that BDUK, SCC, Waverley BC and ESHB signatories expected BT to get the contract?

    Regarding other aspects, my recollection differs from Mike Turner’s in a number of other respects but as an example, I had received a negative response from BT Openreach as described here:-

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/110995897/BT-Refusal-Extract-1-Mar-2010

    ESHB was not responsible for the Rutland Telecom study as those who most generously contributed wrote their cheques direct to Rutland Telecom. Rutland provided an invoice dated 11 December 2009.

    A brief procurement specification called upon vendors to offer a sustainable solution (As stipulated by SEEDA) possibly based upon a Fibre-To-The-Cabinet solution for 500 services per cabinet but also including a new fibre backbone throughout the village with sample direct fibre connections to some premises. Our chosen supplier was, at that time, also trialling multiple line bonding at signal level to overcome the very long line failures otherwise not covered. I completed the SEEDA pre-qualifying application which was discussed with other members of our team and signed upon our behalf by Mike Turner. SEEDA informed us in July 2010 that we had been successful with our pre-qualification document. We then requested quotations from Vtesse Networks, Rutland Telecom, BT and Virgin media.

    Rutland and Virgin declined, BT produced some words without any figures and only Vtesse produced a compliant quotation.

    We then produced a full application using the Vtesse Networks bid which was submitted to SEEDA in September 2010. During subsequent negotiations we discovered that we had to obtain an unsecured bridging loan for the Grant amount of £150,000 plus VAT making £180,000 (NOT £250,000 ) as receipted invoices were required by HMG. We were informed in mid December that our application had been successful and this was confirmed in an e-mail from SEEDA on 21st December 2010, an extract of which is shown below. No further progress was made up to March 2011 when BT confirmed that after all they would upgrade the Cranleigh exchange by March 2012. This finally caused SEEDA to withdraw our awarded grant after that delay imposed by BT.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/110996048

    I am not aware that those signing the NDA with BT have achieved anything positive of significance, despite a number of possible attempts. E.g. BT continued to install their minimum configuration of 100 services, after (I believe) it had been highlighted as a serious concern. BT have not addressed our concerns for outliers on poor lines such as those in Barhatch, Horsham, Somersbury and Wykehurst Lanes, Peaslake and Holmbury Roads. BT have not disclosed their designed battery duration. Although the fibre distribution through the village is sufficient for the cabinets installed including spares, the fibre backbone for the premium rate Fibre To The Home is not in place, nor has such a facility been clearly defined as a commercial product to my knowledge.
    There still remains time for BT to instruct their supplier and installation contractor ECI to send factory technicians to dismantle their cabinets partially and fit the missing cables and connectors before any services go live. At least that would provide a potential 250 service capacity which should be sufficient in the medium term for those up to say 1,000 m line length. BT would then need to install new ducts and another pair of 100 pr cables plus 50 pr cables to support that additional capacity.

    I do hope I can be proved wrong but I have only observed that BT have succeeded in destroying a division of Vtesse Networks at a significant cost to us and those concerned, as well as a 15 month delay in our project completion. Otherwise we appear to be producing nice words to support Waverley BC, SCC, BDUK, DCMS, our local MPs and successive Governments. Whether such words will be of practical benefit to Ewhurst residents seems highly dubious to me and might well be considered quite confusing.

  5. Walter says:

    Cabinet capacity and availability questions

    In the absence of any detectable movement towards equipping the three FTTCs with the full compliment of 256 VDSL services, I have been postulating how we might observe the situation. I am assuming that Ewhurst is now (nearly fully) attached to the standard BT Openreach ordering process. That in turn must be limited by the resources that BT Openreach have in the entire area. Perhaps this is why I now observe some installation dates postponed and the latest applicants now being provided with installation dates out to 28 November.

    I stress that I have no knowledge as to how the process operates, nor whether the full 100 service capacity is assumed from the start or (more probably) whether it is divided into the first 64 actually installed services followed by the remaining 36 when the second line card is installed.

    Taking the worst-case position of only 64 services, we may well have more than 64 orders already placed for FTTCs 19 or 20 where only 29% and 30% of green cabinet capacity respectively is available. However with the extended lead times, its quite possible that this scarce resource is not actually reserved or allocated until the installation has been tested as successful. (If a particular port is selected for an installation which fails it would seem pointless in wasting an unusable reserved slot.)

    IF that is the case we may discover towards the end of the installation list that the cabinet is oversubscribed resulting in orders accepted now but with capacity not available. That has happened in Chilworth twice now for both sites with duplicated cabinets installed. We do know that the end result is that some hapless applicant discovers that the cabinet suddenly reverts back to “Your cabinet is planned to have WBC FTTC by 31st December 2012, or next year, by 31st March 2013”.

    Whilst mentioning order failures we have now discovered two probable database errors where a house in The Glebe and one in Coneyhurst Lane are shown with no service available via a number of different ISPs. A partial solution is available by doing an address check which provides a positive result. We hope to get the ISP to raise the matter with BT Openreach but we have yet to hear of the result. If anyone finds themselves in this predicament please do ask and we will attempt to help.

  6. Walter says:

    Comment on the Surrey Advertiser article in the 26 October edition

    Just to say that the first figures quoted in this Surrey Advertiser article might seem misleading as they calculate the numbers for the first two cabinets combined. It might be clearer to say that there are 64 services from the first card and only 36 from the second on all three cabinets, due to the fact that only 100 pair cables are installed at present.

    We remain without any information for the continuing delay on cabinet 18 from Mike Turner, presumably because BT have not been able, or don’t wish, to provide any.

    I have been pressing quite hard since Spring 2012 for the cabinet cables, connectors and the tie cables be increased to the full capacity of 250 (or possibly 256) services but have had no information provided if or when that might happen.

  7. David Nye says:

    This BT Wholesale page about Next Generation Service Rollout includes a “download” link to a document apparently listing areas with capacity issues.

    The page content at the link above is a little out of date, but does provide some interesting insight into the logic behind the rollout methods.

  8. David Nye says:

    I have some issues with Walter’s claim that “Nor can BT match the superior Virgin Media co-axial cable solution.” Many businesses apparently find that Virgin are unable to provide them with a fixed IP address, and their cable service is much less “symmetric” than FTTC (upload is only 10% of download for Virgin, but normally 20% for BT). Virgin reps say that availability of a fixed IP is “down to whether they have permission to carry out the civil engineering involved in re-cabling at a local level.” Which suggests that Virgin are already in the midst of a wasteful re-engineering excercise because they failed to get the infrastructure right in the first place (sound familiar?) So, as far as I can see, BT may well beat Virgin for business use in many cases, and for some residential uses too.

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