It was great to see Badgworth school rooms packed and overflowing last night at the Rural Broadband meeting hosted by James Heappey.
A HUGE thank you to Wendy Kemshead, Paul Hipwell, James Heappey and the brave men Matt Barrow from CDS and Laurent Boon from BT.
There were residents present from Badgworth, Biddisham, Weare, The Allertons and most of the Axe Vale BS26 postcode all stating that they could not be connected to superfast broadband. This is despite receiving letters from BT saying their local green cabinets had gone live with fibre and they could upgrade.
I have already mentioned the situation on the Broadband page but I will try to make this info as simple as possible.
BT have indeed installed fibre to the green cabinets. These are situated on the A38, opposite the New Moon and on Notting Hill Way. You will need to have a look around to find where your nearest one is.
This is called Fibre To The Cabinet FTTC, and is the most economic and effective way for BT to bring us a superfast broadband service.
The problem is that this only applies if you are within 1 - 1.5km from the cabinet. The copper lines we have cannot carry the service effectively over long distances and drops back down to 2mbps if you are further away.
Due to the layout of our villages this means most people cannot have super fast broadband and won't work as stated by CDS and BT.
There was talk of the copper lines being very worn. Why can BT not replace these?
And the question of why BT couldn't run fibre along the lines replacing the copper?
The answer was that it wasn't efficent and would very expensive to run the fibre in this way. The copper lines could be replaced with financial help from the government.
CDS and BT said that phase 2 to get more people connected was going out to tender and would be completed by the end of 2017. This wouldn't neccessarily mean to we would then be connected but they will try. We could still be in that last 5%of the country.
In the 2 year mean time there were options of what people can do for themselves.
1. a community broadband project where you can club together to buy your own cabinet costing approx £15,000. The village pay 50% up front and 50% upon completion.
This will only work for houses in the centre of villages.
For example siting the cabinet at the Old School rooms in Badgworth would supply the houses within a 1km radius.
This wouldn't solve the problem for the few properties on the outskirts.
James Heappey said there could be funding from the Chancellor, County and District councils to help with such a project.
2. Looking at alternative providers in the meantime like Satellite Broadband. We know this works well at BS26 2RS giving speeds at 10 - 15mbps however this is a little more expensive. Avonline are a reliable provider. They can set you up in approx two weeks.
In fact I am writing this with the help of Satellite Broadband now.
3. Mobile Broadband. Faster speeds but not amazingly reliable. If a mast goes down the same problem of not being a large number of customers makes us less of a priority. Can buy one from a shop and see if it works today.
James Heappey MP will be making broadband in our parishes a priority and said "if I can do one thing in these 5 years, it will be to get you all broadband." He is actively seeking companies to provide alternatives such as 4G masts, G Fast lines and Remote Nodes FTTRN which are smaller cabinets in villages connected to fibre.
James will be working with BT and CDS to make sure something is done alongside raising the issue in Parliament of which he has already done. I feel we can be reassured by Mr Heappey's engagement.
BT need to communicate better with residents and need more communication from us in return. When asked if you 'can you cancel your contract with BT for not providing a reasonable service?' The answer wasn't quite clear. Nor was the answer to 'Can we have a reduced rate for such poor speeds?'
Voting with our feet may be answer? As long as everyone goes along with paying their bills BT have no reason to think we are unhappy with our service. According to their figures the market is satisfied.
Laurent Boon from BT asked for the community to put phone numbers and address together where they can't get a superfast broadband service so they have accurate figures to work with and complaints on mass.
Matt Barrow of CDS wants us all to have superfast broadband and is putting out to tender phase 2 of the superfast broadband rollout. All companies from Airband to EE and BT will be offered the job of getting us superfast broadband. With so few and far between bill payers in comparison to a town, it is easy to see why the process is very difficult to make financially viable.
Matt is happy to hear from residents to help answer any questions you may have.
The wonderful thing about last night is there were three people standing at the front who will be trying everything they can to get working broadband to our villages. And all the residents who turned out know what is happening, when and what they can do now to get good broadband now.
James Heappey MP
Tel: 01749 343255
Matt Barrow - Stakeholder Engagement Officer
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: 01392 382221
Laurent Boon - BT