Council survey confirms demand for better broadband

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

A survey conducted by South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) has confirmed a high level of demand for improved broadband speeds in Bradley Stoke.

A report analysing the results of the survey, which was carried out from November 2011 to Febraury 2012, shows that the number of Bradley Stoke residents responding was the third highest of all towns and parishes in the district.

Large parts of Bradley Stoke lie in what the Council describes as “white” areas, where superfast broadband infrastructure is not currently in place and, based on current plans, will not be provided by commercial operators before 2015.

A coverage map published earlier this year by Wiltshire County Council, which is working together with SGC, shows that while the north of Bradley Stoke is well covered by Virgin Media’s cable system, much of the central and southern parts of the town are being ignored by both Virgin and BT.

The results of a second survey conducted by SGC, in which telecommuications providers were asked to confirm their plans for infrastructure investment, are due to be revealed next week, when the coverage map will be updated.

Back in April 2011, BT announced that it would be upgrading the Filton exchange, which serves some parts of South Bradley Stoke, to provide superfast broadband. Subscribers have been able to order the new service since the end of last month but many Bradley Stoke residents have reported that they have been unable to do so.

The remainder of Bradley Stoke is served by BT’s Almondsbury exchange, which has so far not figured in any of the company’s upgrade plans.

SGC has been allocated £710k from central Government towards upgrading broadband infrastructure in the district and has budgeted to add a further £2.2m of its own money.

The Government has promised that 90% of the country will have access to superfast broadband (>24Mbps) by May 2015, with the remaining 10% guaranteed at least 2Mbps.

In South Gloucestershire, the Council has estimated that 82% of premises will receive superfast broadband funded by the telecommunications providers themselves, leaving 18% requiring some degree of state aid.

Worryingly, SGC is now saying it “aspires to have 90% of properties benefiting from superfast broadband by 2015″ [South Gloucestershire News, Spring 2012], suggesting that it feels it might struggle to fulfil the Government’s promise.

The tendering process for South Gloucestershire’s state-aided broadband infrastructure work is scheduled to start in “spring 2012”, with the contract being awarded in “summer 2012”. Work could start by the end of the year and will be completed by April 2015.

The Editor comments

While the survey results rank Bradley Stoke in the top three, based on the absolute number of responses, the outcome is less than impressive when percentage response rates are examined.

Just 2% of the population responded in Bradley Stoke South and only 1% in the Central and North areas. These figures compare unfavourably with 8% and 9% response rates seen in other parts of South Gloucestershire.

Considering that the Almondsbury exchange area demonstrated a 11.6% response rate in BT’s own Race to Infinity demand survey in 2011, theses are disappointing figures that might work against us when SGC comes to allocate its limited resources.

What a shame that our own Town Council failed to promote the SGC survey in its January newsletter (distributed to all homes in the town at a cost of several thousand pounds), preferring instead to use two whole pages telling us about the new office they are building at a cost approaching £400k. The Town Council also had nothing about the broadband survey on its website – until I asked them to promote it there during the last few weeks of the consultation.

Related link: Better Broadband Campaign (The Journal)

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  1. Well the results of the consultation investigating commercial company plans to inform the intervention has been released.

    Did we really have to wait this long to be told the results are commercial in confidence? I appreciate that the results would be useful to the other companies but if the responses advised that they would not be releasable to the public then why have such a length of time to release a one page statement. Disappointing.

    So we now await the next step. Any bets on being able to see what the original tender requests will be or will we be kept in the dark until contracts are placed? Hopefully the next BT rollout document will be leaked onto the Internet soon to identify if any more local cabinets are to be upgraded.

  2. @Dave W, It’s worse than disappointing, it’s scandalous. Do they take us for complete idiots? I’ll be on the phone to the Council tomorrow. If our local Councillors are really committed to improving our broadband, they’ll be doing the same.

  3. How can the plans of Virgin (no money to do anything) or BT (waiting to extract as much BDUK funding were possible) be commercially sensitive?

    When virtually every street in Bradley Stoke has CableTV ducts, and every BT cabinet is connected via ducting to Almondsbury, and then to Winterbourne exchanges already, The cost of rolling high speed broadband to every home has to be minimal.

    It is time SGC stood up BT and started looking for another Telecoms/Internet supplier. At a guess they must spend many of millions of pounds a year on internet and IP phone systems and dozens of companies outside of BT can do this, i.e. Ericsson/Fujitsu/etc. This might encourage BT to start playing ball.

  4. @Simon – just come here to post the same thing! I am interested to know how they will pull this off, perhaps build PCP’s next to chambers and connect them this way. I would imagine this would take considerable effort not to disrupt existing voice services?

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