Broadband – how long is a piece of fibre?

Since I last updated the Broadband section of this blog in October 2018, a lot has happened – well, actually being honest a lot has NOT happened.

Openreach or how not to Reach into the Open

The Openreach Community idea looked a really good way of getting fibre to our properties, so I sat down with all the local info I could gather and amassed a list of some 37 telephone lines in and around the valley, all served from the same green box at Stanton.

I sat back and waited, then in the middle of December I got an e-mail!  Speedy stuff Broadband! it said

Option 1 Core community –33 Premises
Initial Estimate – £163,434.00/ £4,952.55 per premise

Having picked myself up off the floor I commenced a series of telephone conversations to find a more sensible figure.  After all the likelihood of all 37 phone line owners (or 33 if you use their figures) agreeing to divvy up the £163,434 was pretty remote and so the actual per interested property would be significantly higher.

Various grants were mentioned but even they would only go so far as to reduce the per property amount by about £1000 each.

So, back to my Openreach contact and I’m still waiting for a revised version.  Apparently they have been surveying the area to arrive at a different solution.

We wait without holding our breath!

Political assistance

Our local Assembly Member on the Powys side (how annoying the county boundary can be!) is Kirsty Williams (who also happens to be Welsh Minister in charge of Education – so she’s at the ‘top table”).  With so many communities in her patch all suffering from the lack of BB, she organised a meeting in Talgarth with the Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, Lee Waters.  Apparently BB is his responsibility – one would have thought something as important as BB would warrant a full Minister, not a Deputy, but apparently BB isn’t ‘devolved’ so doesn’t have a Welsh Government (WG) budget directly.

Apparently he has just let £22m in contracts to BT and Openreach to fix a number of what used to be known as ‘Not Spots” , now apparently ‘NGA White areas’.  This sounded a lot, until he explained that WG had allocated £80m.  Therefore they still have £58m sloshing around that they could easily allocate to communities like ours to purchase our system from Openreach as above – I said, a few times!  Needless to say it’s not that easy – procurement policies and state aid rules prohibit certain things and are good to hide behind – I know I’ve done it!

Also present were two senior people from Openreach, who are responsible for putting up the fibre cables.  One said nothing at all apart from his name, the other did respond to criticism but mainly in the way of “I’ll find out and get back to you.”

A very valid point was made by a gent from Kington who pointed out that the residents of say Cardiff had all this stuff landed on their doorsteps for free, without asking and without spending hours and hours trying to get something done.  It doesn’t seem fair that we should be left to moulder (or pay extortionate satellite charges) just because we live in the countryside – where in fact there is a greater social need for good connections.

Final member of the ‘top table’ was Viv Collins who is the Civil Servant in charge of the Superfast Cymru programme.

Having put our situation quite strongly during the meeting – tried every alternative solution currently on the market, but the topography of the valley doesn’t suit any of them; ridiculous quote from Openreach etc.  – I managed to get a word with Viv Collins at the end of the meeting. She suggested that she should get one of her team to visit the valley to understand the problems.

Again we wait without holding breath.

Ian Mabberley

11-6-2019

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