Friday, 11 November 2011

A quick rant about the Superfast Broadband programme

Cornwall is right to be proud of the fact that it is getting superfast broadband across 80% of the Duchy and that it is getting this before many other parts of the UK. We should also be very happy that the scheme appears to be rolling out more quickly than was at first anticipated.

But that doesn't mean that it isn't extremely annoying and disappointing that getting implementation dates and details is like getting blood out of a stone.

This afternoon I had a meeting with officers who are working on this joint Cornwall Council/BT/EU project. They asked to meet with me because:

We would really like to set up a meeting with you for sometime in the next few weeks where we can brief you on the programme, the roll-out in your area and the message we want to get across to the public.

Except that they couldn't answer any of my detailed questions about when different parts of Launceston will get the upgrade and which areas would get the even faster Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) system.

We know that roll out will start in our town in December. But nobody will get any notice of where is being upgraded until that upgrade has happened. At this point, householders can check online and be told that they can move to a new superfast broadband contract.

I know that the availability of the service to some will create a bit of a buzz and the obvious question from everyone else of "When will I get it?" Unfortunately, the only answer that will be available will be "At some point in the next three years."

I just don't think that is good enough - particularly for businesses that we are trying to persuade to move to or stay in our town or which are considering upgrading the services they offer.

I want to be an ambassador for this new service. I think it will be great for businesses and for homes. But the lack of information means that it is almost impossible to be an advocate.


Julian Cowans said...

Cllr Folkes,
The reason the exact details of which areas will go live and when cannot be shared at this time is because this information can only be released in the public domain through Openreach, in accordance with the requirements of Ofcom. This is to ensure that all communication providers get fair and equitable access to the information at the same time.
The rural deployment of fibre broadband is still in its infancy, and solutions are still being developed for many types of the premises. Being at the cutting edge comes with its challenges, and this was recognised by our recent Project of the Year award at the World Communications Awards.
It is fantastic news that around 1,500 businesses and householders in Launceston will soon have access to superfast broadband. As soon as we can be more specific about the precise coverage we will let you know, and we would welcome your support to help ensure as many folk as possible can take advantage of this.
Please contact me through info@superfastcornwall if you would like to visit the showcase in our office in Pool, which will enable us to give you more background on the programme and a deeper understanding of the technologies and challenges.
Julian Cowans

Alex Folkes said...

Hi Julian
Thanks for your comment. I had a meeting with two of your colleagues today which told me precisely nothing that I didn't already know. I'm not sure what trekking down to Pool would achieve for me or for any businesses or residents in Launceston.

I know that people here are keen to take advantage of it, they just want to know when it will be available for them. I have one person who asks me every time I see him. It appears that I might have to face his questions until 2014 with no hope of giving him an answer.

As neither you nor BT will tell local people any sort of due date, I would suggest that a trip to Pool would be a wasted journey.

My understanding is that the Ofcom rule is that all ISPs need to be told at the same time, not that nobody can be told before the live date. As such an indication to people in Launceston about when they are likely to have superfast available to them (preferably a narrower timeframe than the current three year window) would seem to still be possible within Ofcom rules.

chris said...

Ask them how many of your people are going to get 'alternative technologies'. That's always good for a laugh.