Jamie Wake 2014 Independent Candidate for Whitley ward in the Reading Local Elections
  • Say No 2 Go Slow


    The Say No 2 Go Slow Campaign Stems from the poor broadband speeds experienced by residents on Kennet Island.

    Residents have been lobying BT since the development became inhabited.  Local councillors have also been approached for their support since 2011.

    In February 2012 Rachel Eden (Labour Councillor) confirmed on her blog that if the council was unsuccessful at pushing a business case then Kennet Island would be flagged up as a problem area within the BDUK bid.  There were concerns that “…since Reading is close to the 90% target for access to faster broadband and our submission is jointly with the rest of Berkshire this may not succeed…”

    1 year later (February 2013) Rachel announced on her blog that that “…Reading Borough Council will now ask that developers submit a Superfast Broadband Strategy Statement (SBSS) for all proposals of housing developments with over 50 units. SBSS documents should outline how the developer has considered facilitating the proposed development with Superfast Broadband (24Mbps+) and what discussions they may have had with the Operators in advance of submitting a formal planning application…”  She also said that “…While it is too late for the Kennet Island development to benefit from this new policy I am pleased that council planners have taken on board my concerns and that new developments won’t have the same omissions…” I support this move so that residents of future developments are not faced with the same issues that Kennet Island residents are facing.

    Whilst this may sound a little defeatest to residents of Kennet Island, the local residents association were not giving up.  We were asked by Openreach for a “…view of what’s actually occupied and some sample telephone numbers in each occupied block…”

    Fast forward 1 year later to January 2014 when Rachel Eden blogged that “…BT have recently asked for information about any developments in Reading of more than 25 houses that do not have fibre-optic cable.  Kennet Island has many more properties than that affected…” This happened to conincide with a post on the Kennet Island facebook group asking for people’s names and adresses who were affected.  In response to this, as group admins we gave a list of roads affected rather than residents giving personal data through this means.

    The blog post also confirmed what openreach had informed me and every other resident who had approached BT that two of the cabinets on Kennet Island do not have fibre.  The magic cabinet is 69 which lies at the front of Kennet Island.  Some properties here can actually connect to it.  Rachel confirms that “…St James have installed on behalf of BT the duct routes and ground boxes in accordance with BT’s requirements.  To connect to Cabinet 69 is over 450 meters using existing BT duct work and would incur considerable additional costs to St James…”

    Myself and many residents have been speaking to BT, Openreach and Superfast Berkshire to Say No 2 Go Slow.  There was a suggestion in a press release dated 4th October 2013 that Superfast broadband may be covered in the BDUK bid.  I wrote to them to ask them and recieved the following from Colin Batchelor (project Manager):

    “…Dear Jamie,

    Thank you for your email which has been passed on to me.

    I assume that you have been reading details of the press release and want coverage on the project website at www.superfastberkshire.org.uk.

    So far we have received an outline of the anticipated coverage from BT detailed at a post code sector (RG2 0xx) and based on the available investment that has been assembled under this project. This builds on the coverage expected from the commercial programmes within the private sector, taking Berkshire coverage to 91.6% by September 2015.

    As part of this project, we can see some anticipated coverage for premises within RG2 0 which I believe includes Kennet Island but we are unable to see the individual premises, postcodes or infrastructure (e.g. cabinets) that is expected to be covered. My best guess at this point in time is an expected 50% coverage within that sector delivered in phase 2 (March 2015).

    All of these numbers, dates and estimates are based on ‘modelled data’ which are subject to surveys and therefore may change. Further information will be made available through the project website as soon as it becomes available.

    I suggest that you register on the website so we can provide you with future updates nearer the time if you havn’t done so already…”

    I also wrote to Openreach with a similar enquiry and recieved the following:

    “…Thank you for your enquiry about fibre broadband,

    I am afraid with reference to Cabinet 69, Fibre broadband (also known as FTTC) is subject to line length limits. If you live too far away from the upgraded cabinet, you might not be able to get a faster broadband service.

