Broadband Public Meeting February 7
(A big thank you from Upottery Parish Council to the many people who attended the February 7 meeting
chaired by Neil Parish MP on a rather wet and wild night)
[Follow up actions to this meeting, agreed by Upottery Parish Council, are listed lower down the page]
It's official: According to BT and Connecting Devon & Somerset,
Upottery parish, straddling the A30/A303, is harder to reach than
Princetown, in the middle of Dartmoor!!!
- And that is why, taxpayers and businesses in Upottery and much of the Blackdown Hills, will not get fast fibre broadband funded by £53M of public money whilst Princetown (which includes Dartmoor Prison) and has a telephone exchange with fewer lines than any of the exchanges serving Upottery parish, will!
Devon County Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Keri Denton, head of the CD&S project and Laurent Boon, BT Project Manager did not win themselves any friends last night (February 7) when they confirmed this to a packed hall in Upottery. On a number of occasions, all three said "we are working hard to get fibre broadband to Upottery", but because of the NDA gagging clause that BT have required them to sign, they were unable to give their audience any reason why Upottery parish has been left out of the project other than saying they have limited funding and it does not stretch far enough to get fibre to people in Upottery. This is something that Upottery parish taxpayers will remember when they next pay their Council Tax which funds the service for Princetown in the middle of Dartmoor and large villages and towns, but not Upottery, Rawridge and Smeatharpe (and many similar villages across the Blackdown Hills).
Laurent Boon said that the villages of Upottery, Smeatharpe and Rawridge are too far from the BT exchanges that serve them (2,3 and 2.5Km respectively) for CD&S/BT to pay for the fibre cable and FTTC cabinets needed to reach them, suggesting that it would cost BT approximately £2,000 per property to get fibre broadband to everyone in the three villages. This of course cannot be checked and no data is provided to substantiate such a claim because of the NDA gag. He suggested that longer term, FTTP (fibre to the premise) may be the answer, but before anyone gets exited about this, the price that BT charges for FTTP (versus an FTTC service) makes this a very expensive solution for anyone other than a large business user. Laurent Boon also stated that BT were "researching" other broadband technologies for "hard to reach areas". When asked when that would be available to us he suggested that trials would need to continue to the end of 2014.......so don't expect anything any time soon from BT/CD&S
Upottery and large areas of the Blackdown Hills are in white areas on the CD&S final implementation map. White areas include the so called "hard to reach final 10%" but CD&S/BT will not confirm that white areas are exclusively hard to reach final 10% areas, meaning that those who live there cannot access other sources of funding exclusively reserved for the final 10% - CD&S have put us in a "catch 22" position!
Cllr. Andrew Leadbetter said that placing the contract with BT, gagged by a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) was the only option they had, when they were looking for a fibre broadband supplier, adding that if they had not placed the contract with BT, the only other option would have been no Connecting Somerset and Devon Project. He also stated that the contract was signed before he was in his present role and that his preference would be that the NDA did not exist. Since it is clear that Upottery parish will now get no benefit from this project, it is likely that all in the parish would agree that no project would have been better than this project which they are in part paying for but getting no benefit from. If that were the case their Council Tax contributions to the £53M could have been better spent elsewhere to get a fast broadband service from another supplier.
Keri Denton and Andrew Leadbetter did not appear to be in control of the project and Laurent Boon was only able to repeat the "party line" that they have 11 phases to the project and as it looks at the moment Upottery parish is not going to get a fibre service as a part of one of those phases. Again, the NDA gag prevents all three from divulging any details of what those phases are.
Details of the Superfast Northamptonshire project were shown, where large scale maps down to street and building level have been available online since November 2013 showing clearly who will get a fibre broadband service and when. Northamptonshire County Council have signed BT's NDA, but it was suggested by Cllr. Leadbetter that Northamptonshire may be in breach of BT's NDA and could therefore be sued by BT. He said that CD&S were not prepared to take that risk and put themselves in a position where BT could sue them, by sharing detailed implementation plans with the tax payers of Devon and Somerset. OK for Northamptonshire taxpayers - Hard luck for Devon & Somerset taxpayers!
Much reference was made to an additional £250M of rural broadband funding that the govenment has talked about for sometime, but which is not yet on the table, for councils to call on. Some might even think this is a rural vote buying ploy on the government's part, prior to the 2015 election, but which may not materialise once the election is over. Never the less, Neil Parish MP and Cllr Andrew Leadbetter said they would meet with DCMS Secretary of State, Maria Miller MP to ensure this money is made available for so called "hard to reach" parishes like Upottery. We will be watching to see that this happens.
In bringing the meeting to a conclusion, Neil Parish MP said that he wanted to know exactly what the position is for getting fast fibre broadband to Upottery parish, no later than the end of 2014 (by when the 4 year CD&S project will be half way through). Neil, you will be very welcome to come back at the end of this year to hear CD&S and BT tell the same audience full details of when we can expect a fibre broadband service in Upottery parish...Shall we set the date now?
If you have comments on the meeting, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
A copy of all the slides presented at the meeting by Graham Long are available on line on this cloud server
Read the Western Morning News article on the meeting published on line, February 8 and in the February 11 edition of the paper.
See ISPreview article where it is stated "This lack of transparency is giving rise to too many questions. Does BT have a hidden agenda for example? I am not party to such an agenda but in my mind it has got to a point where someone in authority somewhere should take it out of the hands of BT and the Councils and reveal the detail of the plans."
