£3m investment brings no guarantee of 21st century broadband for Bradley Stoke

Broadband - photo by charmcitygavin (licence: cc-attr)

The planned investment of nearly £3m of taxpayers’ money into broadband infrastructure within South Gloucestershire might still leave Bradley Stoke without superfast broadband in 2015, according to a report accepted by Councillors at a Cabinet meeting on Monday.

South Gloucestershire Council’s Cabinet has agreed to add £2.2m of its own money to the £710k allocated by the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) agency, which is aiming to “make the UK’s broadband the best in Europe by 2015”.

Commercial providers are expected to bring superfast broadband to 82% of premises in the district by 2015, leaving the remaining 18% reliant on public money, but the Council says its target is to bring 24Mbps+ broadband to only 90% of premises, meaning that more than half of the “don’t haves” could be left disappointed.

The only consolation is that those that don’t get superfast speeds will be guaranteed a minimum ‘basic broadband’ speed of 2Mbps (around one quarter of the UK average speed today but likely to be viewed by many as inadequate by 2015).

Detailed broadband coverage maps published by Wiltshire County Council (SGC’s new partner after its original consortium with Bristol and BANES disintegrated) reveal that the Council is NOT expecting BT to upgrade the Almondsbury exchange on a commercial basis within the next three years. The maps also show, for the first time, the parts of Bradley Stoke that are plagued with sub-2Mbps provision, at the granularity of individual postcode areas.

Around 4,000 premises in Bradley Stoke are thought to suffer from sub-standard broadband speeds because they are not served by Virgin Media’s cable network and are too away far from the two BT telephone exchanges that serve the town.

The latest maps suggest that around one quarter (1,000) of the non-cabled premises receive a sub-2Mbps service that entitles them to benefit from the Government’s “basic broadband for all” pledge. The remaining 3,000 premises, thought to be currently receiving speeds between 2Mbps and 4Mbps, will only benefit from state aid if the Almondsbury exchange is selected for upgrade to superfast broadband by South Gloucestershire Council.

The Council’s report makes some vague statements about using a prioritisation scheme to ensure that superfast broadband is deployed in “areas where its impact will be felt more strongly” but there is unlikely to be any certainty about geographical coverage until contracts have been awarded to telecommunication providers in “summer 2012”.

Work on the state-aided project is expected to start by the end of the year and be completed by April 2015.

In other developments, the Council is giving telecommunication providers one last chance to confirm their plans for the deployment of superfast broadband in the district, prior to commencement of the tendering process for the state-aided work. A new ‘Superfast Broadband State Aid Consultation’ started on 1st February and runs until 16th March.

The state aid consultation is in addition to the residents’ and businesses’ consultations that are each running until 29th February.

Please help give Bradley Stoke the best chance of receiving its fair share of the available state aid by completing the above consultations!

The Editor comments

South Gloucestershire Council’s investment of £2.2m is well above the ‘match funding’ minimum required by the Government and appears to be a welcome acknowledgement that our slow-coach administrators have finally grasped the scale of the problem.

But the target of 90% superfast is surely too low, given that many of the ‘have nots’ will be left on a ‘basic ’ 2Mbps broadband that will seem pathetic in 2015 – potentially leaving 10% of the population on the wrong side of a new and more pronounced ‘digital divide’.

The Council needs to look to its much vaunted Localism principles and urgently consider other funding mechanisms that, where necessary, allow local communities to supplement the state aid to ensure they aren’t left festering in ‘broadband backwaters’ for years to come.

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  1. This is getting so annoying now!!
    Why can’t Bradley Stoke have super fast broadband like other parts of the country?!?!?
    Why can’t this get sorted out for first and for all!

  2. This is more than joke.

    The demand was more than demonstrated for the Almondsbury Exchange during the PR exercise competition that BT ran.

    I wouldnt like to be the next politician that knocks on my door!

  3. SGC can address this issue, if it chooses.

    1 – Remind BT that all residents Bradley Stoke paid a premium when buying their houses, to pay for services such as BT. It appears, with hindsight, we have been short changed.
    2 – SGC can ask BT and Virgin who wants their exclusive telecommunications contract for the next 5 years, and what impact this will have on commercial roll out of Fast Broadband.
    3 – Remind Jack Lopresti that when he campaigns for fast broadband, getting it deployed in Filton and Winterbourne is meaningless because they already have full Virgin coverage.

    finally, I can assure any politician reading this that all future votes by my family will determined by this issue!