    Our deployment is based on the commercial criteria for each cabinet and both cabinet 70 and 71 fail to meet the commercial criteria.

    This is because the cabinets have too few premise connected to them, rendering them too small to provide a return on the investment based on the costs for the construction and on-going running costs of providing a new FTTC cabinet. When calculating the commercial viability of cabinet areas we take many factors into account. These include ensuring that we locate the cabinets in accordance with all national and local planning laws, ensuring that the cabinet does not obstruct pedestrians or provide a danger to all road-users. We must ensure that the DSLAM is located within 100m of its associated telephony connection cabinet and that there is adequate access to power and existing telephony infrastructure. To further enable the location of the DSLAM, we must accurately survey for underground structure and obstacles etc.

    We do look at the demographic nature of the potential customers within a cabinets working area, however, we focus on the amount of connected lines at the time and not any potential expansion within a cabinet area as this is not guaranteed – this is the most efficient way to deploy fibre broadband whilst keeping within our finite budget. As such we look at the potential return for our investment over quite a number of years, with the prospective number of take up of the service being a large percentage of households.

    Where cabinets are not commercially viable Government funding is available to county and borough councils via the BDUK initiative.

    Your county council has sought funding with BDUK and in partnership with BT, your cabinet may be upgraded. However the areas for deployment are still being and planned, for details and further enquiries please go to their website- http://www.superfastberkshire.org.uk…”

    So it seems that unless BT realise that actually its commercially viable to supply 1000 homes rather than the small handful on the front of the development, they won’t install fibre. The developers, ST James, should have worked with BT when carrying out their instructions. They sold the properties on the development and advertised it for the ‘in crowd’ – did they think that the ‘in crowd’ would rely on 3G speeds for home broadband? For now, were almost reliant on the BDUK bid – though that doesnt stop us continuing to lobby BT!

    Checking the Superfast Berkshire website, a cabinet survey is due to be carried out on cabinet 70 between April and July 2014.  There does not appear to be any mention of cabinet 71 at this stage.  That said, a survey gives no gurantee that Superfast Broadband would be installed.

    Superfast Broadband speeds are important to the people that live on Kennet Island.  Many residents rely on it for their work.  Some rely on telecare services that use a broadband connection. Fast Broadband Speeds are vital.  Say No 2 Go Slow!

    Update on 8th May 2014.

    Seems Rachel Eden is still on the case having posted this on the Kennet Island Facebook group:

    Dear All, Broadband update… the saga continues!

    I’ve received the following, from the Super fast broadband/BDUK people, the summary is that if anyone is connected to a BT cabinet that is not P69 or P70 BDUK don’t know about it, and want to know:

    “I have kicked off some discussions with BT Openreach regarding some examples of large developments that have ‘missed the boat’ regarding access to superfast broadband. I have been pulling together some information regarding the c…urrent number of occupied properties (Andrew tells me its around 830) and how they are connected to the current BT cabinet infrastructure. My data is a little old but I can’t make the numbers add up.
    I assume that each block may be connected to a specific BT cabinet (or something similar). I know that some will access Reading South P69 and P70 but not sure if there are any other cabinets in the vicinity that also serve the community. It is easy to check if you have access to a BT landline, just type the telephone number into the BT website – http://www.dslchecker.bt.com/adsl/ADSLChecker.TelephoneNumberOutput.
    It will tell you which cabinet you are connected to and the current broadband speeds. It only knows BT numbers, so will not return details if the customer uses an alternative provider (e.g. Talk Talk).

    Could you do a bit of ‘local research’ among some ‘friendly neighbours’ to see if you can identify any other BT cabinets and which blocks they relate to. That would be most helpful and enable to progress my discussions on a firmer footing.”

    You can DM or secure email me rachel.eden@reading.gov.uk if you prefer not to comment on the post