5 Mbps USO

We have been campaigning hard for a broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO). The government’s latest digital communications policy paper, announced in the Budget, finally seeks to make this happen. We hope this will soon replace the current 2 Mbps Universal Service Commitment (USC), which is not legally binding.

The government is committed to ensuring that every single household in the UK has access to the basic broadband needed to live and work in the modern world. So we will look to raise the Universal Service Obligation (USO) – the legal entitlement to a basic service – from dial up speeds to 5 Mbps broadband. This commitment to all goes further than any other country in Europe. Once in place, a USO would mean that consumers gain a legal right to request installation of 5 Mbps capable services at an affordable price.

The “ambition” for at least 100 Mbps to be available to “nearly all UK premises” also provides a welcome target. However, it is disappointing to see satellite proposed as the solution for “premises experiencing the lowest speed broadband”, since limitations inherent in satellite connections prevent them from providing the service most people expect.

Posted in In the Media, Key Documents | 3 Comments

Ellens Green gets partial FTTC availability

Ellens Green premises are mostly connected to cabinet 2 on the Rudgwick exchange, so were waiting on the West Sussex roll-out. Whilst not all checkers have yet been updated, the key BT Wholesale checker is now showing FTTC (“fibre” broadband) availability for part of the village. Unfortunately, the distance from cabinet 2 in Cox Green means that households near the start of Furzen Lane can only expect “fibre” broadband download speeds between 8 and 20 Mbps, and service tails off to the North and East. For example, School House has an estimate in the range 5 to 17 Mbps, whereas Fairfields a little further East has no availability at present. In Horsham Road, The Wheatsheaf estimate is 5 to 14 Mbps, but Pollingfold Manor is out of luck. Brookside Rural Park is in a better position, with estimates in the range 15 to 35 Mbps. The UK definition of “superfast broadband” is now 25 Mbps or more.

The Superfast Surrey project target is 94.6% of Surrey premises achieving a minimum service level of 15 Mbps. Rudgwick cabinet 2, serving Ellens Green, was upgraded as part of this project, so anyone on this cabinet who cannot get a 15 Mbps download service should seek further improvements from Superfast Surrey; email enquiries@superfastsurrey.org.uk.

The first step is to check your own availability at dslchecker.bt.com and note down the 4 FTTC Downstream Line Rate figures, if shown. If these do not appear above the ADSL estimates, then you cannot currently order “fibre” broadband from any ISP. It is worth checking again every few weeks, as coverage may expand in future. You should also press Superfast Surrey (Surrey County Council) for further help, and if you are interested in actively supporting a community FTTP/FTTH project please also contact me.

If you have an FTTC estimate, then you can start to compare the various “fibre broadband” services available. It may take some time for all service providers to register your availability. It is also quite common for availability to disappear, usually temporarily. This happens, for example, when the current capacity of the fibre cabinet is reached, and it should re-appear once the cabinet is upgraded. Initial capacity is often inadequate, and these upgrades can take months, so those with urgent need for the faster service should order quickly. Software and firmware updates, and various faults, can make the checker results erratic for a time, but estimates may occasionally improve after an upgrade. Certain lines may be identified by Openreach as being unable to support a stable FTTC connection, and in some cases this appears to block availability for neighbouring lines as well. Unfortunately, current Openreach policy is to remove availability, rather than fix the problem in the line (e.g. the corroding aluminium underground cables in Horsham Lane, Ewhurst).

When comparing the services on offer, beware the speed estimates provided by the ISP. These must be based on the figures you noted down, but it appears that the ISP can pick any number within that range. For example, BT have tended to quote speeds from the upper end of the range, which you may be unlikely to achieve in practice, whereas more responsible service providers suggest a lower, perhaps more realistic estimate. Remember that all providers are selling you the same FTTC connection to the exchange (from Openreach). However, performance upstream from the exchange does vary between ISPs, mainly due to “contention and congestion” differences. Once again, BT customers are often reported to have some of the worst problems in this area, so do shop around and check reviews.

