Colton Superfast Broadband Why it's important and how we can get it......Mike Postle (mike@postle.co)

No Phase 2 for our area?

It’s just as well that phase 1 looks as if it will deliver for our area because it’s unlikely that phase 2 will. The £5.7m of public phase 2 money can only be spent where there is a ‘market failure’.

 

Recent consultations with potential providers (including with BT) seem to indicate that over the next two to three years, these commercial providers will cover many of the areas left out by phase 1: hence no public money here.  Which leaves about 8,500 premises in Allerdale, Copeland and some remoter parts of the Lake District seemingly eligible for the funding.

 

So just who are these potential commercial providers? They are for the most part relatively small and rely on radio technology: a technology which has recently made great strides to becoming a real rival to the fibre to cabinet solutions currently being progressed.   

 

Whether or not these providers have the capacity to fill the gaps on a commercial basis is the subject of an assessment process being undertaken before the plans for phase 2 are finalised by June.

 

Some Slippage but it’s Good News

Those of you who have been keeping an eye on the roll out of SFBB via the Connecting Cumbria web site (www.connectingcumbria.org.uk/when-and-where) will have noticed that there is some slippage in the time scales and that the exchange map is not up to date. I rather feared that this would mean that the connections we thought we were getting under phase 1 of the project wouldn’t materialise.

 

Not so! For I’ve been given more up to date information by Connecting Cumbria which indicates better than planned coverage will be achieved before the end of the project:  

 

LA12 8HF & Oxen Park

Greenodd cabinet 1

Early Summer 2015

Newby Bridge exchange

8 cabs planned

5 planned for Early Summer 2015, 3 planned for early Winter 2015

Greenodd exchange

4 cabs planned

2 planned for Early Summer 2015, 2 planned for early Winter 2015

Satterthwaite exchange

1 cab planned

Early Summer 2015

Torver

Coniston cabinet 1

Early Summer 2015

Lowick Bridge exchange

2 cabs planned

2 planned for Early Winter 2015

 

(Torver & Lowick Bridge were potentially two ‘not spots’  - the latter would have implications for connections to the Nibthwaite area of our parish).

 

The Connecting Cumbria project overall is hitting its targets with some 67% of the County’s premises now able to get SFBB via either BT’s commercial roll-out or the Connecting Cumbria project.

Phase 2 – Some more developments & some more accurate (?) Maps.

The County Council has started a consultation on where this extra money should be spent.

 

Regular followers of this blog will know that what has now become known as phase 1 of the Connecting Cumbria project (plus the BT commercial roll-out) is on track to reach its target of 93% of premises covered by Superfast Broad Band (SFBB) by the end of 2015.

 

Phase 2 is designed to extend SFBB to give an additional 2% coverage by 2017 funded by a £5.72m package. As part of the preparation for phase 2, the Council has mapped out what it thinks is the likely outcome of phase 1 and from this, defined what it sees as intervention areas for phase 2.

 

The consultation document and maps can be found from the links at the bottom of the web page  http://www.opinionsuite.com/cumbria/cumbria-county-council/chief-executives-office/connecting-cumbria-phase-2-consultation/consult_view . The extra detail maps, in particular make interesting reading as they give a snapshot of where things are thought to end up at the end of next year.

 

The NGA maps relate to SFBB (but see comment below) and the white & ‘conditional white’ areas are areas which are unlikely to have SFBB by the end of 2015 and are considered as intervention areas for phase 2. There is some confusion as to exactly what the maps show as the speed threshold for phase 2 is being lowered from 24 Mb/s to 15 Mb/s – Do the maps take this decision into account when defining intervention areas?

 

The BB maps relate to the basic 2Mb/s service – which is meant to be guaranteed to all premises by the end of 2015.

 

The priority for phase 2 spending is given as targeting NGA interventions to use available public funds to provide a ‘step change in BB capability of premises getting relatively slow BB speeds (less than 15 Mb/s) rather than for obtaining marginal increases in speed for premises already getting 15 Mb/s and above.

 

The consultation, which has the usual impossibly tight deadline of 9th January, is to ‘give an opportunity for the general public to register opinions re the state aid proposals and the proposed targeted areas.

 

Let me know what you think. I’ll try to get the local Broadband Champions together and we’ll get any comments fed into the process. Incidentally, although the maps are a huge improvement on all that has gone before, they are no substitute for postcode data –we’re still working on that one…..

Another Enquiry !

 
 
 
MPs have launched another enquiry into rural broadband speeds following concerns that the current expenditure being made to bring superfast broadband to rural areas will leave significant gaps.

 

This time it’s the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee which has been prompted to look at the issue by the news that as from this coming January, all applications for the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) schemes will have to be made on line. We’ve already noted that there will be an increasing assumption when designing systems that there will be universal access to superfast broadband (and importantly reliable broadband) and here’s a case in point.

 

Farms in the Parish, of course by their fact that they are often isolated properties, are more likely to have problems in accessing reliable and fast broadband services.

 

With the help of a sample of farms in the Parish, the (usual) very tight deadline for submissions to the Committee has been beaten and, through the Parish Council, the committee now has our local input to take into account. 

 

None of you will be surprised that most farms currently have an issue with both the speed and the reliability of their broadband connections – with one having an outage of several weeks. Increasingly this is having an adverse economic effect and leads to inefficiencies. Those of you who have followed this blog will not be surprised to learn that so far we can not say for sure what the impact of the Connecting Cumbria  project (or its planned successors) will be on individual farms.

