Why can't we know what's planned?
The 2017 Final Coverage Map was first published on the CDS website September 20, 2013
This is a low resolution pdf document and it is only through the efforts of EDDC Councillor Ian Thomas that it has been possible to understand where our parish sits and who will and who will not get faster FTTC fibre broadband funded by £53M of public money.
Inaccurate and Misleading?
In response to an article in the Midweek Herald October 16, a spokesman for CDS said "To map the Final Coverage map onto an Ordnance Survey Map and to infer that an area will see no improvement in broadband speeds is both inaccurate and misleading"
Really?....A map that you cannot relate to physical features on the ground is not a map! Overlaying the CDS Final Coverage Map onto an accurate map of Devon and Somerset, including telephone exchange areas, as EDDC Cllr Ian Thomas has (See www.trinitymatters.co.uk), is only doing what CDS should have done in the first place. It is disingenuous of CDS to suggest that this is "inaccurate and misleading". If CDS/BT do not want their customers to be able to relate their map to physical features on the ground, one has to ask what are they trying to hide?
On October 23, the Midweek Herald published a letter from Graham Long, Upottery Parish Councillor challenging CDS's assertion that the broadband maps published on this website are "inaccurate and misleading". In response, the same newspaper carried statements from CDS arguing that, although it has been 10 months since CDS signed their contract with BT, they still do not know where they will be able to deliver faster broadband at a village. If this is true, why did they publish the 2017 Final Coverage Map anyway. Make up your own mind by reading the letter and CDS statement at October 23 Midweek Herald letter and CDS response After reading these articles you are invited to let this website know what you think by emailing your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Midweek Herald edited the letter they published on November 16 by removing the following paragraph, which they have refused to publish:
The fact that CDS/BT appear to want to keep things hidden is reinforced by CDS/BT's requirement for our elected representatives (County and District Councillors) to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement (Gagging Order) before CDS/BT will share details of their broadband implementation plans with them. To require parties to sign an NDA whilst a contract is being negotiated makes commercial sense. This £94M contract between CDS and BT was signed in January 2013, but CDS will still not share details with Councillors or their electors, 10 months after the contract was signed, unless they first sign an NDA. What are they trying to hide?
It has been suggested to this website that simply knowing that the CDS/BT Non Disclosure Agreement exists is "privileged information" and it is because of this that the Editor of the Midweek Herald removed this paragraph.
Perhaps we are living in George Orwell's 1984!
If you are eligible for subsidised satellite broadband, you will probably not get fast fibre broadband
For a while, the CDS website has carried a link to the Europasat website where you can check if your postcode is eligible for the Pilot CDS subsidised Satellite Broadband programme (limited to 1050 properties). Only areas which are white on the CDS Final Coverage Map are eligible for the subsidy, so despite CDS's protestations about it being "inaccurate and misleading" to try and make sense of their low resolution map, you can also check on the Europasat website if you are in the white "dead zone". Beware though, postcodes don't align with exchange areas and within exchange areas and postcode areas, there are both white and blue zones. Many broadband experts will tell you that satellite broadband is not a substitute for FTTC fibre broadband, even if CDS do pay for the equipment and installation: Monthly running costs are higher than with fibre; latency and contention through the satellite makes interactive website use difficult. (Ping latency at 2.5Mbps over copper wires is typically around 40mS but with satellite at 20Mbps, it is between 600mS and 1200mS....up to 30 times slower) You also need a 1 metre diameter dish on your property and the limited number of "airtime distributors" (the satellite equivalent of ISP's) means you will always be at their mercy on pricing.
District and County Councillors can only know the details if they sign a Gagging Order!
The fact that CDS/BT appear to want to keep things hidden is reinforced by CDS/BT's requirement for our elected representatives (County and District Councillors) to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement (Gagging Order) before CDS/BT will share details of their broadband implementation plans with them. If Councillors sign the NDA they cannot then tell their electorate or other colleagues what they know. To require parties to sign an NDA whilst a contract is being negotiated makes commercial sense. This £94M contract between CDS and BT was signed in January 2013, but CDS will still not share details with Councillors or their electors, 10 months after the contract was signed, unless they first sign an NDA. What are they trying to hide?