Posted in FTTC Roll-out, SCC Broadband Project | 3 Comments

Final month of “main” Surrey fibre deployment

The December edition of the Superfast Surrey newsletter is rather more informative than the last few. It reveals that the more challenging jobs have now been relegated to a secondary deployment; i.e. as per usual practice, Openreach just bump them back one “quarter” at a time, and thus completion is currently scheduled for the end of March.  This includes Ellens Green, at least for those who will be within FTTC range of the fibre cabinet. This over-run was always to be expected for a small number of cabinets requiring complex way-leave negotiation, but it is very disappointing that work on “premises where there is currently no viable fibre solution” has been left until this late stage. Critically, we still have little idea which premises this might apply to, or what the alternative solution will be. One thing we do know is that the Ewhurst outliers are excluded (“commercial area”), but potentially those just down the road in Ellens Green could be included (“intervention area”). The newsletter also implies that SCC do not yet know what funds might remain to cover these premises, which seems rather shocking at this stage of the project.

Past SFS newsletters: November, October, September, Summer.

Posted in FTTC Roll-out, SCC Broadband Project | 6 Comments

Opportunity and Rumour

Some time ago I asked Kenney Jones whether his plans for the Polo Club include Fibre To The Premises (FTTP or FTTH), and if so, whether this can be done as part of a community broadband project. We discussed the support this would be likely to attract from those still suffering super-slow broadband. But now it seems that there is no mention of broadband in the “outline” plans, and the Curtin & Co representative tells me that my suggestion was not followed up.

My thinking is that the proposed “state of the art” facilities will be expected to include state of the art broadband, which means “gigabit FTTP”. Having run fibre to the proposed hotel and houses, the additional cost to make this fibre accessible to all the surrounding properties will be very small indeed (assuming each subscriber pays their own installation costs). Starting from this base, provided by the developer, we would be able to seek additional funding to extend the fibre to the rest of Ewhurst, and the surrounding area, much more easily than if starting from scratch.

There seems to be some strong local opposition to the polo club plans (currently 318 objections vs. 199 supporters), so my thoughts turned to the rumours of what might happen if Kenney’s application is refused, and any opportunity to which this might in turn lead. We know the club is not financially viable as it stands and that creditors forced it into receivership last year, and thus it was briefly put up for sale (read the Express article here). So it seems quite likely that the club will be sold if this development plan is refused. Such a large flat and open space will clearly be extremely attractive to other developers, and we know that these companies often manage to obtain planning permission in spite of strong local opposition. In this case, we would be fighting the prospect of a large housing estate on the site. But the “silver lining” might be that such an estate would most certainly require new broadband infrastructure, and with some effort we may be able to include FTTP for the whole village as part of the deal. Alternatively, I heard one tongue in cheek suggestion that perhaps the “S.E.E.” group can raise the funds to buy the plot for the community!

Of course I am aware that many readers may now be perfectly content with their Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) broadband service. However, “ultra-fast” broadband is highly desirable to an increasing number of people, and even necessary to some. At the moment such people essentially have the choice of living or working in certain cities, or one of about 600 properties in the “rural North” (see B4RN). Note that the BT version of FTTP does not currently count as “ultra-fast” in this context, mainly due to the relatively poor upload speed; maximum 30 Mbps, compared to the standard 1000 Mbps i.e. “gigabit”. Most analysts agree that we will all want or need “gigabit broadband” in a few years, and this can only be provided in rural communities by FTTP/FTTH.

Unrelated to broadband, I’m puzzled that those residents who were most inconvenienced by the Polo charity event traffic jam are now opposing the plans because of this issue. Surely we need to make sure that the plans include all weather parking and access roads, to solve the problem? Also, improved entry so that arriving vehicles do not have to stop for guidance (or look for sign posts) on which way to turn at the gate e.g. two entrances. If the club stays as it is the queues are likely to happen again, whenever it rains just before an event. Personally I’m more worried about the construction noise, and passing traffic, shattering our peace.