 

Our recommendations are hardly rocket science. They include:

·         setting up a mechanism to monitor and evaluate the outcomes of the current DCMS projects (eg Connecting Cumbria) on farm connectivity;

·         the use the information to work with the roll-out of what’s now known as phase 2 so that public monies both from DCMS and from DEFRA can be spent effectively – dealing with the remaining not-spots and making sure that isolated farms are not left out.

 

It will mean two Whitehall departments working together – too much to hope for?

Looking beyond Phase 1

With the current Connecting Cumbria project due to complete its work of bringing SFBB to 93% of premises in Cumbria (with the rest getting 2 Mb/s minimum) by the end of 2015, attention has been turning to what comes next.

Last February the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced an additional £250m pot of funding for what has now become known as phase 2 of SFBB implementation. Cumbria’s £2.8m share has now been confirmed but the required matched funding has not. The expectation is that it will shortly be confirmed coming from a mix of Cumbria County Council and European funds.

What’s not agreed is how to proceed with procurement – that’s expected sometime in December. In a nutshell, the options are to either use the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) tendering framework or to go through the full European (OJEC) tendering process. The BDUK process will almost certainly result in a further contract with BT, limited community engagement but lower management and procurement overheads. The OJEC process would potentially give more community engagement and flexibility but could be expensive to manage (15% of project costs have been quoted). Whichever way it goes, we can expect to see some of the areas which don’t get connected to SFBB in phase 1, receiving the benefits of this higher speed under phase 2. Phase 1 ‘Community Build’ discussions with parishes have been suspended (to be resumed next month in a modified form) as phase 2 may well supersede a lot of the thinking behind them.

And Phase 3? Well expect something in the Autumn statement. This will be the first shot in developments foreshadowed in the recent DCMS report looking into the future requirement for digital communications. Holiday reading can be found on : thinkbroadband.com/news/

And the report itself on:

digital-communications-infrastructure-strategy

The consultation about this report lasts until the end of this month.

There’s a lot going on……..

Coming to a postcode near you?

We’re a bit clearer now about the currently planned times scales for connecting parts of our Parish to Superfast Broadband – and it seems to be good news. Current planning indicates that the areas served by Satterthwaite, Greenodd and Newby Bridge exchanges are due to go live within the next 6 months with a target date of December this year.

You can now check the planned connectivity in your area by opening the appropriate page on the BT Openreach site http://www.superfast-openreach.co.uk/where-and-when/ and inputting your postcode. The Connecting Cumbria web site also links to BT Openreach postcode data but its mapping data is not up to date.

As always, there is a health warning! The information is subject to change as work takes place on the ground. Blocked ducts and other problems could see revisions of the current information.

Technology Marches on

There is now an accepted way of bringing SFBB to those areas with phone lines direct from the exchange (‘Exchange only lines’) Good news for the likes of Bouth in our Parish which is connected this way.

Trials are currently taking place in North Yorkshire amongst other places of a new bit of kit: Fibre to Remote Node (FTTrN). These nodes, which can be mounted on poles act like tiny street cabinets – serving about 20 premises and have the potential to bring SFBB and speeds above 24 Mb/s within economic reach. We need to make sure that Cumbria benefits from this technological advance.

Look out for the next post which will detail what is happening after Phase 1 of Connecting Cumbria finishes – things are hotting up! To be notified of future postings, click on   https://postleorg.coffeecup.com/api/sdrive/subscription/add/29354/ or on the tab at the bottom of each posting.

A bit like number 12 busses…….

No posts for a while and then three come along at once!

Many of us will have a good idea about what we would do when we get a SFBB connection (or at any rate a much faster connection than we have at present). One of the things I will look forward to is being able to watch the iplayer and other video streaming services with a reasonable definition picture and without it freezing.

I’ve been looking for short, punchy video productions which illustrate some of the things we can do when we get SFBB. The nearest to what I had in mind seems to be a series of short presentations by Nicola Millard for Superfast Surrey. You can get these by clicking on this link: nicola millard superfast surrey . Have a look and see what you think.

Still on track …….

In Cumbria as a whole, the Programme is still on track with 18 exchanges and 31,243 premises connected (last month’s figures). Development work is continuing with miniature cabinets which should enable many more remote premises to be connected to SFBB.

The main ring of fibre optic cabling is in place round the County and the main population centres – Ulverston included – have enabled cabinets. (See the Connecting Cumbria web site).

Best guess is that it will be 2015 before our Parish gets its fibre optic connections then expect a flurry of activity. We can expect to get to know where and when some six months before it happens – and at that stage we can look to see where the gaps in provision may arise and try to get the optimum solutions for the Parish.  

In the interview I referred to in my last piece, it was stated that there is a drive to get more than 25% of premises taking up the option of SFBB in an enabled area as this will trigger further BT Openreach funding for the County. The present take up has risen from 3% last year to 9% now – so a bit to go……..

Thank you to businesses which responded.

A big ‘thank you’ to those of you who run businesses and supplied details of them to me. There were 24 of you – many of which I never knew existed! It gives an insight into the extent of economic activity in the Parish and underlines the importance to the local economy of getting a reliable superfast broadband connection.

The feedback I got was that the information was useful and is allowing Connecting Cumbria to draw down ERDF funding for the project as a whole. In a recent radio interview with Martin Rayner (Lakeland Ltd) and a BT Openreach representative, it was stated that one eligible SME in a cabinet area gives priority for connection of that cabinet. If so, our parish should be well served.