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.