Whatever your own position, please support our campaign for “gigabit broadband” via FTTP in Ewhurst and the surrounding area.

If you wish your views to be considered in the planning decision, then use the “On-Line Comment” form by Friday 05/12/14 at: the Waverley planning application page.

You can also comment at:

http://hurtwoodvision.com/

https://www.facebook.com/hurtwoodvision

https://twitter.com/hurtwoodvision

Related Surrey Ad articles:

Polo Club in receivership

Development plans

Posted in Announcements | 15 Comments

Superfast Surrey Phase 4

The June newsletter from Superfast Surrey was published on Friday. Today marks the end of another roll-out quarter, and as far as we can tell from the Tumblr postcode announcements and our own BT availability checks, the project progress appears to be more or less on track.

Since the last update, I have received the following replies to my enquiries from Superfast Surrey:

High Level Review – Ewhurst Parish With regards to the high-level review that Superfast Surrey undertook of broadband speeds in the Ewhurst Parish, this involved reviewing fibre broadband speeds to each premises and plotting the broad areas adversely affected by long copper lines. This work was based of speed mapping provided by BT. As the premises analysed in the review had already been connected to the fibre network as part of the BT commercial roll-out and were therefore not included in the Superfast Surrey deployment, the document was passed to BT Senior Management on 31st January 2013 for their consideration. Superfast Surrey have no oversight over the commercial programme and we have received no indication as to the timeframes of when this report might be reviewed. We are awaiting contact details from Openreach for commercial rollout enquiries, but in the meantime Surrey County Council will continue to raise the concerns of those residents who are in the commercial roll-out with BT Group.

Clawback Surrey County Council’s contract with BT incorporates provision for clawback based on the level of take-up across the intervention area. It is too early to assess the level of clawback and consequently no decision can be made at this time on how any funds may be reinvested.

Contract performance monitoring Contractually, 94% of the premises in the Superfast Surrey deployment area will get Committed Access Rate Speeds of 15 mbps or more. Surrey County Council is overseeing the delivery of the contract to ensure that it is delivered within the agreed timeframes and budget and meets the contractual requirements regarding speed and number of premises connected. Due to contractual and commercial sensitivities, it is not possible to publish this data until the end of the programme. It should be noted that BDUK also undertake independent monitoring of BDUK contracts.

Solutions for long lines With regards to any improvements to premises with slow speeds, the Superfast Surrey Programme Team will begin a review of all the premises with slow speeds in the Superfast Surrey deployment area in June with a view to identifying what if any improvements can be achieved within the constraints of the budget available. For this reason, we are unable to advise you at this time of what solutions may be considered. For a very small minority of residents and businesses that have been acknowledged as being outside the confines of our standard fibre deployment, the team is also investigating if there are alternative technologies that could be deployed. In these circumstances and where appropriate, we will engage with specific residents.

In view of the last response above, during June I advised all my relevant contacts to email Superfast Surrey and press their case. This applies to any premises covered by Superfast Surrey (i.e. non commercial areas) who cannot achieve 15+ Mbps download using FTTC services. In our Parish this probably includes many Ellens Green residents.

Posted in SCC Broadband Project | 13 Comments

Ellens Green Broadband

Being connected to the Rudgwick exchange, the state of broadband in Ellens Green has received very little mention on this web site, although the village is included in our Parish. The exchange is in West Sussex, but Ellens Green premises are covered by the Superfast Surrey broadband contract. Both the exchange and Ellens Green postcodes (RH12 3AW for example) are scheduled to be ready for FTTC service by the end of June 2014. However, it is not yet clear how many will actually benefit from the upgrade, since most are likely to be too far from their cabinet. I suggest that anyone in Ellens Green who wants faster broadband should register on the Superfast Surrey web site, and follow this up with direct email contact if unable to achieve 15+ Mbps from the “fibre broadband” upgrade.

