Frustration as broadband targets slip again

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

There’s little New Year cheer for consumers suffering from appalling internet connection speeds in Bradley Stoke with the news that both South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) and BT have slipped key dates on broadband improvement projects.

SGC announced in November 2012 that BT had been chosen as its preferred supplier for it £2.2 million project to bring superfast broadband to 90% of the district by April 2015 and said it expected to sign a contract with the telecoms giant in “early December”. That date has now been quietly put back to “the end of January” with the delay being blamed on contractual issues between BT and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), the Government agency overseeing the state-aided work, and the need to “recheck the project model” after Swindon Borough Council pulled out of the Great Western Broadband partnership that also includes Wiltshire County Council.

Meanwhile, BT’s self-funded upgrading of the Filton telephone exchange, announced nearly two tyears ago, has yet to bring any benefit to residents of Bradley Stoke on 0117 numbers. The broadband checker on the BT website is currently indicating a projected availability date of June 2013 for superfast broadband at a randomly selected property in the south of the town, which is six months later than originally promised.

Recent efforts by the Town Council to engage with Virgin Media, whose superfast-capable cable network already covers half the town, have only met with frustration. The Town Clerk wrote to the company in June 2011 and October 2012 asking them to consider extending their network but no reply has been forthcoming. A letter sent to Virgin’s complaints department about the lack of response has also gone unanswered.

Despite the promised investment, there is no guarantee that the SGC project will bring superfast broadband to consumers on 01454 numbers, served from the Almondsbury exchange. According to the SGC’s own figures, 21,000 properties in the district qualify for state assistance because they are in areas that are unlikely to receive superfast broadband from commercial providers but less than half of these are guaranteed to get superfast speeds through the Council’s project. The remaining properties will receive assistance to access a “standard broadband” service of at least 2Mbps, which is likely to be viewed by many consumers as being inadequate.

The Journal estimates that around 4,000 properties in Bradley Stoke are eligible to benefit from the SGC broadband project, with around 2,000 of those currently receiving speeds of less than 2Mbps (the national average is currently 9Mbps).

More info: Broadband in South Gloucestershire (SGC)

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  1. Wasn’t elected MP Jack Lopresti headline grabbing a short while ago demonstrating his determination that Bradley Stoke should not be left behind in the e-revolution? Those efforts must have last at least as long as it took him to get elected.

  2. I’ve gotten used to the 0.7mbps downloads I get. Main impact is watching tv online which is pretty much impossible. Atleast the sky box lets you download the on demand stuff which may take afew hours but is ok once downloaded. I would love faster Internet but just have to make do with what we have 🙁 next time I buy a house it is something I will check!

  3. On a related issue for the other side of Town, just looked at BT infinity page (am on the Filton exchange) and its due to be upgraded to 20mb on the 30th June.

    I think most people will be on 4G before Almondsbury exchange is sorted out

  4. The article has been corrected to read “six months later than originally promised” rather than “18 months later than promised” (for the availability of superfast broadband from the Filton exchange).

    Extract from the BT openreach press release in April 2011:

    “The majority of [the announced exchanges] will be enabled for fibre broadband during 2011, with more than 50 due to be upgraded by the end of this Summer. The remaining exchanges will be offering fibre broadband by the end of 2012.”

    I’m being generous to BT in assuming that, at the time of the announcement, Filton wasn’t classified as being in “the majority”.

  5. @chris, thanks for confirming June 2013.

    4G is currently expensive and while it might perform well now, you can expect speeds to slow as more mobile users switch to it from 2G/3G. It’s also not straightforward to use in a multi-user household. I’m also told that its higher latency makes it less suitable for games playing than ADSL/FTTC.

  6. I have also heard that 4G isn’t a great signal in the Bradley Stoke South area. They don’t call it a not spot without a good reason.

    Also agree the service and support from our MP has been very similar to our superfast broadband i.e. Non Existent.

  7. So, being on a 01454 number, the end result of all this faffing about by 2015 will be that I get a 2mbit/s connection.

    Colour me impressed. Really.

