Superfast Surrey – Scrutiny of Performance

Thanks to Phil for spotting an internal report to the SCC Overview & Scrutiny Committee for their meeting on 23rd April. Such reports are made available on the SCC web site, but are not generally brought to public attention. It contains far more detail than any Press Release.

The report specifies the project targets as 98.6% (network coverage) and 93.9% (15+ Mbps), but does not explain the discrepancy with the previously published targets. It confirms that there have been a number of changes to the count of premises included in the Intervention Area (IA), but the overall effect is claimed to be an increase in “fibre network” coverage. Once the “more difficult” properties are connected, this is reported to represent 99.3%. The much more meaningful figure for availability of 15+ Mbps service is said to be impossible to calculate “until the conclusion of all delivery”.

“Take up” is reported to be high, at 27%, thanks in part to effective marketing by the team. As stipulated by BDUK; “Claw-back allows money to be returned and reinvested into adding further coverage once a certain percentage of take-up has been achieved.”

“The contract recognises that, although covered by the fibre network, up to 6.1% of the premises within the IA may not be able to access speeds of 15 Mbps or more equating to approximately 5,000 premises. The principle reason for these slower speeds is the length of the telephone line between the cabinet and the property and due to the distribution of Openreach cabinets, this issue is generally more prevalent in the more rural areas of the county.”

Only 46 premises have been formally excluded (and perhaps advised to use a satellite service), whilst 533 are still under review. This compares favourably to the 1,200 estimated to be problematic at the start.

Another surprise is the admission that “a number of cabinets are no longer being upgraded”. This refers to cabinets which were to be included in the Commercial roll-out. I am aware of a couple of cabinets potentially in this category, where activists were able to reverse BT’s decision by demonstrating sufficient demand for FTTC. I do not currently have details of the cabinets which have been excluded, but perhaps those affected could still get the upgrade if there enough are willing to register their interest. Another option is community “gap funding”, but more on that in a future article.

The SCC report includes an acknowledgement of “the prevalence of premises with slow speeds due to long telephone lines” in the Commercial area, including Ewhurst. The report reiterates that “Due to state aid funding regulations, the Superfast Surrey Programme is not permitted to address these issues because the do not fall within the existing IA. Surrey County Council has no reliable data to understand the extent of the issues identified.”

Reporting on the, as yet unknown, “remaining funds”, we thankfully hear that the intention is now to “address coverage and speeds across Surrey”. There follows a section on the forthcoming OMR, which we covered last month. The report ends with coverage figures, cabinet counts, and target ratios by Borough.

Click here to download the full report

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13 Responses to Superfast Surrey – Scrutiny of Performance

  1. David Nye says:

    It may be that 99.7% and 94.6% referred to estimates of eventual coverage over the whole county, and that SCC staff mistakenly quoted these as the contractual targets.

  2. David Nye says:

    The Dorking Advertiser has a well written and informative article on the Mickleham petition revealing yet another “divided village” where only half have access to a decent connection. In this case the divide reflects the BT exchange boundary, split between a distant Leatherhead cabinet and a closer Dorking one. The article also highlights the coverage analysis in the SCC report (see above), pointing out that Waverley will have the poorest performance. The petition calls for SCC to fund a new cabinet for Mickleham (a typical “gap funded” cost being £60,000) and I expect SCC will simply respond that this will be looked at following the OMR (see my last article).

  3. David Nye says:

    Another petition, for Chiddingfold, has clarified my last point in the post, about use of the funds remaining. The original plan was to identify those not helped by FTTC in the Intervention Area (IA) and allocate the funds where most beneficial. In early 2014 we were told that this process was due to start in June. The “Update Response to Petition” dated 20th March 2015 reveals that the work was underway in September 2014, with FTTP, FTTC (secondary cabinet) and “re-parenting” all being considered. But in December, the Superfast Surrey team was directed to complete the delivery of the main phase of the contract and re-assess the options for using any remaining funds “to enable a decision to be made on the future scope of the programme”. This allowed the team to bring the Commercial area into the picture, and led to the OMR and planned review. Thanks again to Phil for finding this document.

