Saturday, 7 May 2016

Superfast broadband - the continuing saga

Rural broadband only on request, says government

'In November 2015, the prime minister announced the government's intention to implement the new broadband universal service obligation (USO) to provide broadband speeds of at least 10Mbps (megabits per second) to everyone, saying it wanted to put broadband on a more equal footing with essential services such as electricity and water.'

Letter from Ed Vaizey MP

SIR – The Government commitment for everyone in the United Kingdom to have access to fast broadband remains firmly in place. Nothing has been abandoned. We are giving every home and business the legal right to request fast broadband, helping make sure no communities are left behind.

Nine out of 10 homes and businesses can already get superfast speeds – four million of which would have missed out if not for our £1.7 billion investment through the superfast broadband programme. By December 2017 that will rise to 95 per cent.

Reaching the least accessible parts of the UK is of course more expensive, so it makes sense for broadband to be provided on request to those who want it – in the same way that telephone lines are provided.

Ed Vaizey MP (Con), Digital Economy Minister, London SW1



This is my latest correspondence with Steve Brookes:

From: Geoff Hall
Sent: 07 May 2016 07:28
To: 'Stephen Brookes'
Subject: RE: Upgrade for Nocton
Importance: High

Hi Steve,

Thanks for getting back to me, but we seem to be getting conflicting messages from different sources. You might like to clarify the situation please.

The correspondence from BT Openreach below seems to indicate that the ‘Equivalence Rules’ do not apply to our circumstances in Nocton (as we already have access to fibre cabinets) and therefore a solution to our problem of being located too far away from the fibre cabinet rests with the Onlincolnshire BDUK project team.

It also states that I should let Onlincolnshire know of my requirements, which are:
  1. I am now formally requesting to have my legacy telephone line re-routed from Metheringham Cab 3 to the new fibre cabinet Metheringham Cab 17 in order for me to have the choice of upgrading to a broadband service that should give me a minimum 10 Mbps.
  2. If there is a personal cost to me in order to have this work carried out, I would like to have a quote provided beforehand to consider (I have already emailed both BT as my provider and BT Openreach to enquire about the process for this to take place – response still awaited).
  3. As the Equivalence Rules do not appear to apply, surely the work involved in moving the legacy lines connected to Metheringham Cab 3 can be carried out now as part of the budgeted upgrade relating to Metheringham Cab 17.
I await your comments with interest.

Kind regards,

Correspondence from BT Openreach

“Dear Mr Mellor,

Please see below for the response from Openreach regarding broadband access in Nocton.

Best wishes,

Emma Salisbury
Senior Parliamentary Assistant
Office of Stephen Phillips QC MP
House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
020 7219 7146”

“Dear Mr Philips,

Thank you for the letter that you sent to Gavin Patterson, that was dated 25 April, on behalf of the residents who live on Main St, Nocton.

I appreciate the residents frustration and need for fibre broadband, especially as other residents nearby have the service. I’ve looked into this.

I’m sorry that the residents were told that they couldn’t be connected to fibre broadband due to OFCOM’s equivalence rules. This isn’t an accurate statement.

Fibre broadband availability
The area is served via cabinet 3 connected to our Metheringham exchange. The good news is that both have been upgraded to deliver fibre broadband services with support from the ‘Onlincolnshire’ BDUK project – in which BT is a delivery partner. As you’re probably aware, the aim of the project is to deploy fibre broadband in areas not covered by private commercial markets.

However, the technology that we have largely deployed is ‘Fibre to the Cabinet’ (FTTC). This will be available to a number of premises locally. However, we’ve been clear in our communications that when a cabinet is upgraded it doesn’t mean that all premises will be able to get the service. This is what has happened here.

FTTC technology has line length limitations. If the distance from the premises to the fibre cabinet is greater than 1.5km, the service will not work reliably. And as the residents have already indicated, their homes fall into this category as they’re over 1.5km from the fibre cabinet. This means that their lines are unfortunately too long to support a reliable FTTC service.

We continue to work on technical solutions (for example, Fibre to the Premises, extending the existing fibre cable route or deploying alternative technology), but these can be economically challenging and will require public funding.

To help, I’ve been in touch with one of my colleagues who works in the ‘Onlincolnshire’ BDUK project team and I’ve been told that the residents affected by long lines are very much part of project team’s plans to be upgraded to fibre broadband in the near future.

I therefore suggest that the residents contact the ‘Onlincolnshire’ BDUK project team to let them know of their requirements. More information is available at the following link:

The decision as to when the upgrade takes place rests with the project team, who are managing the delivery of the programme.

Finally I'm really sorry that we're unable to provide an immediate solution for the residents but I hope my comments help to explain our current position and it assures you of our ambition to deliver fibre broadband for as many communities as quickly as we can.

Kind regards,
Matthew Evans
High level complaints, Openreach”


  1. Email received 7th May

    "Dear Geoff,

    Trawling through the blogspot recently I was particularly interested in the updates to the broadband saga. I think somewhere you mentioned a figure of 14 premises still connected to Meg Cabinet 3. I imagine that you must have been referring just to Main St, because, as far as I am aware, the whole of LN4 2BW (Wellhead Lane) is connected to this cabinet. I am currently getting (today) 3.39Mb/s with latency of 20ms and uploads of .68. I have forced my system to connect to Manchester server instead of Nottingham which gave an immediate improvement of some 30%. This level has remained pretty constant over time with short term interruptions and variations. In moments of frustration I create a mobile hotspot with my phone, with service provided by 3, and get in excess of 9 Mb/s using only the 3G network. (4g not yet available on 3)

    It seems to me that BT will keep ducking and weaving for ever, in the sure knowledge that the Govt and its agencies will not, when it comes down to the wire, (ha ha), force them to do anything that doesn't make commercial sense to BT.