    I’d be better off laying a trail of pringle tubes 1/4 of a mile to the nearest Virgin installation. 🙁

    — gyre —

  8. We all are still suffering from the privatization spree of our public utilities. Political parties are been buttered by these capitalists. Hence effective regulation never happens.

  9. When will people awaken against the snubbing of Bradley Stoke by the capitalist telecommunication companies? No one cares and No one bothers even to respond here. Poor souls of BS. fate.

  10. Our erstwhile MP, from his own website

    Jack Lopresti MP leads Bradley Stoke Broadband Campaigners for meeting with Communications Minister
    Ed Vaizey MP vows to question broadband providers over slow broadband service in Bradley Stoke.

    JACK LOPRESTI, the Conservative MP for Filton and Bradley Stoke, has vowed to make the fight to secure faster, more reliable broadband coverage across his constituency one of his top priorities.

    Jack delivered the pledge after leading a meeting with the new Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey MP, yesterday, Wednesday, August 11th, to highlight the long-standing issues with local broadband connections in the Bradley Stoke area.

    As a result, Ed promised to write to both BT and Virgin Media to ask why the service has not been upgraded and the reasons behind the delay in providing fast broadband across the town.

    Jack and Ed were joined at the high-profile meeting by a delegation of local campaigners and councillors from his constituency, who lobbied the Minister for decisive action to improve broadband coverage. They were: Bradley Stoke Town Councillor and Mayor Ben Walker, Councillor Trevor Jones, Councillor John Ashe, Councillor Robert Jones, Councillor Brian Hopkinson and Councillor Sarah Pomfret.

    The meeting gave both Jack and the campaigners the opportunity to outline the key issues that the current slow broadband service presents, to local residents and businesses alike.

    [Ed: I have truncated this comment. For the full text, click on the link above.]

  11. The most annoying issue about the this situation is the lack of clear explanation of why Bradley Stoke is being ignored.

    Many exchanges and areas much smaller than Bradley Stoke are connected, areas with lots of EO lines and poor infrastructure are being connected, but Bradley Stoke is being ignored. Why?

    The Amlondsbury exchange is already 21C enabled, (connected to BT’s new fibre network) so it should be a a formality.

    If BT wants to save a few pennies shut Almondsbury exchange down and connect us all to Winterbourne, which is already enabled.

  12. I was going to join this discussion and point out the failure of our Conservatives representatives to progress this issue, but anon-e-mouse has done it far better than I could.

    What have the Conservatives ever done for Bradley Stoke? answers in May 2014 (Election time).

  13. JonBoy – in terms of politicians and broadband you could level that at all of them. Plenty of talk, no action.

    I did notice a few days back, though, the cabinet on Winterbourne Rd near the Amcor factory looks like a FTTC one. Technically it’s within the Bradley Stoke town border … Could it be the only FTTC cabinet in town???

  14. I’m pretty sure there’s an FTTC cabinet at the start of Stean Bridge Road (has a “fibre broadband is here” advert on it). Also believe that’s an area that has Virgin cable …

  15. @Toxteth O’Grady – there is a new FTTC streetcab near the Amcor building. This is fed from Winterbourne Exchange.
    @Ed – I agree with you. I am only aware of one FTTC streetcab from Filton exchange serving Bradley Stoke – the one at the end of Stean Bridge Road. Does anyone living in Stean Bridge Road have BT Infinity?

  16. I have been campaigning for Faster Broadband since 2010. Previously, I used to believe in these promises. But later found that many changed the goalposts during the play. It is quite depressing. Broadband’s poor connectivity is most evident in the Bradley Stoke Centre. Wondering how many years it will take to solve this issue?

    With the uncertainties still lingering around Broadband plans in worst affected areas, I doubt whether any futuristic plans can be delivered in the near future?

  17. Cllr Aditya, it is exactly that attitude and your obvious poor attempt at campaigning and negotiating that has led the public to still be receiving a dreadful service.

    You and your colleagues should be ashamed of yourselves, you appear to have given up, so perhaps we should give up on you.

    I have no confidence in anything BSTC does, or says it is going to do, from the broadband debacle to the dodgy dealings regarding the nepotistic way in which we have a mayor replaced by his sister, to the cost of building a new Council office building when there was plently of cheap available space at the Willow Brook Centre.