  4. I really don’t get this. You’d have thought that with the number of users *who are likely to take up fast ADSL* on Almondsbury, converting it would be a priority.
    I wonder if the problem in Bradley Stoke is that much of it was built at a time when BT used aluminium cabling instead of copper, meaning that BT won’t be able to guarantee homes will get the speeds the exchange equipment can provide?

  5. Copper and Aluminium work ok over the short distances for VDSL. For copper you will get a max of 40MB and for Aluminium you’ll get less, possibly 28-32MB.

    The probable issue for BT is that the Almondsbury exchange is not adaquate for the equipment needed, and BT do not want to pay to rebuild it. They should have done this 20 years ago when Bradley Stoke was built and they received money from BSDC.

    Another option BT have not considered is to merge smaller exchanges with larger ones, for example Almondsbury merge with Winterbourne. Nearly everyone on Bradley Stoke is connected to a local cabinet and would receive almost the max speed allowed of 40MB.

  6. Consumer demand for faster broadband does not equal profit. It is business customers that are the most profitable and I expect that there were not enough served by BT’s Almondsbury exchange for it to be scheduled for upgrade.

    I’ve heard many times the argument that Bradley Stoke residents have paid a premium for services. We can all get a telephone line from BT; Broadband is a much newer technology. With hindsight it is obvious that Bradley Stoke should have had its own BT exchange but it is too late to do anything about that now.

    Not everyone wants Virgin Media – I used to have them at my old house and would never return. I don’t just want speed. I want reliability and good customer service. So even where an area has full Virgin Media coverage doesn’t mean we shouldn’t press BT to fibre enable all their street cabs. This will give us a choice of broadband provider.

    BT do provide FTTC from a different exchange if capacity or cost is an issue. If Almondsbury really is full perhaps they’ll do this?

    Finally, lets not forget the positive. South Gloucestershire Council are prepared to invest in broadband. Perhaps further funding will be found in the next few years to increase the planned 90% superfast broadband coverage to 100% of premises?

  7. The Almondsbury exchange supports twice the number of residential lines and almost four times the number of business of the Winterbourne exchange, and many other small exchanges that are being enabled. Another advantage that Almondsbury has over Winterbourne is that the vast majority of customers are via cabinets and ducting, not telegraph pole.

    So why has BT ignored Almondsbury? The probable reasons are the exchange is not suitable, designed in the 1950’s to serve <1000 remote customers, and BT faces very little competition in Almondsbury exchange, unlike Winterbourne with has a very high level of Virgin coverage. So for BT it makes sense to wait for BDUK to pay some of the costs of rolling fastbroadband in Almondsbury.

    I full accept that it is to late for BT to build a new exchange for Bradley Stoke, but it appears that they have learnt from this debacle. In 2007 they built a new exchange at Haydon Wick, Swindon for 1200 hew homes. It is a shame nothing can be done here by BT.

  8. I do wonder how many companies the Councils are going to get tendering for this work, given that they are committed to appointing just one supplier for the whole South Glos/Swindon/Wiltshire partnership.

    Virgin Media aren’t eligible because their network isn’t open to other ISPs, while Fujitsu previously said they were interested in bidding for BDUK work but have gone very quiet in recent months.

    Let’s hope that doesn’t just leave BT to dictate their own terms.

  9. While I would dearly LOVE to have superfast broadband in my home, £3m is a lot of taxpayers’ money to spend on what must surely be considered a luxury purchase. There are a lot of people in the county, in the country, and in the world, who would be delighted with merely basic broadband speed if they had adequate nutrition, shelter, education and healthcare.

  10. For all those in the south who have been putting their postcodes in to FFTC checkers such as infinity etc.. and not getting results for the FILTON FTTC March roll out. Nobody in BS is going to get fibre from Filton, all BS fibre is coming from Winterbourne. Roll out date 31/03/2012 AKA Phase 7A.

  11. Minister Ed Vazey, MP Jack Lopresti, 5 District councillors and 15 Town Councillors all can’t deliver on what they promised; Superfast Broadband.

