Will it ever arrive at my property?

As you will no doubt have read, at County level the rollout of broadband has progressed steadily from 3% coverage in 2012 to just over 95% today. This is in line with Government targets. Unfortunately our Parish is in the 5% of homes that remain un-served, where broadband coverage may not be available until 2020.

You may well ask “How does all this work?” or simply, “Will it ever work!?”.

In summary, our central Government gives funds for broadband infrastructure rollout to BDUK, a governing body that in turn distributes this money to the various local councils across the country, including East Sussex County Council (ESCC). ESCC is then responsible for the tendering and selection of contractors to build the broadband infrastructure that we need specifically in our county using the money it has been given. Thus far BT Openreach (incidentally, a separate company from BT) has been awarded 2 contracts by ESCC and they have been a monopoly supplier.

Contract 2 will run until the end of 2018 and should result in East Sussex as a whole reaching 96% broadband coverage. This is all very well, but we expect that it will still leave our Parish largely in the 4% segment uncovered.

Recently ESCC signed a third contract with BT Openreach valued at over £4m which is intended to connect a further 7,000+ homes.

Given the importance of Contract 3 to our Parish, Councillor Andrew Hoad has teamed up with Councillor Andrew Wedmore (Chair of Brightling Parish Council) to  raise awareness within ESCC of the urgent need to make progress in our respective rural Parishes. Recently Councillors Hoad and Wedmore met with the Chief Executive of ESCC (Becky Shaw) to present the concerns of our parishioners, these being primarily :

  • Slow rate of progress to reach 100% coverage of rural properties.
  • Constant difficulties experienced by individuals to obtain a clear plan that  shows when broadband will actually be available at their property.
  • The Broadband “Postcode Checker” on ESCC website is cumbersome and not user friendly.
  • Updates on the website are confusing.

From this meeting we learned that Contract 3 has one important difference to earlier contracts. It will require the supplier to survey upfront all premises that are as yet unable to access superfast broadband, well in advance of build.  This means that after the surveys it should be possible to have a stable broadband implementation plan that can be published and relied upon by all of us. This is the good news.

The not so good news is that the surveys were due to be finished by the end of 2018 and physical implementation work starting in 2019. In reality the surveys were not finished by BT Openreach until late 2019 and then ESCC were apparently not completely happy with the quality of the information that they received back. There has then ensued a further period of dialogue between ESCC and BT Openreach with an expectation of the final plan being published by mid 2020! In the meantime, there has been some limited piece meal roll-out of high speed broadband to several more post codes, the lucky postcodes are published on the website. Unfortunately there has been limited impact on our parishes. Whilst staying with the not so good news, it is fair to say that there remains a real possibility that even when Contract 3 is finally completed, there may be some properties left unconnected.

We were also advised in our meeting that ESCC acknowledges that its website needs improving and work is undergoing to make a number of improvements. Watch this space !

Given the long time remaining for some of us to get terrestrial broadband to our properties, your attention is drawn to the Rural Gigabit Voucher scheme – see website for more information. This scheme is a means by which groups of property owners can get together to claim a subsidy from the Government to fund a bespoke solution to get high speed broadband to a cluster of properties that are situated relatively close to each other. The subsidies available may not cover all of the associated costs but can go a long way to reduce them. A pilot of this scheme is undergoing implementation in Brigden Hill. For those interested to know more about this, please contact Brian Holdstock, Clerk to the Parish Council.

For individual properties without high speed broadband, the only realistic near term alternatives to get connected ahead of the ground based infrastructure being rolled out by ESCC / BT Openreach are as follows:

  • Satellite system– has coverage across the county, speeds of up to 25 Mbp/s are achievable but suffers from time lag when browsing and data costs are high. A large satellite dish (approx 1 metre diameter) needs to be installed within 10 metres of your home.
  • 3G/4G Mobile Router– uses mobile telephone network but only where minimum 3G exists and preferably using 4G. Speeds up to 25 Mbp/s are achievable but generally tend to be much less (circa 10 Mbps) due to obstacles such as trees blocking signal. A remote antenna can be used but needs a high vantage point.

Please be assured that your Parish Council will continue to keep a close watching brief on the progress of Contract 3 and any other work that could help expedite the rollout of broadband in our Parish. We will continue to lobby wherever we can to this end.

Should you have any questions please feel free to direct these to Councillor Andrew Hoad.