Minister discusses broadband improvement options with SGC

Jack Lopresti MP (left) with Communications Minister Ed Vaizey

Broadband Minister Ed Vaizey, in town last week to help launch the Conservatives’ local election manifesto, met officials at South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) to “discuss options” for improving the area’s broadband speeds.

The talks came just a day after BT had announced that it is to upgrade the Filton exchange (0117 numbers) to its Infinity superfast broadband technology in 2012.

Almondsbury (01454), the other exchange serving Bradley Stoke, has so far been overlooked in BT’s rollout programme and it is looking increasingly likely that some form of Council/Government subsidy will be required to bring superfast broadband to the remainder of our town.

Local MP Jack Lopresti, who had invited Mr Vaizey to his constituency, told The Journal:

“The news that both the Filton and Winterbourne exchanges will have access to superfast broadband speeds of up to 40Mbps by the end of next year is very good news for both local residents and the local economy in general.”

“However, I was disappointed that the Almondsbury exchange that serves many Bradley Stoke residents in particular was once again overlooked.

“I have been working with BT and South Gloucestershire Council to see how we can improve the situation. I invited Ed Vaizey, the Communications Minister, to meet with the Council on Friday [8th April]. The Council recognise the problems that residents in some areas face with broadband speeds and are making plans to improve the situation.”

“The Minister gave us some very helpful advice and I hope that more good news will be announced soon. Projects of this kind do take time and money, but I would like to assure residents that we are working hard to solve the problem.”

A spokesperson for SGC said:

“South Gloucestershire Council recognises that broadband speed is an issue for residents in some areas and is considering all options available to determine the most appropriate way forward.”

“Letters were sent to both BT and Virgin Media last year urging them to prioritise South Gloucestershire when rolling out superfast broadband. Also, during a recent visit by Government Communications Minister Ed Vaizey, the opportunity was taken to discuss the options and explore opportunities for suitable funding from central government.”

The Government is making £530m available, by 2014/15, to local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) for the provision of broadband infrastructure. An organisation called Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) has been set up to oversee the allocation of this money.

Public bodies such as SGC have been invited to submit bids to BDUK for the first £50m tranche of this money by 5pm today (18th April). Authorities not in a position to bid by today’s deadline but who intend to submit a bid in a rolling application period between June 2011 and  June 2012 have until 29th April to submit an “expression of interest” .

SGC previously told The Journal it was “discussing opportunities to work together with Bristol City Council to commence the bidding process” but offered no response when asked more recently if it would be submitting a bid by today’s deadline.

A map included in a presentation document published by BDUK in early April suggests that no South Gloucestershire authority (Council or LEP) had indicated, by the required deadline of  25th March, its intention to bid for the first tranche of money.

Related link: Better Broadband Campaign (The Journal)

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  1. Bradley Stoke, where loads of high-tech people live and often need to work from home, is stuck in the slow lane. I suppose there must be some cabling issue. I somehow doubt it’s anything to do with disturbing historic buildings. Maybe it’s because space is so tight there and every centimetre of road width is fully used. I wonder if a next generation of wireless technology could provide the solution.

  2. Hi

    When LTE is launched, we should be able to get 40Mbs, approximately.

    At that point, provided you are not on vodafone whose 3G service in Bradley Stoke is poor, there is a good chance that all providers will enable their near sites.

  3. We have learnt that South Gloucestershire Council did NOT submit a bid for the first £50m tranche of BDUK funding.

    A spokesperson told The Journal: “South Gloucestershire Council has not submitted a bid as we are still considering our options on the best way forward for all residents in South Gloucestershire.”

  4. Ed, if that is true then SGC have some serious explaining to do as the excuse they have given is simply not acceptable.

    Just how long do they need to ascertain that this area is poorly served. It’s time these people realised they are here to serve the public. Will Mr Lopresti now step in and bang some heads together or are we in South Glos forever more consigned to the hard shoulder of the information super highway with other more proactive councils getting first call on the money.

    It really makes me wonder what they do in their fancy new council offices.

  5. Hi

    I have just received an LD election pamphlet suggesting Jack Lopresti successfully campaigned for faster broadband with Ed Vaizey and BT, but unfortuneately Ed Vaizey got BT to add Filton/Winterbourne to the FTTC list, and not Almondsbury.

    Is this true? pr just political rubbish?

  6. @Simon, I guess you’re talking about this:

    Tories get it wrong about broadband (say Bradley Stoke Liberal Democrats)

    It’s political nonesense, I’m afraid.

    The Bradley Stoke Journal didn’t start the broadband campaign; that was the Bradley Stoke Examiner. We just took up the reins when needed.

    It’s correct to say that both the Conservaties (here) and Liberal Democrats (here) have been talking to Government ministers about Bradley Stoke broadband but, as far as we know, Ed Vaizey has no influence over which areas BT chooses to upgrade.

    That said, one could imagine that BT and Virgin have been given some indication from Government as to which areas are likely to attract public subsidy. So perhaps we can conclude that Filton isn’t one of those areas and that Almondsbury might be.

    Let’s celebrate the fact that we have one exchange (albeit the smaller, in terms of Bradley Stoke subscribers) scheduled for upgrade.

    As I’ve said before, the fight goes on …

  7. What happened to the opening up of BT ducts to other companies. I understood it would cost less than £1 per metre. Surely there must be less than 100km to do so that’s less than £100,000. Can’t the council come up with that money and persuade Virgin to cable up using BT’s ducts. I’d be willing to pay a bit extra council tax to get this.

  8. With Gloucestershire and Herefordshire already having successfully applied for BDUK funding and Devon & Somerset having submitted a joint bid to BDUK by the 18th April deadline, South Gloucestershire is beginning to look as though it has missed the boat.

    Let’s hope that South Gloucestershire Council or the West of England LEP at least managed to submit an “expression of interest” to BDUK by the 29th April deadline.

  9. At an approximate guess, 3000 homes in Bradley Stoke without Virgin would equate to

    3 cabinet locations of 2km to exchange
    150 common ducts of 400m to cabinets

    That leaves a final run of 10-20m per house to the nearest BT manhole that has a single multi core cable to the nearest cabinet.

    So, an approximate guess of 6km + 60km, a total cost of under £70K. A per house cost of £25.

    Obviously these are guesses, but Virgin would single multi-core fibre cables to to each cabnet and duct and coax to each home. Installation cost would be very low.

    If Virgin where to knock on my day and ask for a reasonable connection fee and and a fixed contract, say 2 years, in exchange for 50Mbs, or 100Mbs, no problem.

  10. I’m very frustrated to report that South Gloucestershire Council has so far been unable to reveal whether or not it submitted an “expression of interest” to BDUK by the 29th April deadline.

    The Council’s press office have told us they are very busy with the election but might be able to tell us at the count on Thursday night.

    Of course, many voters would have preferred to have known before casting their vote …

  11. So do we know an estimated date (year) when we are likely to jump above our throttled 2MB Link in Bradley Stoke.. 2013 ??

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