Posted in SCC Broadband Project | 2 Comments

Ewhurst Cabinet 18 is nearly UK’s Most Picturesque FTTC

The Ewhurst Green fibre cabinet, by the Cricket pitch at PCP 18, was a finalist for the prestigious award of UK’s most picturesque fibre cabinet, but narrowly lost out today to Splayfoil Road in Weybridge. See the photos of all the finalists, and read all about this award at TechWeek Europe.

Posted in In the Media | 3 Comments

Superfast Surrey March Newsletter

Superfast Surrey published their newsletter for March yesterday. Much of this is occupied by the “half term report” already seen, but there’s additional information towards the end. This includes the news that they will be at the Surrey County Show, stand 21, on 26th May, Spring Bank Holiday Monday in Stoke Park, Guildford.

Posted in SCC Broadband Project | 10 Comments

Superfast Surrey Half Term Report

At the half way point in the Superfast Surrey fibre broadband roll-out, Thinkbroadband have performed their own analysis, and estimate that only 91% of premises in the sampled Oxted area will be able to get a “superfast” speed of 24 Mbps plus. Compare this with the estimated 76% able to get “superfast” speed in Ewhurst. SCC and BT have published a bewildering variety of targets. For example, the Surrey Mirror reports that only last June Lucie Glenday (Superfast Surrey Programme Director) repeated her promise that “99.7% of Surrey’s population will have superfast broadband by the end of next year”, whereas the FAQ states that “We will be providing 94% of homes and businesses in our programme deployment area with download speeds of 15 mbps or above.”

Cranleigh postcodes recently enabled include GU6 8EE GU6 8EF GU6 8EG GU6 8EQ GU6 7JR GU6 7LA GU6 7LB GU6 7LH GU6 7LP GU6 8EH GU6 8EJ. BT have also issued a Press Release on the progress to date.

Posted in FTTC Roll-out, SCC Broadband Project | 10 Comments

BT Trial of Mini Cabinets in Yorkshire

Openreach and SCC have mentioned “mini cabinets” as a possible future solution for long lines in Ewhurst, to be investigated at the end of Superfast Surrey project. This North Yorkshire trial appears to cover the same proposed use of mini DSLAMs to extend the reach of BT’s FTTC network. BT refer to this as Fibre To The Remote Node (FTTRN), presumably to distinguish it from Fibre To The Distribution Point (FTTDP).

Posted in FTTC Roll-out, Other Broadband Projects | 4 Comments

Surrey BT Superfast Broadband Contract

Here are the sections of the contract which I have managed to get hold of to date, following my FOI application. The response from the SCC Freedom of Information Officer was as follows:

Herewith please see attached the redacted version of the Superfast Broadband approved by BT and Surrey County Council. In the near future there will be a published version available on the Surrey County Council Website.

Surrey CC SFBB Terms and Conditions

1. DEFINITIONS

2. Service Requirements

3. SUPPLIER MATTERS

3.1 SUPPLIER SOLUTION

3.2 COMMERCIALLY SENSITIVE INFORMATION

3.3 Key Subcontractors

3.4 Key Personnel

4. IMPLEMENTATION

4.1 Implementation

4.2 Authority Assets

4.3 RELIEF EVENTS

5. FINANCIAL MATTERS

5.1 Milestone Payments and Claim Procedure

5.2 Wholesale Access Pricing

5.3 The Project Model

5.4 ADDITIONAL FUNDING

6. GOVERNANCE AND KEY PROCEDURES

6.1 Governance

6.2 Change Control Procedure

6.3 Dispute Resolution Procedure

6.4 Reports

6.5 Remedial Plan Process

Posted in Key Documents, SCC Broadband Project | Leave a comment

Superfast Surrey Newsletter

For those who did not see it at the time, here is the last Superfast Surrey Newsletter.

Their reply to my enquiry about the additional funding is here.

