Project update from CSW Broadband on bringing faster broadband to rural areas
Public consultation running as part of formal procurement process for additional coverage
Now that match funding for the £3.68m has been confirmed we are working flat out toward signing a contract for the additional roll out of superfast broadband.
We have already approached providers of broadband asking where they will be providing superfast broadband, by 2017, as their plans may have changed since our previous enquiries e.g. one may have said previously that they were going to deliver to an area but are not now doing so, in places where there is a lot of new development they may now be planning a commercial roll out, (this request for information is known as an Open Market Review).
On the other side of the coin we have to carry out a Public Consultation. Its primary purpose is to help us to judge know how realistic the providers’ forecasts/plans are.
We already know, for instance, that some areas that were due to be enabled as part of the commercial rollout are not receiving superfast broadband. It is also possible that some rural areas have experienced new development that may justify commercial roll out.
The results of the consultation, together with the much clearer picture of the rollout plans of neighbouring projects (which we did not have the first time around), will enable us to test the responses to the Open Market Review and to have a strong negotiating position when reviewing suppliers’ tenders for the new contract.
Therefore it is absolutely vital to get as many responses as possible from across Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire so that we are best equipped to get the most effective possible outcome from the new funding.
The Public Consultation is likely to start in early August. This is far from ideal, but the timing has to fit in with the issue of our Invitation to Tender, which in turn, is determined by BDUK.
For more information about the consultation or to submit your response once it has opened visit: http://www.cswbroadband.org.uk/whats-happening/procurement-2014/public-consultation
New email addresses
Don’t forget that we now have new email addresses and that using these will help us to better respond to your enquiries:
All enquiries: Broadband@cswbroadband.org.uk
Planning issues and new developments
One problem that all BDUK projects will experience is new development. This is an issue for two reasons: firstly, our % coverage is based on the current property count and if there are large developments across the area then that will increase the property count, and by default bring down the % coverage.
The other reason is that not all new developments have broadband provided to them. There were problems at Warwick Gates which was originally built without suitable fibre infrastructure and that whilst BT enabled most cabinets retrospectively as part of their commercial programme (including one where we were able to prove the economic case with the help of local residents), there was still one cabinet serving just over 100 homes that did not get upgraded until we started our rollout.
We certainly do not want to see this situation repeated across the County, so we have been working with the Planning Policy and Development Control teams in the Borough and District councils to set in place a framework that will require broadband provision to new developments.
Warwickshire County Council has agreed to a request that conditions be set on planning applications to the effect that that broadband infrastructure should be put in place from the outset, and we hope that as the network grows we will be seeing more new homes with superfast broadband connectivity.
Exchange Only lines
One issue that is starting to become more prominent is that of Exchange Only lines. The current work that is taking place is enabling superfast connectivity by installing new fibre cabinets alongside the existing copper ones. This shortens the copper runs and is a cost-effective way of bringing superfast broadband to a high number of properties.
However, some properties are not fed from a copper cabinet and are known as Exchange Only lines, meaning that the copper connection goes directly into the exchange.
As there is no copper cabinet we cannot install a fibre one alongside it. The other issue is that many of the properties connected directly to the exchange will be on extremely long copper lines – we know of some with up to 15km copper runs.
This means that even if a fibre cabinet were installed close to the exchange (being the aggregation point for the copper) then with the copper run being more than 1km, those properties would not benefit at all from the investment.
Many of the properties on long lines are also scattered across an extremely wide area. This affects the viability of a cabinet solution as the number of premises that could benefit from this technology are relatively few.
This is why some residents and businesses situated close to an exchange that has been upgraded are finding that they cannot order superfast broadband. This is a national issue and different solutions are being tested across the country.
We will be evaluating the results of those tests and applying the best solution to each location across our project area in order to gain maximum coverage in the most cost-effective way. We need to bear in mind that as a publicly funded project CSW Broadband must be in a position to show that we have achieved value for money.
To check whether you are on a cabinet or an exchange only line visit: http://www.dslchecker.bt.com You will get the most accurate result if you have a BT landline, but the address checker is also useable. The postcode checker is not of much help as it covers too wide an area to be specific.
We have now submitted our bid for £3.68m, BDUK funding, which is to be matched by £3.68m which was agreed by Warwickshire County Council at its July meeting. The aspiration is that this should take us to 95% coverage. There is an additional £6m on offer and we are talking to project partners about this as well as looking at European funding and the recently announced Local Growth Deal.
Frequently asked general broadband questions can be found at: