What Next For Ewhurst?

Mike Turner, Communications officer on the Ewhurst Parish Council (EPC), with Alan Young, recently attended a meeting with BT Group, Openreach and Surrey County Council (SCC) representatives. Here it was confirmed that the recent installation of fibre services at all four cabinets means that Ewhurst will not be part of the plans to be announced by SCC on 21st February. Apparently some Cranleigh cabinets which are not  included in the Openreach commercial roll-out have been “BDUK approved”, and so may be covered by the SCC announcement. EU State Aid Provisions currently prevent public money being spent on areas which have already benefited from private investment. Unfortunately this sensible safety mechanism currently seems not to accommodate those “outliers” too far from their cabinet to achieve satisfactory performance from a FTTC service. Until this shortcoming is resolved by the EU, the “outliers” must either rely on improvements funded by Openreach or pursue other avenues ourselves.

At the meeting it was also apparent that Openreach and SCC are now using 15 Mbps download as the threshold for satisfactory broadband performance. This represents a significant backwards step from the previously announced “superfast” speeds of at least 24 Mbps, but is in line with current Ofcom thinking. Unfortunately there is still no target for upload speed, rendering the “ambition” useless for many business development purposes.

Mike estimates that, by mid-January, about 12% of phone lines had already been signed up for a new “fibre” service on the three main Ewhurst cabinets, and most of these are now benefiting from “superfast” speeds over 24 Mbps and some over 70 Mbps. Mike was also assured that the existing four FTTC cabinets can be upgraded to accommodate all Ewhurst lines. Note that these cabinets are a different design to the Chilworth equivalents, where additional cabinets were needed to meet demand.

So that we can apply maximum pressure, those already using a “fibre” broadband service should please check its performance using the new BT Wholesale speed test at speedtest.btwholesale.com and get in touch if the result is below 15 Mbps. Others should please check their estimated speed with the updated BT Wholesale Availability Checker at www.dslchecker.bt.com/adsl/adslchecker.welcome and get in touch if “WBC FTTC” is not shown as available or if the “Downstream Line Rate” for “WBC FTTC” is below 15 Mbps. Note that this availability checker also now shows the cabinet number. We can help if you have any problems using these tools.

If you are reading this article in the subscription email from “Ewhurst Broadband” then you can reply to the email to get in touch with me, David Nye. Note that Walter is treating details supplied to him as confidential, so please do not assume that he will pass your details on to me or Mike Turner. Details sent to me will be passed on to BT Openreach via Mike if this may help improve Ewhurst services. Please remember to pass this request on to others who do not subscribe to these updates, and to encourage all “outliers” and anyone else with poor broadband performance to get in touch. Even if someone is not desperate for a faster service now, providing their details (e.g. phone number, postcode or road name and speed or availability result) will hopefully help their neighbours, and ensure availability when needed in future. Faster broadband also helps to sell houses and often increases their value.

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8 Responses to What Next For Ewhurst?

  1. David Nye says:

    Mike reports that, due to lack of resources, his Openreach contact is now only interested in hearing about lines which are unable to order a “fibre” FTTC service or where the FTTC speed is no better than ADSL. This might suggest that all Openreach resources will now be fully occupied in (a) meeting the 2 Mbps USC by 2015 and (b) fulfilling their contractual obligations in “intervention” areas. Walter hopes that this may revive interest in a DIY solution for Ewhurst outliers.

  2. Walter says:

    Just to remind Mike in case he hasn’t said so already (or if BT continue to ignore our data) there are at least 60 properties unable to obtain any FTTC service from the four cabinets:-

    1. PCP 6 on Parkhouse Green feeding about 40 premises in Barhatch Lane, Horseblock Hollow etc. This is the official BT response for one:-


    “Dear Mr xxxx,
    Thank you for your enquiry.  You are connected to the Cranleigh Exchange, cabinet 6. Regrettably, the distance from the second telephone number you provided to the cabinet is too great to support fibre broadband. Please contact your Service Provider who can advise if there are any products they can offer which will improve your current broadband service.
    Regards, Julie Cummings  BWA613
    Network Investment Customer Engagement”


    All residences connected via this cable canot obtain anything more that minimum ADSL speeds. The postcodes involved are GU6 7NH, 7NL and 7NJ

    2. Similarly for cabinet 20 there are 12 addresses at the far end of Peaslake Road GU6 7NR unable to get any VDSL or ADSL services at all.

    3. Also a further 12 cabinet 20 houses on Holmbury Hill RH5 6NS and 6NU are unable to get any VDSL or ADSL services at all.

    4. There are more under performing VDSL (down to 0.9 Mbps) and ADSL services in lower Moon Hall and Peaslake Roads**, western part of Coneyhurst Lane, Lower Breach Road, Horsham Lane and Somersbury Lane.

    ** Moon Hall and Peaslake Roads could have obtained far better services with a new much shorter and lower-noise cable if BT had continued the DoK ducts down the whole of Peaslake Road instead of attempting to pole mount the new cable up Moon Hall Road (and just as the residents had volunteered to contribute towards in 2007/8).

    5. The Slythurst area GU6 7SA is also notorious, although current conditions there are unknown.

    If BT wish to do a thorough investigation all VDSL service data is available to them via the FTTC DSLAMS so public involvement should be quite unnecessary.

  3. David Nye says:

    Thanks Walter, but unfortunately this information is of no help in improving our broadband service, since Openreach require a list of telephone numbers and addresses for people who actually want faster broadband. The whole process is demand driven; the resources simply do not exist for the more proactive approach you suggest. Volunteers to collect such details for their road or postcode will be warmly welcomed.

  4. Walter says:

    What Fibre on Demand ?

    There is a recent news article here:-

    http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/i/5770.html

    discussing the imminent launch, but only for a “limited footprint”, of a new BT FTTH product. However it is yet to be announced by retail providers. Note also that it is not related to the existing FTTCabinets as they are not equipped as fibre distribution points; all new fibres and a new duct infrastructure would have to start from the Sayers Croft joint pit which is Ewhurst’s only fibre distribution node. (Please e-mail me if you would like photographs.)

    Ignoring the inevitable delay for Ewhurst, if there are sufficient interested (or perhaps very disgruntled ?) people in Ewhurst, the likely individual costs involved would probably be far better spent in a true FTTP implementation for everybody such as the remarkable DIY project already operational described here:-

    http://b4rn.org.uk/iwanttohelp

    If you have the time the site contains videos of their press launch in February with interesting explanations of their business case etc. Their successes provide a striking contrast with the monopolistic antics we continue to observe in Ewhurst. They emphasise that everybody in the vast rural area at any distance will be provided with an unfettered symmetric 1 Gbps service from the start. Unlike Ewhurst they have a dual redundant fibre design once the main core is completed. In the meantime they are achieving astonishing take-up by the residents of up to 90% of households in some cases. Thus they obtain a very healthy revenue stream to accelerate the expansion from the original 8 parishes now to 21. This is possible as more enthusiastic people join their volunteer force.

  5. Walter says:

    @ David re your 11:06 post,

    Without written assurances that BT will do anything and a defined process which would not reveal every end users’ phone number in public, I don’t believe this to be a genuine initiative. If the monopoly wishes to remain so, it must surely provide adequate services for all everywhere from the operational data it already has. Quoting Peter Cochrane, BT’s former CTO, providing 2 Mbps is like providing a morse key and is totally inadequate as a future-proofed solution.

    After all we’ve been pressing for the full 256 compliment (That’s only half our procurement specification) in all three PCPs well before the first minimal installations as well as repairs to the well known problems with the twisted pair infrastructure since 2007. I haven’t observed a vestige of active cooperation from BT since then. It’s even been a struggle to get the second line cards plugged in, let alone providing adequate tie cable capacity.

  6. David Nye says:

    Hi Walter, The “written assurance” is the USC and phone numbers will certainly NOT be published. You do not expect BT to provide phone lines to every building before a line has been ordered, so you cannot seriously expect them to provide a minimum broadband service on the many lines where it will never be used? Yes, 2 Mbps is unacceptable to us, but as you state above, there are up to 60 households in Ewhurst who may be very grateful for this level of service for the next few years while we continue to campaign for universal “superfast” speeds. When resources are overloaded, it seems fair to prioritise by demand, and essentially that is what is going on. But if enough Ewhurst people do not come forward soon, then I think it simply means they will have to wait until after 2015 when presumably there will have to be a more “formal” procedure to comply with the USC. Of course, you could be right, and providing Openreach with the list they have asked for may not speed things up at all. But I do not think we have the right to discourage those households from giving it a shot, do you?

  7. Walter says:

    David,

    Your link is indeed very interesting. I was looking for a more practical document from BT themselves describing what information they require, how and when they will they will provide such services. I don’t expect delivery to every building but I do expect an adequate infrastructure to support current and future requirements. This is far more than just “passing properties” which often seems to be the criteria for a “job done” completion statement.

    You are inviting volunteers who quite obviously must have many phone numbers contradicting private phone number distribution. In any case such a set of volunteers could only replicate the data I have provided already. I am not suggesting anyone has a right to discourage anybody but in my opinion there is insufficient evidence yet to encourage significant effort in this direction.

  8. David Nye says:

    Let’s worry about how to handle particularly secretive individuals as and when we encounter any. I agree we lack evidence that this approach will achieve anything, but compiling such a list will require very little effort if we can enlist a little help, so it must be worth a shot.

    But of course I am very pleased to hear that you may have already provided this data. Do you mean you have already sent Openreach a list of numbers and addresses of those you know who cannot achieve 2 Mbps at present? (That is what is required.)

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