Residents of Bradley Stoke who are hoping to benefit from the rollout of superfast broadband through a state-aided investment programme say they are frustrated and confused by the sparse and conflicting information being made available to them by South Gloucestershire Council (SGC), which is managing the project.
As previously reported in The Journal, the occupiers of around 1,700 homes in Bradley Stoke are still waiting to hear if and when they will benefit from the project before it ends in March next year. These are the customers on exchange only (EO) lines, who are hoping to be served by one of four new cabinets that are being installed by BT at strategic locations within the town.
The first of these, no. 31 (located on the corner of Brook Way and Savages Wood Road), was declared “live and ready for service” by SGC on 19th September, meaning that customers whose lines pass through that cabinet should be able to order fibre broadband from the internet service provider of their choice.
However, weeks later, frustration has set in as many customers who were hoping to receive confirmation that their lines have been wired into cabinet no. 31 are still waiting for news. A list of postcodes served by the cabinet was published retrospectively by SGC on 8th October, but this has just added to the confusion as many homes within these postcodes are still not showing as being connected to the cabinet in BT’s own Broadband Availability Checker, nor showing any mention of the ‘fibre to the cabinet’ (FTTC) service being available.
The only glimmer of hope is that, since 19th October, a handful of Journal readers have reported being able to finally order fibre broadband on lines connected to cabinet no. 31.
The news for customers hoping to be wired into the other three new EO cabinets is even less encouraging. Whereas SGC had previously reported that cabinets nos. 30 (at the top end of Bradley Stoke Way, near the Hilton Hotel) and 36 (corner of Bradley Stoke Way and Brook Way, near Oaktree Crescent) were expected to be “live and ready for service during October”, that projected date has now slipped to December (see statement below).
Worse still, customers hoping to be wired into the fourth new EO cabinet, no. 38 (Brook Way, opposite junction with Dewfalls Drive), have now been told they may have to wait until March 2015 before that facility goes live.
SGC has yet to publish lists of postcodes that will be served by cabinet nos. 30, 36 & 38, which is doing nothing to calm the nerves of customers who fear they may miss out altogether by the time the project is completed in March next year.
With the rest of South Gloucestershire slowly waking up to the fact that the current project will only bring superfast broadband to around two-thirds of those in the ‘intervention area’, SGC has come under increasing pressure to be more transparent over its plans.
Thornbury and Yate MP Steve Webb, was recently quoted in the Gazette newspaper as saying:
“It is shocking that a project which involves millions of pounds of public money is shrouded in such secrecy. The public has a right to know now in detail which communities will benefit from superfast broadband and, crucially, who will be excluded.”
“Getting reliable information from the council has been like trying to get state secrets out of the Kremlin during the Cold War.”
[Ed: Prioritisation criteria agreed by the council before the contract was awarded to BT give a high weighting to areas of high population where broadband speeds are poor, which ought to see Bradley Stoke being given preference over more sparsely populated rural areas.]
Elsewhere in Bradley Stoke, and outside the scope of the SGC project, as it was fibre-enabled as part of BT’s commercial rollout, cabinet no. 44 (corner of Baileys Court Road and Ellan Hay Road), continues to be a source of frustration for customers in Juniper Way and ‘the herbs’ roads. Despite assurances from BT to the contrary, Journal readers in that area are still reporting they are unable to order superfast broadband due to a “lack of capacity” at the cabinet.
South Gloucestershire Council statement (on 24th October 2014)
As you know, the deployment of fibre broadband across South Gloucestershire is a huge engineering project. As such, the build can be affected by a variety of factors making the dates for the rollout sometimes subject to change. However, I can confirm that the current target dates for the following cabinets to go live is as detailed below:
- Cabinet 30 should be live and ready for service by December 2014
- Cabinet 36 should be live and ready for service by December 2014
- Cabinet 38 should be live and ready for service by March 2015
Approximately 3,500 homes in Bradley Stoke will benefit from the council’s Superfast Broadband Project, with approximately 1,700 of these being the more complex EO lines. Once the delivery has been completed in March 2015, we will have a firm position on the coverage achieved, and we will also have a clearer position on our ability to potentially push the coverage even further across South Gloucestershire under the existing contract, and with the current funding.
With regards to Filton cabinet 44 and Almondsbury cabinet 31, BT has confirmed that both these fibre broadband cabinets are ‘live’ and able to accept orders. Customers should contact their broadband service provider for further information.”
Steve G of Sages Mead (on an Almondsbury EO line):
I find it absurd that SGC or BT cannot give a proper update on the status of the rollout with dates. It seems that we are all given generic responses and being palmed off to our ISPs, who are equally in the dark.
Why can’t they have a webpage with a proper up to date status, rather than each of us sending emails and unnecessarily taking up someone’s time at SGC? I wonder how much SGC know and if it is BT who is being a bit cagey with the facts… once again.
Even after the attention seeking ‘Race to Infinity’ campaign run by BT, very little information was coming from them and even though Almondsbury were high up the league, what was the outcome…? Hmm.
Neil G of Shiels Drive (on a Filton EO line):
Will you get superfast broadband? That is a question that SGC seems reluctant to answer, even though according to the ‘tender document’ I have seen, the winning supplier (in this case BT) is required to supply a list showing the order of the upgrade in priority order, no. 1 priority being current speed below 1.5Mbps.
I was recently told that a new fibre-enabled EO cabinet is to be installed right outside the Filton exchange. This will be of no benefit to anyone on a Filton EO line in Bradley Stoke.
So why has SGC allowed BT to upgrade lines already running at up to 17mbps before those running at 1 to 1.5mbps like mine?
Katherine P of Kingfisher Close (outside the SGC intervention area, but with no access to Virgin Media cable):
We are a family of five, soon to be six. Our broadband service from BT is atrocious. The service is intermittent at best and nowhere near powerful enough to support the daily average of four connected devices.
We have enquired of all other providers, but are told the same; they would all have to use to BT line and could not provide a better speed than we get now. We have had several BT engineer visits, resulting in no improvement whatsoever. It’s a lottery daily as to whether we even have Internet access at all.
Having moved from Juniper Way to Kingfisher Close in 2012 to accommodate our growing family, we are extremely disappointed that our street will be missed completely and will not have even stable broadband anytime soon never mind superfast.
I would just like to add that the terrible standard of service directly affects both my husband’s and my work not to mention the increase in online homework our children receive from school. I have recently increased my mobile tariff to 20GB of data just to attempt to lighten the load on the broadband. It has not made the slightest difference.
It is really so disappointing for such a lovely neighbourhood to have such a huge negative hanging over it.
Paul P of Juniper Way (on cabinet 44):
I have now ordered fibre on three occasions via Sky and BT and each time it has been cancelled without my knowledge. Never any correspondence from BT and a million different and conflicting reasons.
This is severely impacting on my job as I cannot access my company website without losing connection and am unable to download anything including films for my kids via Sky.
Truly shocking planning to say that the cabinet is live and running, but they have run out of space. March to October has been a roller coaster of available then not available and so on.
My wife has been offered a job working from home but is wary of accepting as the current broadband is simply not fit for purpose.
BT Openreach should be held accountable and we should be given compensation for the time, inconvenience and frustration caused to local residents.
Photo 1 (top): Cllr John Goddard with Matt Lloyd, Next Generation Access Programme Manager for BT, announcing Bradley Stoke’s inclusion in the SGC project (September 2013).
Photo 2 (above): New fibre-enabled cabinet no. 31 at the junction of Brook Way and Savages Wood Road (July 2014).
This article originally appeared in the November 2014 edition of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine, delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,450 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
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