Posted in SCC Broadband Project | Leave a comment

State Funding Update

Government announces how £250m set aside for broadband services in remote areas will be spent. BBC article

Enquiry regarding how this will be spent in Surrey

Posted in BDUK | 4 Comments

Superfast Surrey Newsletter

This newsletter was published on 31st January:

Superfast Surrey update 20140131174808

Posted in SCC Broadband Project | 2 Comments

Mailing to Newly Enabled Areas

Ewhurst fibre was delivered as part of BT’s commercial roll-out, so I guess residents here will not receive this mailing, which is apparently being delivered to premises in recently enabled intervention areas. I first posted the covering letter and leaflet last month in a “comment”, but most of you will not have seen that. The mailing is being supported by posters and coasters distributed in these areas.

Posted in SCC Broadband Project | 2 Comments

Facts and Figures from Superfast Surrey

I received a copy of this fact sheet last month, but delayed posting because it’s status was unclear. I see it is now being circulated to local councillors, and has been found and indexed by Google. The figures presented are clearer than those released earlier, and seem to differ in some respects. Certainly worth reading.

Posted in SCC Broadband Project | 5 Comments

Surrey Broadband Delivery Progress Phase 2

According to Superfast Surrey, Openreach managed to enable over 64 cabinets for “fibre” broadband during the Christmas period, in spite of the floods, power cuts and extensive storm damage. In Cranleigh, these included cabinet 7 (Horseshoe Lane), and premises in the following postcodes are now able to order FTTC services. GU6 8LB GU6 8JT GU6 8JU GU6 8LL GU6 8NB GU6 8ND GU6 8NE GU6 8NQ GU6 8NR GU6 8NS GU6 8PX GU6 8PZ GU6 8QA GU6 8QB GU6 8QD GU6 8QE GU6 8QF GU6 8QG GU6 8QH GU6 8QJ GU6 8QL GU6 8QQ GU6 8SH GU6 7DH GU6 8QN GU6 8QP GU6 8QR GU6 8QS GU6 8QT GU6 8QW GU6 8QY.

I am not able to update the summary analysis I published for phase 1, because a full list of postcodes now enabled is not currently available. Instead the SCC team is posting postcode lists for some cabinets on social media, and then referring to the BT Availability Checker. Some of the more difficult cabinets have been delayed, or deferred to a later phase, as was always expected, but overall progress is very impressive. Updates are being posted on the following web sites.

Twitter  –  Tumblr  –  Google+  –  Facebook

In a bizarre move, the Superfast Surrey team seems to be “spamming” their own feeds on three of these sites, making it hard work to find the information wanted. Tumblr is the exception, at present, but another problem is that different updates are posted at each site. Note that the above Twitter link filters out the worst of the “spam”. The postcode checker at www.superfastsurrey.org.uk is being updated, but it is impossible to be sure how up to date it is.

Posted in BDUK, FTTC Roll-out, SCC Broadband Project | 1 Comment

Superfast Surrey Progress Analysis

The very helpful broadband experts at Mouselike have created an updated list of Surrey Intervention Area postcodes, with FTTC status, in a database and Excel friendly format. This data is published by Superfast Surrey in the form of their new postcode checker. The full BDUK project postcode list was first released at the Superfast Surrey launch event in February, but the updates made during and on completion of “phase 1″ were only published via the new version of their postcode checker. We can thus present what we believe is the first published statistical indication of progress at the end of phase 1, which was scheduled for completion on 30th September 2013.

Phase Postcode Count Fraction of Total
30-Sep-13 1119 14%
31-Dec-13 1900 25%
31-Mar-14 1626 21%
30-Jun-14 1718 22%
31-Dec-14 1384 18%

This means that 14% of postcodes in the “intervention area” were thought by BT and SCC to have “access to fibre broadband” as at 7th October 2013. Further cabinets are being enabled from time to time, so this figure will have improved significantly by now, and in total 39% of postcodes should be enabled by the end of the year. However, continuing lack of transparency means that we are unlikely to be given any indication as to numbers who find they are unable to order the service due to line length or quality, or those others who still cannot get a 15 Mbps minimum service.