Not even a Freedom Of Information request has been able to break through the wall of secrecy.
In response to a Freedom of Information request dated October 14, for this information, submitted by Trinity Broadband, the Devon County Council Information Inspector has stated "Early release of this unconfirmed data could lead to unnecessary unrest or alternatively, could lead to individuals/businesses making future plans on house purchases / business start ups on the strength of this information which could be potentially misleading and damaging in the long term".
To make reference to "unrest" if broadband implementation information gets into the public domain clearly indicates that CDS/BT have something of significance to hide. If DCC's Information Inspector feels that conjecture, rumour, guesswork and a poor quality map, (which is all we have to go on at the moment), is preferable to real data for people to make decisions on, then the conclusion that something is being hidden, is only reinforced.
Scrutiny Committee to investigate CDS.
EDDC and South Somerset District Council (who share the same Chief Exec, Mark Williams) are setting up a joint Scrutiny Committee to investigate these issues and it will be interesting to see if they can get to the facts. The Committee, chaired by EDDC Councillor Tim Wood (head of Scrutiny at EDDC) plan to report in February 2014. This committee does not have any powers to demand information (unlike Margaret Hodge's Public Accounts Committee), but they will be asking Kerri Denton and other representatives of CDS to appear before them. All their meetings will be held in public. Watch this website for more information on their meetings. It is clearly time for CDS/BT to come clean and put all their broadband implementation plans for rural Devon & Somerset, funded by public money, into the public domain. The EDDC/SSDC Scutiny team will meet on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 10am in the Honiton Business Centre. The meeting will be in public and members of the public will have a right to speak at the begining of the meeting. It is hoped that Kerri Denton and Mark Williams will attend.
You could not make this up. It would seem too unbelievable in a novel, but it is happening today and it affects our future. Yes Minister's Sir Humphrey would be proud of Connecting Devon and Somerset.
Cllr Ian Thomas has also now produced an enlarged version of the 2017 Final Coverage Map showing EDDC Wards.
Click here to view this map.
Are BT artificially inflating the cost of rural broadband?
In October 2012, the Guardian reported that a whistleblower, Mike Kiely, in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (The department controlling BDUK, who are awarding £530M of public money for rural broadband) sent emails to local councils claiming that prices for FTTC cabinets ranged from £11,689 before central BT and labour costs were added. Once these cabinets were added to contracts in "generic" rural areas, the price of the cabinet rose to £17,000 and to £30,000 for the most rural areas of the UK. Does this include the Blackdown Hills?.....and is this tripling of hardware costs one of the reasons that large area of the Blackdowns look set to get no benefit from these public funds?
Mike Kiely was sacked by CDMS two weeks after this story broke. Read the full story at:
And the lack of superfast broadband will affect house prices too:
On October 12, the Telegraph newspaper published an article about the lack of superfast broadband adversly affecting rural house prices. The example given in the article is Somerton in Somerset (25 miles from Upottery). In the article, they quote Estate Agents as saying "Rural homes without superfast broadband are becoming insaleable with some estate agents refusing to take them on their books". Rightmove which is the UK's biggest on line property service and which most estate agents post house details on launched a new service in October which enables people looking for properties to view local broadband speeds and availability before they contact the agent. The manager of Stags, Honiton branch has said "it is beginning to be a much more important issue with some potential buyers deciding against properties, which have the slower speeds".
Computer Weekly conjectures that BT may even have to pay back the money they have been given:
Computer Weekly's blog "When IT meets Politics" is suggesting that BT's insistance on secrecy and their refusal to publish more details on fibre broadband availability is putting BT in a position where they are at of risk refunding the BDUK state aid (£53M in the case of Devon and Somerset). Computer Weekly concludes however that the contract they have got councils to sign up to, and which we cannot see, passes that liability to the councils. ......surprise surprise!!!!
Is Connecting Devon & Somerset unusual? What's happening elsewhere?
Sadly no, the same seems to be happening all over the country. See What's happening elsewhere