  4. David Nye says:

    Searching for more about re-parenting, I found this document including details of the “alternative technologies” for long lines, with pictures of the devices and a network scheme including “wireless to the cabinet” (a new one on me). Superfast Surrey always maintained that BT would not let them divulge any details about these, but it seems Leicestershire is being rather more open about their project. Links to other Leicestershire documents. The redaction in the Local Broadband Plan is particularly enlightening.

  5. Walter says:

    Devon & Somerset are much worse off in terms of areas left out and have circulated the following document. Given that Ewhurst has seen zero improvement for the outliers you all might like to write to Anne Milton.

    _________________________________________________

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    Date: 6th June 2015
    Rural Dissatisfaction with Broadband Reaches “Fibre Pitch”
    Despite more than £ 1.8 billion of public funds being committed to rural broadband, no solutions have been apparent from the Govt BDUK initiative, its partner, BT nor the local authorities and County Councils.
    UK citizens have had enough of the appalling broadband, squandering of money, deceit and delays, and want their MPs to work far harder to find a solution in 2015.
    “It is difficult to watch community-led initiatives, whether fully commercial or co-operative, beating the so-called telecom experts hands-down,” said Graham Long. “I mean, the unfunded communities are already delivering symmetric 1,000 Mbps (downstream AND upstream) broadband in rural Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Oxfordshire etc and we still don´t know when we might get asymmetric 2Mbps – a 500th of that speed.”
    The National Audit Office, as well as the Public Accounts Committee, have held several reviews into the slothful and expensive progress to deliver next generation broadband, but businesses and communities, individuals, schools, artists, architects, doctors with ingenious telehealth ideas to try out, and millions more, are simply fed up with the wait.
    Maybe all you want to do is watch a day old TV show without the whirly wheel. Or earn money selling goods online. Or innovate. Or share family videos with friends. Or challenge global opponents on a game. Or just Skype.
    Far too many of us cannot even do the online basics that other countries and citizens and businesses now take for granted.
    You may have been told through the columns of a newspaper, or the TV, or a ministerial speech, that Britain is a competitive broadband nation. But when you cannot do the seemingly simple things you wish to online, that you could do on holiday abroad or whilst travelling for work, then it is time to
    TALK TO YOUR MP.
    Ask:
    Why Britain is not aiming NOW for a symmetric gigabit to all?
    Why FTTH (and FTTRn) is being ignored/sidelined/shelved?
    Why public funds are being wasted on an asymmetric solution (FTTC or worse) that does not work for you TODAY, let alone tomorrow?
    Ask what is going to be done in this government to resolve the broadband mess that is affecting YOU and so, so many others´lives?
    And most importantly, please ask your MP to attend the broadband meeting organised by Richard Bacon MP, at Portcullis House on Tuesday 9th June, at 3pm on your behalf to solve this dire issue.
    Notes for Editors: Start reporting the issue and stop running from IT.

  6. Walter says:

    Matt Warman, MP for Boston & Skegness (and previously consumer technology editor for the Daily Telegraph) has secured a 90 minute debate on Superfast Broadband in Westminster Hall, next Wednesday, June 24th at 2.30pm. I suggest anybody reading this asks their MP to make their views known during this debate. I wonder if Ed Vaizey will again tell MP’s they should not criticise BT, as he did during Neil Parish’s broadband debate in March?

    You might also like to look at B4RN’s latest video. Note that this type of project could be followed by B4SH but mainly using contractor labour.

    https://youtu.be/oCCS4nLr1B0

    They have some good news here too:-

    http://t.co/LCwsjfXeSv

    Here’s another opinion:-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=330&v=T0Ab4IvIXbE

  7. David Nye says:

    I wrote to Anne Milton as Walter suggested and received the following statement from her office.