    What do they all have in common? They’re Conservatives and promised they would deliver

  12. The previous post crystallizes exactly why local amateur politicians and their petty party squabbles continue to hold back providing real services. If they would all stop trying to point score and actually remember who they are there to serve then maybe, just maybe this situation wouldn’t have arisen in the first place.

    PS I am not a Tory party member and have no affiliation or interest in Lib/Lab/Con. They are all as bad as each other.

  13. I currently live in Bedminster but will be moving to Bradley Stoke soon! I’m use to having very fast broadband due to living in Bedminster but the comments on here is making think twice on coming to live in bradley stoke! Surely the speeds are not that bad is it?

  14. In Bradley Stoke North, which is cabled, no problem.

    In the Central area, Almondsbury exchange, no cable or FTTC
    In the South by Winterbourne, Winterbourne, no cable but FTTC available
    In the South new Stoke Lodge, Filton, no cable but FTTC available.

    In short, the central area of Bradley Stoke where about half the population live you’d be lucky to get 2-4Mbs, the rest of Bradley Stoke will get very good broadband from cable or FTTC.

  15. I have no knowledge of the Bradley Stokes area, so forgive me, when moving it will be a brand new area to me! I will be moving to Oaktree Crescent. So i take it Broadband will be a low speed in that area? BS32 9AD is the postcode.

    Also while doing a check it seems cannot even get Sky TV because its outside of skys area? Can somone on here clear this up for me is well? Or is this for a new topic?

  16. The area has no cable, and is connected to the Almondsbury exchange, about 2km away.

    Sky TV footprint covers all of UK, ROI and a fair bit Western Europe. So you will have no problem getting all of their channels.

    The exchange has ADSL 2+ equipment from BT and Talk Talk. Sky will offer you Sky Connect broadband service because it has no equipment in the exchange. This costs a few pounds extra but will but will be just as fast.

    A rough guess would give you 8-10Mbs on any ADSL2+ service

  17. I wonder what “Jon Boy” has done while he was Town Councillor, Mayor and District Councillor of Bradley Stoke. It is pretty bad to score over others and accuse others, while you also has not done your bit. Yes, the Town Council should put up pressure upon the South Glos Council and the Telecom companies. A seperate telephone exchange for Bradley Stoke/ Little Stoke/ Stoke Lodge Area may work better for the provision of faster broadband in Bradley Stoke central.

    I don’t want to accuse anyone, but it will be good if there is a comprehensive approach.

  18. Fibre to the cabinet does not need a fixed point telephone exchange. The NGA cabinets contain the Digital subscriber line access module (DSLAM) which normally sit at the exchange.

    At the end of March 2012 the fibre feed will come from Winterborne for South and South East Bradley stoke, and for West BS and Little Stoke it will come from Filton. I would also expect an additional NGA rollout in the not too distant future from these exchanges for 01454, which will I’m sure will be funded by the BDUK.

    All that is needed for FTTC to be enabled is to pull fibre and install NGA cabinets, and this is not require a great deal of work and is not a great cost The development of road digging equipment has evolved for the FTTC project.
    Read more here –

    Those of you who feel that there is no hope for Super Fast broadband for the whole of Bradley stoke don’t lose heart, I’m sure good things are just around the corner.

  19. MattK, thank you for your contribution.

    Bradley Stoke BT uses ducts to the home, literally, so no digging will be needed.

    What you are in fact suggesting is to re-cabinet North and Central Bradley from Almondsbury to Winterbourne. I have heard of this been done for small communities remote from their exchange, but not for 9K customers on a 10K customer exchange.

    Whilst this will provide hi speed access for those that want it, it may dramatically reduce the speed of those who remain on ADSL as the distance to Winterbourne exchange is greater for most than Almondsbury.

  20. @Simon – I don’t think that is how it works. You have a PCP cabinet and an NGA fibre box.

    Your fibre box is the new “Data Exchange” you continue to recieve your telephone service from your original exchange but your fibre is fed from elsewhere which connects to your PCP cabinet. The distance to the exchange becomes the distance to your PCP cabinet.

    When your fibre is activated it’s essentially a switch which is made on your PCP cabinet. It’s worth noting that some cabinets are not PCP cabinets they are actually ditribution points that distribute underground and into your property.

    Hope this helps.

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