This was a question posed to me recently, with another, much simpler:
- What is the location of BT boxes able to connect to high speed fibre?
- Is every location in Ewhurst OK for HIGH speed broadband?
It’s still a very confusing situation; I hope my replies helped clear things up, and perhaps others may find them useful…
Cabinet locations for Ewhurst, with photos and coverage, can be seen on the cabinet status pages at www.ewhurst-broadband.org.uk/?page_id=3460. Note that the Ellens Green cabinet is not included here because it is on the Rudgwick exchange and so could not be covered by the same project (see instead www.ewhurst-broadband.org.uk/?p=3861).
Anyone within around 1 km of their cabinet (line length) should now have “affordable” access to “superfast” performance (over 24 Mbps). For those very near their cabinet, with cable lengths within about 150 m, the fastest available service is currently up to 80 Mbps. Quite a few could get this in central Ewhurst, but most opt for the cheaper 38 Mbps packages, and this speed is available over a much larger area, up to around 500 m.
This means that perhaps 10% of Ewhurst premises are denied access to “superfast broadband”, along with probably most of Ellens Green. This compares to 4% across the whole of Surrey (see labs.thinkbroadband.com/local/index.php?area=E10000030)
Openreach are trialing various methods for improvements to FTTC performance and “reach”, but have not announced when or where they plan to deploy these. In any case they are stop gap measures; since many copper line lengths will need to be reduced much further at some date. There have already been incremental improvements since FTTC was first installed here, and one such earlier this year appears to have resolved most of the problems we were having with “availability” on long lines. But these have only improved download speeds marginally, and upload speeds not at all.
The (non-binding) 2 Mbps download Universal Service Commitment (USC) is now in force. If someone cannot get this speed from any “affordable” fixed line service, they can apply for a voucher for satellite installation (£400). However, I am in contact with one resident on Pitch Hill who was also unable to get a reliable satellite service. There are likely to be a few others still not achieving the USC, but they have not yet contacted me. 2 Mbps services are barely adequate to access online Government services and to communicate by email, but not usually adequate for video streaming or transferring very large files, for example, and can really only be used by one person or device at a time.
Of course, the universal 2 Mbps USC is a far cry from the promised whole of Surrey “superfast” availability. SCC do have a “phase 2” project in planning stages, see superfastsurrey.org.uk/superfast-surrey-state-aid-public-consultation and www.ewhurst-broadband.org.uk/?p=3962 but they are already saying that available funds will not be adequate to achieve their original goal.
The promised Universal Service Obligation (USO) is now likely to be delayed, since new legislation is required. It was planned to introduce a 10 Mbps USO by 2020. There are many in the Parish without access to an affordable 10 Mbps service, let alone “superfast”. My own connection is around 10 Mbps, and is currently adequate for our household of 2 adults, although our domestic usage is modest compared to others. It is now barely adequate for my business requirements, and does restrict what I can do somewhat. The 0.5 Mbps upload speed is the main problem. Certainly it will become increasingly inadequate well before 2020.
Currently Ewhurst is probably slightly worse off than average in Surrey. This is partly because our FTTC was installed on a “commercial” basis (because of the high demand we demonstrated when applying for the grant), whereas other similar villages were installed as part of the SCC/BDUK funded project, and thus additional funds were available. This extra cash was partly used to provide some FTTP e.g. Alfold including Knowle Lane. In other parts of the UK, BDUK funded projects are still in progress. Even once complete, premises in rural areas will still be far worse off on average than urban areas. Also note that the onus is on the subscriber to seek out their best available service, and to resolve any internal wiring issues, and that the older and slower ADSL services are now much cheaper than “superfast” services.
Openreach will now work with communities who wish to fund certain improvements themselves. One Surrey community has privately funded their own FTTC cabinets. These are two entirely new cabinets to serve an area over 2 km from the existing BT cabinets, a community of 118 premises. Openreach have charged rural communities up to £60,000 (including VAT which may be refunded) to install each new cabinet. See www.gu8superfast.co.uk/?page_id=226. The long lines in our Parish are widely dispersed, so additional cabinets may not be cost effective here. Openreach have been trialing “mini cabinets” for some time, but I do not know if these are yet available for “gap funded” community projects. Also, “native” FTTP seems to have been excluded from these projects for commercial reasons. [Edit 27/09/16 by DN: A BT representative has since indicated that FTTP is now an option. Together with the interest generated by this article, this resulted in my invitation for the community scheme being posted today.]
The Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme, developed by the government to support the 2 Mbps USC, has recently been revised to include a number of additional Satellite and Wireless providers (see superfastsurrey.org.uk/revised-better-broadband-subsidy-scheme).