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Friday, 25 March 2011

Dirty tricks? Again. Have we learnt nowt?

As regular readers know, there have been hints and gripes (to put it mildly!) about some of what appears to have been going on. Recently and not so recently - these are not new occurrences. However, only yesterday on Twitter, we hit the target: "At what point do we stop allowing corporates to ruin communities' present & future well-being'? That is the crux of the matter. It is relevant at a nuclear, micro, regional, national and international level. This press release has just arrived to re-inforce our fears about rural broadband in the UK.

This blog post can be read at

The view taken from the Surrey Hills overlooking Ewhurst by this blogger on a recent trip to understand the issues for myself.

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.


chris said...

agree, enough is enough.
We had the same problem in Lancashire. The city council and the community applied for RDPE funding and prepared an excellent project that would have brought NGA to 7 parishes who were notspots. Many still on dial up there. Most well under half a meg if they could get any broadband at all.
The project was so good county council and the NWDA said they would add more to the pot and make it bigger. City council rolled over and let them do it. The money is now sat in a £20million pot and of course BT have said they will do it. County say they have to have a 'transparent procurement' and tendering process. To be eligible you have to have £100 million turnover. If this isn't a scandal and a rip off i don't know what is.
All BT will do is enable some cabinets. Like the dirty tricks described above in the post it will be of no benefit to rural areas whatsoever. Big Society my arse.

Anonymous said...

Awww I was holding off on our coverage of this until the BT announcement. Anyway, guess we'll either leave it until tomorrow morning or do it now.. hmm.

Otherwise I agree with the basic thrust of what's said.

Cybersavvy UK said...

Oops, sorry @ISPreview. But you may have a better story tomorrow if coverage changes plans! ;o)

chris said...

looks like all the cumbrian pilot money has gone into the county pot to give to someone as well...
what bit of 'innovative pilot' don't they understand?

Somerset said...

Back to needing a complete list from BT down to cabinet and postcode level.

Anonymous said...

Do you all remember this ?

Then ask whether the intention there was to benefit 80 homes with a sub-standard ADSL1 service instead of a much faster new VDSL2 cabinet or whether it might also have been to annihilate a minnow ?

You’ve already read most of this

and then ask yourselves what national benefit was obtained by squandering public sector money for about a year on a preliminary and then a full RDPE Grant invitation, as well as our very significant effort ?
Perhaps then ask what long term benefit can there be from a dead end solution without any universal service obligation on noisy copper and aluminium D side lines to nearly 4 km, much of which is buried unducted ?

Finally top it off with a bit of gut-wrenching hilarity:-

Does anybody in authority have any real idea what they are up to or where this nation is going ? Some might even recall the “Communications rail crash” from my Parliamentary submission during the last parliament !

PhilT said...

There is still a large credibility gap with non-BT provision in the eyes of public authorities if not the public themselves.

After 8 years the vast majority of notspots have not been addressed by other-than-BT when it was clear that BT weren't going to do anything about them.

Equally there is little demonstrable success of other-than-BT NGA investment. How many users does SYDR have for example ?

If the alternatives are hooked on subsidy then there's a Catch22 when they don't look credible enough to be granted a subsidy, even if one were available.

There's also a track record of funded projects disappearing after the initial funding runs out, or alternative operators going titsup - Trilogy Telecom for example.

So the competition is very asymmetric, like current broadband. Nobody ever got fired for choosing BT with it's established wholesale platform and retailers. The alternatives haven't done well enough to get sufficient support.

Isn't VFAST or similar in the area concerned too ?

wireless pacman said...


The bit from the "debate" that really made me laugh was:

"The pilots have been extremely important for Broadband Delivery UK in understanding and learning about the tendering process"

Clearly they have realised that the pilots are a total farce if they are now judging success in those terms!

wireless pacman said...


"Four pilot areas, three of which are represented in the debate, are about to go out to tender"

Now, under EU State Aid rules they have a legal duty to consider the current coverage and capability and also the three year plans of other providers in the proposed pilot area.

One pilot area covers three of the locations where we already offer a service that reaches 10Mbps and by the end of this year will be close to 20Mbps. They are aware of us as an organisation, but have they formally consulted us on our plans? Answers on a postcard please! (hint: the answer is the opposite to yes)

MB94128 said...

Clickies :

chris -
"Service contract - 96120-2011" (, 25 Mar.'11)

SurreyHills #1 -
"BT drop £550,000 village broadband quote to £100" ( article, 14 Sept.'10)
SurreyHills #2 -
"Ewhurst stuck in superhighway slow lane" ( article, 25 Mar.'11)
SurreyHills #3 -
"Include community broadband networks, Vaizey urges counties" ( article, 24 Mar,'11)

Anonymous said...

I am very disappointed to hear via an intermediary that the Ewhurst situation is very well known to DEFRA / BDUK but that they consider Ewhurst to be a local issue !

How much more reassuring for the whole of the UK if those esteemed bodies had acknowledged that these issues are of the utmost national importance ?

wireless pacman said...

Also saw this recently:

BT "actively working" with the council to put in a bid for BDUK money!!!

chris said...

BT are talking to all the councils. Its a bottomless trough as far as they are concerned. The tragedy is that the funding will prop up their copper cabal even longer, and the funding for innovative competition is knocked out with every council who falls for the hype.
You can see it happening more and more... the councils think the incumbent can deliver nga through copper for everyone. It can't. It can't even deliver nga for a few. Superfast is a big con. We only need one brave council to break the mould and prove what real broadband is. Who will it be?

chris said... worth registering at this site to read what mr hunt has to say about digital parish pumps. Here is a copy from the site if you can't be bothered registering:
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, has reiterated to a Commons Select Committee the importance of including rural communities across the UK in the ‘digital revolution’.

Hunt argued the more remote a community, “the greater the social benefits from linking into superfast broadband, and the greater opportunity for government to reduce costs.”

He went on to explain the importance of the government’s plan to rollout a series of fibre points in every community, and added they were not meant to be an alternative to wireless mobile connectivity.

“What we’re saying is we want to put a fibre point in every community,” he said. “We will leave it to the community to how they connect themselves to the national fibre network. I’m sure that will mean mobile wireless solutions because practically speaking it would be too expensive to bring fibre to every farm.”

Hunt also spoke of the deployment of superfast mobile broadband, which he described as “a very important part of the revolution”. He cited a trip to South Korea last year, where everyone was watching live TV on their mobiles. “That’s the kind of change we want the UK to be at the forefront of,” he said. “It’s going to be very important to get this right.”

Hunt’s comments to the committee came within weeks of an announcement from Defra that a £20 million Rural Community Broadband Fund has been created to help fund small scale broadband projects. The money for the fund has been drawn from a number of sources, including the Rural Development Programme for England and the £530 million Broadband Delivery UK project.

Do register if you have time, and leave a comment.

Somerset said...


Somerset said...

What is this 'national fibre network'?

Streams at