    Nevertheless I wish you every success in your attempts to do something about this pathetic situation. If I can do anything to help in supporting your efforts I stand ready.

    Thanks and kind regards,
    Mike K"

  2. Good morning Mike,

    Thank you so much for this useful information.

    You are correct, I am only referring to Main Street - indeed I was totally oblivious that Wellhead Lane properties are also connected to the legacy cabinet at Dunston Top. May I ask, is this first-hand knowledge you have obtained from either BT engineers/BT Call Centre or just hearsay? If correct, I think this will strengthen our case to get something sorted, as it greatly increases the number of properties missing out on superfast broadband. No wonder Onlincolnshire and BT Openreach are so reluctant to divulge postal codes and numbers of properties served by each cabinet - supposedly 'Commercial in Confidence'.

    You may like to add your views by lobbying both Stephen Phillips MP and Councillor Marianne Overton MBE and additionally writing to Stephen Brookes at Onlincolnshire... the more pressure that can be brought to bear at this pivotal time could help.

    Kind regards,

  3. Mike has very kindly been in touch with me again, enclosing the content of an email from Steve Brookes. This explains very clearly that Mike's property is indeed connected through Metheringham Cabinet 3 located at Dunston Top... and thus is unable to get superfast broadband despite being linked to a fibre cabinet.

    I am now wondering just how many other properties in Nocton village are connected to the Metheringham 3 cabinet, rather than Pillar 3/2 near the Post Office!

  4. Steve has just replied to my email of 7th May:

    "Good Morning Geoff,

    Thanks for the update and we certainly do seem to have a disconnect with information coming from BT.

    I have gone back to them again and asked for a formal response to your comments.


    I do feel quite sorry for Steve as he is between the 'devil and the deep blue sea'. It will be interesting to see what BT have to say on the matter!

  5. Hi Geoff,
    Your speeds are a pipe dream for those further out. Our current speed is ~0.75MB/s and very unreliable. 3MB/s would be great.

  6. Thanks for your comment Carl. I think Onlincolnshire offer a discounted satellite service for properties consistently getting less than 2 Mbps. Might be worth looking into the scheme to see if you might qualify and whether it is affordable. Cheers.

  7. Hi Geoff,
    I recently contacted Executive level complaints department at BT to explain our ridiculous situation for the remaining properties on Main street who will not be connected to the new fibre cab. Their response below:-
    kind regards, Jim

    RE: BT Complaint Ref:VOL012-120826734397

    I’ve had confirmation back from our suppliers today.
    They’ve confirmed that you can’t currently have fibre from your fibre enabled cabinet due to the distance from the exchange.
    I’ve asked them about changing to another cabinet, that’s recently been fibre enabled and that’s closer to you. Unfortunately they aren’t able to change you to a different cabinet as the network over which fibre broadband runs is bespoke, and it’s not within their policy to reallocate the network to provide a service that isn’t currently available.
    They’ve let me know that all premises are served from dedicated distribution points which are connected through their own underground duct network to the cabinets.
    I’m really sorry it’s not the news you were hoping for. However they have let me know that a community partnership option is a possibility. You either visit their website ( ) or contact them via email (
    If you haven’t already visited this section of their website, I’d recommend reading through the different options first. They will consider working with customers who are open to the possibility of contributing funds towards work that isn’t carried out as part of the current process/fibre rollout.
    I really hope that you’re able to get better news from them!
    I know it hasn’t been the news you wanted, but can I check there isn’t anything else I can help with or are you happy to close your complaint?
    I’ll be in touch on Monday unless I hear from you sooner.
    Many thanks

    Breige Young | BT Consumer | BT, Riverside Tower, Lanyon Place, Belfast, BT1 3BT

    Executive Level Complaints | 03316643227

  8. Hi Jim,

    I suppose it was to be expected... although I still haven't had a reply from BT Openreach via OnLincolnshire to my formal query. However, my provider (BT) have been in touch with a completely different response:

    This was my enquiry to the BT Complaints Team (Enquiry reference number: 160506-010916):

    “Hi. I understand my landline (01526 328747) is notionally available for upgrade to fibre, as my line is connected to Metheringham Cab 3. However, as my property is located 2.5 km away from the cab it seems I will not benefit from the superfast fibre service. Fortunately, just 50 metres away from my property, a new fibre cabinet (Metheringham Cab 17) is about to be enabled (early May). In order for me to obtain superfast broadband I would like to enquire how much it would cost for my existing line to be re-routed through to this new fibre cabinet just metres away from my property? If the costs are not excessive, how would I proceed with contracting this work to be carried out please? Many thanks”

    I received a telephone call from the BT Complaints Team who have stated that once the new Cabinet 17 has been enabled, my line will automatically be re-routed from Cabinet 3 to the nearest cabinet at zero cost, so that I can then apply for BT Infinity!

    Unsurprisingly, the lady would not confirm this in writing, but said I would get an email from BT once the Cabinet is enabled, advising me that I can then apply for the superfast service. I have also received a follow-up text from BT [61998] in order to make my request for BT Infinity after the cab is enabled.

    I am left wondering whether the caller had a full understanding of the practical aspects. Forgive me for being sceptical… but I think your response is probably the more correct version of what will/will not happen!

    I am now waiting for the reply to my identical question to BT Openreach… but as I am not their direct customer, I do not hold out much optimism of a response.

    You know, in this day and age of supposedly 'customer focused' organisations and professionalism, our experience of the BT Group is appalling. The sooner this behemoth is forced to dissolve into separate companies, allowing more competition, the better in my opinion.

    Thanks for keeping us informed.


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