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 eSussex.org 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 roll out of Contract 3 will not start until early 2019 and not be completed until March 2020. There is also a real possibility that it may still leave a very few properties uncovered.
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 Better Broadband Scheme offered by BDUK. This scheme provides grants to any home that has less than 2 Mbp/s and where it is likely to stay so for more than 12 months. The grant is normally sufficient to fund the initial installation of an alternative broadband Internet solution.
There are 2 main alternative solutions: –
- 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.