The updated full postcode list is available here: Superfast Surrey postcodes

The Superfast Surrey team are now publishing newly enabled cabinets on Twitter. Unfortunately someone in the team has decided it’s a good idea to bombard their “followers” with photos of cuddly toys and other such frippery, so to filter this out use this link: Superfast Surrey Filtered Tweets

When using their postcode checker beware the trap I fell into recently. I pasted in RH5 6LX and the checker popped up a bubble saying “Status: You should have access by the end of December 2013″, and I used this information in the email I was writing at the time. In my haste I had not noticed that the pop-up heading was for RH5 6LZ, and in fact the postcode I checked was not found (i.e. in a “commercial” area). The checker seems to do this if you have done an earlier search and clicked around a bit. All the more confusing in the case because the postcode concerned is surrounded by “intervention” postcodes. My correspondent was confused by the result for a different reason; he (correctly) was not presented with the pop-up, but instead was faced by several markers on nearby premises surrounding his own. The area is sparsely populated, so it appeared to him that a few lucky neighbours had been selected somehow to receive FTTC. He did not reliase that each marker represents the centre of a postcode. If you click on the Satellite option for his map it’s easy to understand the mistake. If anyone from Superfast Surrey is reading this; please will you add some guidance notes to this otherwise much improved facility.

It seems that Surrey is the only such project which has been able to publish the full postcode list; see this Computer Weekly article and follow the links therein for juicy details.

Posted in BDUK, FTTC Roll-out, SCC Broadband Project | 28 Comments

Funding witheld from more rural projects

BT’s success in signing up more local authorities for state funded projects continues to kill off small rural FTTP projects. More from the BBC

Posted in In the Media | 2 Comments

Why 15 Mbps?

According to the Superfast Surrey FAQ:

Our Programme Contract states that we will be providing 94% of homes and businesses in our programme deployment area with download speeds of 15 mbps or above. 15 mbps is the minimum speed that will be received at the busiest times in and is guaranteed at a wholesale level, in other words, it is the speed at which Internet Service Providers will offer a service.

This revelation, first published by us in February, has sparked angry commentary in the media and on forums, since it appears to be a significant climb down on the much publicised “ambition” for “100% superfast” coverage (“superfast” meaning at least 24 Mbps). So I was very interested to read this explanation in section 2.2 of the BDUK guidelines:

In assessing projects for State aid approval, the NCC requires that NGA technologies that are used in NGA white intervention areas must provide the same outputs as those defined for other established NGA network deployments. Specifically, the NCC will expect to see that the technical solution:

  •  is capable of providing access speeds in excess of 30Mbps download, not only by reference to theory and technical standards, but also by evidence of calibrated performance measurements of an existing deployment within the area of interest or an demonstrably equivalent deployment in a similar geographical environment;
  •  typically provides at least a doubling of average access speeds in the target NGA intervention area;
  • must be designed in anticipation of providing at least ~15Mbps download speed to end-users for 90% of the time during peak times in the target intervention area, as demonstrated by industry-standardised or reliable independent measurements;
  •  must show how the solution would adapt to maintain capability and end-user experience in changes to key parameters such as increased take-up and increased demand for capacity, and be able to show using clear calculations that this is both technically and commercially viable;
  •  must have characteristics (e.g. latency, jitter) that enable advanced services to be delivered e.g. video-conferencing and High Definition video streaming to be provided to end users as evidenced by trials results not necessary obtained within the area of interest; and
  •  have longevity such that one might reasonably expect increases in performance within the next 7 years.

Section 2.1 is perhaps more puzzling:

Requirement 1: The subsidised solution must deliver a ‘step change’ in network capability and service availability and consistently provide a high quality experience to end users

2.1 This requirement ensures that where a basic broadband infrastructure already exists, State aid must only be used to deploy infrastructure that genuinely offers a significant new capability to end users.

This appears to contradict the reasons given to me by Superfast Surrey for not being able to help Ewhurst residents, or other outliers in completed commercial areas, who are currently unable to order a “fibre” service. Naturally I will take this up again with the team.

Posted in BDUK, FAQ, SCC Broadband Project | 4 Comments