    “Many thanks for your email. As Government Deputy Chief Whip Anne sadly cannot speak in the debate today, but she will be in and out of the Chamber to listen to what is said, and I will read the debate in Hansard tomorrow. I will then be drafting a letter to the new Sec of State at DCMS to raise once again the question of those, including Ewhurst residents, who cannot access broadband at what most people now consider a ‘normal’ speed. Planning ahead for FTTP is certainly one of the things we will include in that letter.
    While Anne recognises fully that, overall, a piecemeal solution is not ideal, she will continue to campaign on behalf of those individual constituents/households who are being excluded both by BT and by Surrey CC’s Superfast programme.
    I understand that BT have now given Surrey their list of households this applies to across the county (which for commercial reasons they won’t share with Anne and me), and Surrey are now (until October) assessing next steps. I will be arranging a meeting for Anne with Surrey and BT at that stage to ensure that the needs of constituents (that we are aware of) are addressed by those next steps.”

  8. Walter says:

    A few topics follow:-

    1. Devon and Somerset have rejected BT’s bid for the extension works as they cannot ostensibly meet the delivery dates.

    2. Hansard Broadband debate
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm150624/halltext/150624h0001.htm
    starting at Column 287WH. Sir Paul Beresford attended and spoke briefly – see Column 289. The debate continues in the next section too. Edward Vaizey spoke with the usual platitudes starting at 3:48 p.m.

    3. I am very sorry to report that PCP cabinet 18 at Plough Lane has reached capacity so we are likely to have the same pantomime STILL continuing from December 2014 now to August 17 at Shere PCP 5***. The first date provided is 26 july 2015 but I suspect that will be the first of several. However as BT excavated a new duct route which must have had at least a 50 pr if not a 100 pr cable installed too, there might be either 10 spare pairs or 60 spare pairs. IF THAT’S CORRECT it may only require a third line card, the extra cabinet cables and connector blocks without additional civils works and tie cables. But BT Wholesale do cover themselves by threatening :-
    “Where planned or expected availability dates are shown, these may be liable to change.”

    *** http://tinyurl.com/lgkx28b

  9. David Nye says:

    The debate understandably focussed on the gaps in FTTC coverage, and it is promising to see Fibre To The Remote Node discussed. However, the pervasive assumption that 4G, 5G and Satellite are always viable alternatives is very disappointing. Business users in particular need rock solid connections with 100% availability, and smaller businesses cannot afford “private fibre” at current prices. Yet I am unable to find in the debate any mention at all of any measures to increase FTTP coverage.

  10. David Nye says:

    Thinkbroadband have published a useful summary of the debate at
    http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/7014-broadband-to-be-debated-in-house-of-commons-shortly.html
    Some of the comments on this are also enlightening.

  11. David Nye says:

    Bill Murphy, BT Managing Director of NGA, sent Anne Milton’s office this statement about our cabinet 18 on Monday:

    “We are significantly expanding capacity in the cabinet and that work should be completed and ready for new orders on July 11.

    We are upgrading the electronics and increasing the copper capacity as well.”

    I do not know how or why Anne’s office got involved, nor any further detail on what capacities exactly are being increased.

  12. Walter says:

    Anne’s office became involved as I requested they did so. The original cabinet used the old ducts which were jammed solid. That caused an additional duct to be installed last year with, I guess, a 100 pr set of tie cables to provide the last 34 services on the second line card. Again guessing, they are now to install the second set of internal jumper cables and the associated IDC blocks and probably only the third 64 channel line card. The full compliment of line cards require 280 pairs so the additional tie pair cables might be 50 or 100 pr. In either case there should be ample space within the duct. However the short duct from the phone box pit to the FTTC might cause difficulties.

    Incidentally I note that Bramley PCP 1 in Wonersh and Abinger PCP 1 in Peaslake have both gone AWOL too.

  13. Walter says:

    I must report that green cabinet PCP 18 at Plough Lane Ewhurst now appears to have capacity available. The rapid return might have been due to replacing part-faulty line cards rather then the full works promised. It is understood that ECI line cards are less reliable than Huawei ones and Ewhurst’s cabinets are all ECI ones.

    Similarly Bramley PCP 1 in Wonersh and Abinger PCP 1 in Peaslake have also been fixed.

    However BT obviously think they benefit by removing any availability date for Shere PCP 5 (AWOL in December 2014 & due by 17 August) as they’ve removed the forecast date and all mention of FTTC from the table of services. The words below remain though (Sic):-

    “FTTC is currently not available on this cabinet due to following reasons:- Capacity pla Your area is fibre enabled. Extra capacity is planned to allow order placement..”

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