    Yet you still try to curry favour with ridiculous attempts at PR regarding Christmas lights etc – why not just give the money to charity and let people save money on their electric bills trying to out-do each other.

    You are pathetic.

  18. Kind of agree with Richard’s general sentiment. I really don’t think the ‘campaigning’ by Cllr Aditya and others is worth much – except perhaps as political brownie points for them with those who think the Cllrs comments will make a difference.

    We’re dealing with 2 businesses here (BT & Virgin) – both of whom ultimately are driven by profit. If they don’t feel it’s worth the investment (and at the moment that’s obviously their view) then they’re not going to cable us up regardless of any political posturing.

    Short of the council subsidising them I don’t really see any improvement. Has that option been looked at? I for one would be happy to pay a few extra pounds a month council tax if it would get me decent broadband.

    I’m not convinced either that the current work with South Glos and BDUK will prove fruitful either. Our ‘friends’ in the EC seem to limit funding to white areas – how much of Bradley Stoke is actually a white area. I suppose the EC ruling also means the Town Council subsidy is out of the question.

  19. To answer a few of @DaveP’s points:

    Virgin have not installed any significant new areas of cabling for years. They are focusing on increasing speeds in their existing areas. Despite periodically inviting people to contact their ‘cable my street’ department, they have categorically stated that extending their network in Bradley Stoke would be uneconomic.

    Unfortunately, the existence of the BDUK state aid programme has driven BT’s commercial investment away from the areas that need it most (rural areas and urban ‘slow spots’ like Bradley Stoke). They have simply invested nearly all their money in urban areas that already have Virgin cable, knowing that they will get Government and Council cash to help do (some of) the remaining “white” areas.

    You can find a map of the “white” areas in Bradley Stoke here:

    The map was produced before the state aid consultation in which telecoms providers were asked to disclose their commercial rollout plans for the next three years.

    The map hasn’t been updated because South Gloucestershire Council has refused to reveal the results of the consultation, on the grounds that the information is commercially sensitive and was provided in confidence.

    South Gloucestershire Council has also refused to engage with Parish/Town Council or community groups on broadband planning until their contract with BT has been signed.

  20. Has no-one in BSTC or SGC actually worked out that an increasing number of people are using broadband speed as a factor to decide where and when they move house. This means that with our speed being way below the national average it will have a factor on house prices, and therefore council tax banding, as people will struggle to sell their properties at the market value.

    Writing a letter to Virgin, not receiving a reply and then giving up seems to be as far as our councils are prepared to go.

    I am therefore challenging BSTC and SGC to use proper, agressive political pressure to ensure a proper public service and perhaps then they may stand a better chance come election time.

  21. I couldn’t understand, what was the motivation behind the comments made by Richard (Friday 11th January 2013 at 8:48 am)?

    I am a common man like anyone in this town. As a resident, I tried to help the community as much as I can. Last year, the people of Bradley Stoke gave me a mandate to represent their voice for the next 4 years and I am serving in that capacity too as a Volunteer. That’s all.

    Sorry, that you felt I have given up on Broadband campaign. No, I haven’t said that. Many raised apprehensions. I was also sharing the frustration of the common man in Bradley Stoke in that issue.

    I am not a commentator of the online news portals. Everyone has the right to express their views. But it is better to comment after understanding the whole story. The reason for coming back to this online box now is to understand your view. I don’t fear disparagement. On the other hand, critics are my best friends. In the same way, I welcome your comments too.

    My personal email id is You can email me or else if you let me know, I can come and meet you anywhere you like today or tomorrow.

    In the Planning Committee meeting of the Town Council, I suggested setting up of a Broadband working group comprising all experts and interested persons of the Town in this issue. I believe BSJ Editor was also a witness to that.

    If you have any good suggestions, I can take that on board. Is that okay with you? If I have done anything wrong, please let me know.

    With warm regards,

    Tom Mathew Aditya

  22. You just don’t get it do you?
    What we don’t want is action groups, planning committees, focus groups or any such beaurocracy, what we do want is someone to have the bottle to stand up and admit that there is a problem and they are goimg to fix it.