Following the meeting, Martin Killick who runs a business in Upottery had discussions with BT on a possible solution to his slow broadband speed. What he was offered demonstrates how out of touch BT are with the needs of small businesses in rural areas of Devon and Somerset. See Shock at absurd cost - Western Morning News March 7
Upottery Parish Council actions following the February 7 Public Meeting:
Upottery Parish Council met on Monday February 10 and agreed a number of follow up actions subsequent to the public meeting on Friday February 7:
- A letter has been written to Neil Parish MP, asking him to meet with Maria Miller MP, Sec of State at DCMS, as was suggested during the meeting, to request that the much talked about £250M additional funding for rural broadband be made available sooner rather than later. This additional funding is not yet "on the table" and whilst it could be made available tomorrow, it could also be years before it is released.
- Neil Parish MP has been invited by the Parish Council, as he suggested, to return before the end of this year, to hear from CD&S and BT just how and when they are going to get superfast broadband to the people of Upottery parish.
- Formal quarterly reports from CD&S to the Parish Council have been requested on progress in getting fast broadband to the people of Upottery parish. These reports have been requested for Upottery Parish Council meetings in May, August and November, 2014. All Parish Council meetings are open to members of the public and the press to attend. Details of the meetings will be posted on this website.
- Whilst Cllr. Andrew Leadbetter did not publicly rise to the challenge to visit Northamptonshire, he did say after the meeting that he would attend a meeting there if such a meeting can be set up. Graham Long is now working to organising the meeting with Cllr Leadbetter's opposite number on Northamptonshire County Council. (Details of the Northamptonshire implementation schedule are included in the Feb 7 slide set which can be viewed via this link . NB Northamptonshire County Council have signed the same NDA with BT as Devon and Somerset County Councils have)
- Details of the Code of Practice for implementing the Environmental Information Regulations (which state that local authorities should not enter into non disclosure agreements and that if they do, the EIR Code of Practice can subsequently override such an agreement) have been sent to Cllr Tim Wood, Chair of EDDC's scrutiny (TaFF) panel and Mark Williams, Chief Exec, EDDC & SSDC. To enable the application of a public interest test to the CD&S/BT NDA, a formal request for full details of the CD&S/BT broadband implementation plans across Devon & Somerset has also been submitted under the EIR Code of Practice.
BT's MD says County Councils can make full disclosure of who will and who will not get fast fibre broadband!
On January 24, 2014, Sean Williams, Managing Director, Strategy, Portfolio, Legal and Regulatory Services at BT Group (to give him his full title) appeared for a second time before Margaret Hodge's, House of Commons Public Accounts Committee. It is recommended viewing, but is also 53 minutes long.
When the video player window opens, move the slider along to time stamp 16:53:26 and run it from there.
Watch it all the way through and you will hear about the "very scary people" that BDUK will be sending out to councils like Devon and Somerset County Council to check up on what they are doing, but near the beginning, Sean Williams claims that it is up to local councils (not BT) to decide what information they make available to people in their county right down to individual full 7 digit postcodes, but Hodge points out that many people are telling her that many councils, Like Devon & Somerset are saying they can't do that because of the BT confidentiality agreement. Margaret Hodge MP states "SOMEBODY IS NOT TELLING THE TRUTH HERE."
Links to this video have been sent to the Leaders of Devon & Somerset County Councils, Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, Keri Denton, Cllr Tim Wood, Neil Parish MP and Cllr Paul Diviani.
What BT's MD, Sean Willams said in public on January 24, 2014, is however not in agreement with what Keri Denton said in a report to Devon County Council Cabinet on July 10 2013 when she submitted the following statement:
The contract with BT includes a baseline speed and coverage plan for the whole area and a proposed deployment plan. These were developed in response to the Devon and Somerset Invitation to Tender, and are based on a desk top survey undertaken by BT. These are therefore subject to change, and both are influenced by the current and planned commercial deployment plans of BT and other commercial providers. These parts of the contract are included as commercially sensitive and cannot be released to the public. Once each phase is locked down the programme will gain greater certainty and can therefore share greater details on planned deployment to the public. This is consistent with the approach outlined above for phase one.
Full document available on line at http://www.devon.gov.uk/index/councildemocracy/decision_making/cma/cma_report.htm?
Come on Devon & Somerset County Councils....YOU CAN TELL US WHERE AND WHEN FIBRE BROADBAND WILL BE PROVIDED AS PART OF THE CONNECTING DEVON AND SOMERSET PROJECT AND IF WE WILL NOT GET IT, WHY.
But remember: The smaller and more remote exchange serving Princetown in the middle of Dartmoor will provide FTTC fibre broadband to the people of Princetown, whilst Upottery parish on the A303, the second major trunk route to the south west, will not. Who should we believe?
Cornwall is due to have 95% of premises connected to superfast FTTC fibre broadband by the end of 2014, funded directly by EU funds.
Do BT use public money to put competitors out of business?
It is now being openly reported that BT prioritises rural publicly funded broadband roll out where it faces competition from other broadband providers with the aim of putting other providers out of business.
Will CD&S simply hand over the additional £22.75M extension funding to BT?
BDUK are leaving it to local authorities like Devon & Somerset County Councils to decide how to spend the extension funding (£22.75M for Devon & Somerset) made available February 25th, 2014, but they do not simply have to hand it over to BT as an extension of the current contract. See http://br0kent3l3ph0n3.wordpress.com/2014/02/