This blog post can be read at 5tth.blogspot.com
I could link a 5tth blog post to nearly every sentence of this PR, but will resist. The one link that is in place is, IMHO, the most important.
We have given control of broadband decision making and spending to entirely the wrong authorities. And we (civil servants, consumers, government ministers - in truth, everyone) have allowed corporates to corrupt the process. We will live to regret this enormously, UNLESS we accept our mistake and change the process IMMEDIATELY.
The press release is quoted below, verbatim:
FEARS are growing that hopes of providing fast broadband speeds in Ewhurst will be crushed.
The organisation established to bring the area out of the technological stone age is worried the plans will fall victim to British Telecom (BT).
Ewhurst & Surrey Hills Broadband (ESHB) believes that it is now the pawn in a "broadband improvement funding power struggle" between BT and Surrey County Council’s economic partnership.
ESHB was granted £150,000 by SEEDA (the South East England Development Agency [previously the lead agency for broadband in the UK - Ed]) for the purpose of providing better broadband to Ewhurst.
Shortly before the contract was to be signed in February, though, SEEDA withheld the grant until an announcement had been made.... "in a few days, which may affect the outcome".
Supporters of the Ewhurst scheme believe that BT, which did not provide a valid quotation during the tender process, has now told SEEDA and the county council that it will be upgrading Cranleigh and Ewhurst for fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and therefore there is no need for the grant to be paid.
"In theory, this is good news for both Cranleigh and Ewhurst because public money need not be spent on the project," said a spokesman for ESHB.
"However, BT has a history of saying that it will upgrade areas as soon as local groups show signs of doing the work themselves, thus blocking projects - and then BT not doing, or postponing, the work.
"Could this be yet another example of a spoiling tactic simply to block the competition with a diminished or downgraded facility solution?"
A particular challenge for Ewhurst results [are] from the long lines from the cabinet to the homes of those living in the Surrey Hills, which BT acknowledge are of poor broadband quality.
They will experience an extremely slow broadband speed even with FTTC.
To meet this challenge, the Ewhurst group wanted to use the promised enabling grant for a fully flexible enhanced solution from its chosen contractor, Vtesse Networks Limited to achieve its aims.
These include techniques to improve the very poor lines and the installation of some fibre to the premises.
"By contrast, the BT cabinets will have no such facilities, thus condemning the outlying homes irrevocably to exclusion for generations to come," said the spokesman.
He said the situation had been complicated by the entry of the county council with fledgling organisations that stand to "inherit" potential SEEDA monies left after the organisation is abolished.
The withheld Ewhurst grant would provide a useful pot of money for the county’s objectives of eventually providing some broadband improvement to Surrey generally, but not on outlying lines as long as those around Ewhurst, he said.
"EHSB has put in a great deal of time and energy into this project and now see it going down the drain through devious tactics," said the group’s spokesman.
He pointed out that ESHB had raised the Cranleigh and Ewhurst profile to the extent that it had at least been considered by BT, even though BT had confirmed in writing last March that it had no such plans.
"Should the grant not be forthcoming to Ewhurst then Surrey must be obliged to ensure that BT provide a full facility universal service throughout the Ewhurst area within a reasonable time-scale and without the slippages that have occurred in other areas such as Haslemere and Brookwood," said the ESHB spokesman.
"If the ‘Big Society’ is to work and innovative schemes such as that of ESHB are to succeed, then the dead hand of big business and county authorities must be removed and local initiatives allowed to thrive," he added.
An announcement from BT that it would be providing FTTC in Cranleigh and Ewhurst was expected last week, but never materialised, and is now anticipated next week adding two more months delay.
Are we willing to allow this to continue throughout another decade? We have waited throughout the Noughties for the most basic broadband connections that copper and ADSL will allow, from the incumbent. Despite assurances that 99+% of the country can get it, the truth is plain to see in the very many letters to MPs, media, and ISPs. That 99% figure is, quite simply, A LIE.
The Final Third is now not just waiting for next gen, it is still waiting for a 20th century USC. Most other countries find our USC 'aspiration' - 2Mbps asymmetric - utterly laughable. Most consumers find it desperately frustrating that there appears to be no-one willing to take their side in 'authority', and those who are doing their utmost to resolve this are undermined by the very councils elected, and paid, to look after community well-being.
Enough is enough.