    Not try and fix it, not talk about it for a bit and come out with a watered down compromise, but with a proper solution that means that the people that voted you in will feel like doing so again.

    Action,not words, win votes.

  23. Tom

    What happened to your suggestion for a Broadband Committee to progress the roll out of high speed broadband in Bradley Stoke.

    Has the council spoken to BT about why Bradley Stoke is being ignored, but exchanges like Winterbourne are enabled? Is there a good and understandable reason for this?

    Finally has the council spoken to BT about subsidising a roll out to Bradley Stoke from the already installed Winterbourne exchange?

  24. Month check today forJuniper Way has now got a date for Infinity (50Mb) due 30th June 2013. No option to order yet but we have the ability to register for interest again.
    I thought I saw some utility vans between BS and Winterbourne putting in green comms ducting about 1-2 months ago.

  25. @Richard A

    The BT report that leaked in 2011 (yes, I know it’s old!) indicated that the following postcodes would be getting FTTC:


    These would correspond with the known installs on Stean Bridge Rd and Bailey’s Court Rd. They’re only ‘small’ cabs though.

    If anyone has a newer PCP report than April 2011, please share!

  26. BS328YL is already served by Virgin, according to the map of “white” areas referenced above. Haven’t checked, but wouldn’t be surprised if every postcode in that list is too!

  27. @Sue
    If you’re on an 0117 number (served from Filton exchange) you may already have the option of fibre broadband – see postcodes that Craig has listed. BT Openreach are planning to complete the Filton exchange rollout (i.e. the rest of the streetcabs) by 30 June 2013. Mind you this date has slipped several times. Even when this is complete many will not have the option of fibre broadband because they are on an Exchange Only Line. i.e. they are directly connected to the Exchange rather than to a local streetcab. Openreach are trialling technology to bring superfast broadband to these types of lines in Cornwall. We await the outcome.
    If you’re on an 01454 number (served from Almondsbury exchange) you will have to wait for South Glos council and BDUK investment to bring faster broadband. See:

  28. In response to Toms reply.

    Why on earth arent all you councillors banging on Jack Lopresti’s door, he’s also guilty of not following up on his pledge!

  29. On the website today:

    BT Wholesale broadband checker revamped

    Use this link to check availability for your telephone number:

    A couple of points to note:

    “A very useful change for those keen to find out information on possible speeds of an FTTC service is that the street cabinet number is given for a specific telephone line (exchange only lines will have no cabinet number), this allows people to identify if they are connected to the cabinet they think they are and thus assess how realistic the FTTC estimate is.”

    “A few words should be said about availability dates for FTTC services, dates that are end of a quarter e.g. 31st March, 30th June etc are generally holding dates where the cabinet is on the plan, but no firm date has been set. It is the cabinets that have one of these quarterly dates that are most at risk of slipping back in time, …”

  30. This is the best source of information for rollout. Infity checke now reports from this database feed.
    The example for Juniper Way (0117 from cabinet 44 – Ellen Hay Road) :

    Available Products
    Downstream Line Rate(Mbps): Up to 54.7
    Upstream Line Rate(Mbps): Up to 15.7
    Availability Date: 30-Jun-13
    Featured Products: WBC FTTC

  31. Cabinet 35 down Juniper Way isn’t quite so optimistic:

    Telephone Number 01454…… on Exchange ALMONDSBURY is served by Cabinet 35

    WBC ADSL 2+ Up to 1 — 1 to 3.5 Available
    ADSL Max Up to 1 — 0.75 to 2.5 Available
    WBC Fixed Rate 0.5 — — Available
    Fixed Rate 0.5 — — Available

    — gyre —

  32. The situation is similar just a few hundred yards at the other end of Webbs Wood Road from Giles.

    Cabinet 48 served by FILTON:

    WBC ADSL 2+ Up to 1 to 3.5 Mbps
    ADSL Max Up to 0.75 to 2.5 Mbps
    WBC Fixed Rate 1 Mbps
    Fixed Rate 1 Mbps

    We can just about hang on to 2.7 Mbps connection on ADSL2+, so that isn’t too far off reality. That’s after we ditched the useless HomeHub for a Netgear router that could actually maintain a (fairly) reliable connection on our line and added a filtered face plate to the NTE5.

  33. im with virgin media and we have np with our bb at the mo ,part from before christmas the service slowed down to 37.5 mb,from 62 mb,but they said to me it was there end with a server issue,now the speed is bck to normal with a,average speed of 56mb,i add bt offer me 3mb i thought what am i ment to with that my 3g is quicker

  34. Is there anyone out there that can explain why on earth BT thinks it is not commercially viable to provide FTTC in Bradley Stoke and so has to rely on a State hand-out via BDUK? Surely the desperately poor state of BT’s existing ADSL service in Bradley Stoke means the demand here would be huge and it would absolutely be commercially viable?

    I work with people who live in small towns and villages in Somerset that now have Infinity. Why is it commercially viable to offer FTTC somewhere like Midsomer Norton with a population of 10,000 but NOT in Bradley Stoke with a population of double that?

    Equally, why do BT seem quite happy to roll-out Infinity in central Bristol, in areas that already have perfectly adequate ADSL services and access to Virgin’s cable network, and so where take-up is inevitably going to be low? How does that make commercial sense, but somehow rolling out Infinity to an area that’s crying out for it doesn’t?

    None of BT’s decisions make any commercial sense at all. Is there something special about the Almondsbury exchange that makes it very difficult to roll-out FTTC from there? If that’s the case then why don’t BT just tell us that, so at least we could understand their decisions?

    So many unanswered questions and the person should be getting these questions answered for us is our MP, Jack Lopresti. I voted for Jack on the basis that he was going to do something about the sorry state of broadband in Bradley Stoke and he has done absolutely nothing. It seems to have been no more than a few weasil words to gain a few extra votes. Very disappointing.

  35. @Steve D, It is a widely held view that the state aid programme has distorted the market. BT has used its own money to bring superfast broadband to areas that already have Virgin Media cable, knowing that the state will pay it to bring it to areas that don’t. So in the short term, state aid is having the effect of channelling investment away from the areas that need it most.

  36. @Steve D It makes perfect sense for BT to enable Infinity in areas that have Virgin Media fibre optic broadband. I live in Stean Bridge Road where I have had to use Virgin (previously Telewest) to get fast broadband. Now Stean Bridge Road and the roads off here can get Infinity it allows BT to ‘poach’ Virgin customers.

    Don’t think Virgin’s network is perfect; over the past 6 months they have had real problems with over utilisation across the whole of Bristol. In the evenings the service suffers slow speeds; this is very apparent when streaming iPlayer, YouTube etc

    I sympathise with the rest of Bradley Stoke who are stuck with stone age broadband, but can’t see BT fixing this any time soon (just not commercially viable). As I still live with my parents and will be looking at buying my own house in the near future I would never personally buy a house in Bradley Stoke unless it had access to super fast broadband. I can’t be the only young ‘professional’ who is put off by the poor infrastructure in place; I guess working in IT I’m more conscious of this.

    I would say that 4G has to be an option for those suffering from slow broadband; I was testing a 4G dongle in work the other day and was really impressed with the download speeds.

  37. If you’re correct SH (which I can well believe) then the state aid is actually being abused by BT. Given the aid is finite, this could ultimately mean that remote rural areas that would genuinely need the aid to ever stand a chance of getting superfast broadband, may end up not getting it. An town like Bradley Stoke which is neither remote nor rural and has enough demand to justify BT investing its own money, should clearly not be getting this aid.

    This is exactly the point at which our MP, Jack Lopresti should be intervening. Tax payers’ money is being abused and as a result the market is being distorted. If that’s not the sort of issue an MP should be dealing with, I’m not sure what is.

  38. SteveD,

    I totally agree.

    It is really annoying, and I have emailed Jack Lopresti on several occasions with no success.

    The lack of a clear reason why the Almondsbury exchange has not been upgraded whilst the neighbouring exchange, Winterbourne, that serves one third of the users has.

    In the end the solution has always been with Ofcom: change the rules so that BT can only gain revenue from Broadband when they provide a service capable of 24MB. You can be sure then that BT would identify large pockets of customers. like Bradley Stoke, you could benefit from an infrastucture upgrade.

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