The roll-out of superfast broadband in Nottinghamshire is to be extended beyond 2018 after further funding was secured to give access to some of the county’s most remote properties.
The County Council is to seek assurances from local planning authorities that they insist all new homes are ‘future proofed’ with broadband access, after a survey found that some new housing developments have been constructed with no in-built provision. The ?31m Better Broadband for Nottinghamshire (BBfN) programme, led by Nottinghamshire County Council, is on course to ensure 98% of homes and businesses in the county have access to superfast broadband by September 2018.
That will still leave 16,505 properties in the county without access to superfast broadband (30 Mbps) and not part of any planned future roll-out by the commercial providers. But now a further ?1.23m has been secured for a third phase of BBfN, which will be concentrated on rural areas in the Bassetlaw and Newark and Sherwood Districts, where superfast broadband availability remains behind the rest of the county.
A procurement exercise to find a delivery partner for the third phase has already begun. The County Council will also bid for additional funds with a view to extending the third phase even further. The procurement exercise will determine how many properties can be covered during phase three, using a model which will ensure the maximum number of homes and businesses will be reached for the available budget. Broadband availability in Nottinghamshire is already amongst the best in the UK. Latest figures from Think Broadband show the number of properties with access to download speeds of 30Mbps and above are:
- UK – 92.6%
- East Midlands – 95.4%
- NOTTINGHAMSHIRE – 96.3%
- Derbyshire – 91.7%
- Leicestershire – 94.6%
- Sheffield 92.9%
- Lincolnshire – 88.2%
Councillor Kay Cutts, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “Nottinghamshire is leading the way in making broadband available to businesses and residents but we remain determined to stay ahead of the game as we expand the network to every corner of our county.
“Access to good quality broadband is rated by many residents on a par with other utilities like gas, electricity and water.
It is essential if we are to fulfill our ambitions to grow the Nottinghamshire economy and create jobs.
“I am pleased that we will be able to carry on growing broadband availability in Nottinghamshire and we will leave no stone unturned to secure further funding in addition to that already committed by the Government and the Council, so that our network goes even further and even faster.”
Meanwhile, the County Council is to write to local planning authorities to encourage them to do everything within their powers to ensure all new housing developments have superfast broadband provision built-in. The move comes after a countywide survey to identify properties with no superfast broadband provision found that hundreds of homes developed in the last five years did not have in-built provision. Councillor Cutts added: “Whilst Nottinghamshire enjoys good overall broadband provision, it’s disappointing that coverage could have been even better if planning conditions had required that broadband infrastructure be included in all new housing developments.
“It beggars belief that, in the last five years – when the importance of good broadband at home and at work has been well known – new properties have been built without connectivity.
“For BBfN to retro-fit broadband at new developments means digging up newly laid roads and pavements and installing infrastructre at the taxpayers expense that could have been there in the first place.
This is especially frustrating as the main commercial providers – BT Openreach and Virgin Media – are often willing to install fibre broadband to individual premises during construction, free of charge.
“We are urging District Council planning authorities to ensure that superfast broadband is included within development requirements from now on, just as they would with an electricity, water and gas supply.”
Details about properties covered by phase three of BBfN are likely to be available early in 2018.
For homes and businesses with no broadband or only access to speeds of less than 2Mbps, financial help is available to install a satellite or wireless service through the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme.
Openreach is at the beginning of a journey to 12 million premises with ultrafast broadband available to them, 10 million via G.fast pods and another 2 million with full fibre (FTTP, 1 million are likely to be business premises). G.fast has had it seems lots of trials and pilots but the scale is starting to ramp up and in a series of press releases BT Group and Openreach1 has given some rough details for where G.fast will be appearing next. So for example we are expecting to see G.fast appear in parts of Sighthill, Gorgie, Corstorphine, Murrayfield, Fountainbridge, Craiglockhart, the Meadows and Morningside in Edinburgh and parts of Linn and Rutherglen in Glasgow with that giving Scotland some 16,900 premises of coverage. The various pilot areas are already said to cover some 100,000 premises. The 20 main pilot locations across the UK are:
- Bolton, Greater Manchester
- Cherry Hinton, Cambridgeshire
- Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
- Derby, Derbyshire
- Donaldson, Edinburgh
- Gillingham, Kent
- Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
- Langside, Glasgow
- Luton, Bedfordshire
- Newbury, Berkshire
- Newcastle upon Tyne
- Newmarket, Suffolk
- Rusholme, Manchester
- St. Austell, Cornwall
- South Clapham, Balham and Upton Park, London
- Swansea, Wales
- Swindon, Wiltshire
- Sheffield, South Yorkshire
G.fast is designed to allow those within a few hundred metres of their cabinet to get ultrafast speeds between 100 Mbps and 500 Mbps and initially two product speeds are likely to be sold up to 160 Mbps and up to 330 Mbps.
Indicative wholesale pricing is available, but with the impact a user can have on peak bandwidth ulitisation we may see retail pricing that is somewhat different once the service fully launches. We have been seeing people testing with G.fast and generally it does seem to do what it says on the tin and we may be able to share some average speeds for G.fast in a month or two. We know of 25 cabinets where G.fast is currently available and these are (NOTE: some cabinets may not offer full coverage due to different delivery methods from early trials or distance from cabinet):
- Cambridge Central cabinets 24, 37, 38, 50, 59 and 88
- Cherry Hinton cabinets 36,38,39 and 42
- Cambridge Science Park cabinets 21 and 22
- Huntingdon cabinet 61
- Edinburgh Donaldson cabinet 13
- Gillingham cabinets 9 and 19
- Hoo cabinets 2 and 3
- Medway cabinet 37
- Strood cabinet 28
- Gosforth cabinet 42
- Luton cabinet 91
- Swansea Central cabinet 64
- St Austell cabinets 5 and 11
Our checkers know about G.fast with it mentioned explicitly on our speeds and coverage site2 but on the main site checker3 as the products are not live, i.e. nothing to appear in listings it only shows up as faster speeds than would normally be expected from FTTC. Our cabinet list is not definitive as our core focus is on tracking the superfast roll-outs, so if your is missing please do run a speed test from your G.fast connection4 or drop us a message to tell us your cabinet has one of the new pods attached.
Openreach is often criticised for rolling out G.fast since those who can get it already have VDSL2 at reasonable speeds already available, but with Ofcom planning to slash the revenue that is generated from VDSL2 (specifically the 40/10 product) this is forcing the hand of Openreach i.e. to make money and lever the benefits from the fibre and power that was installed for VDSL2 the faster G.fast services are needed may help to keep the return on investment on track. The 2 million FTTP premises in the ultrafast roll-outs are a slightly different matter as we can see many exchange only lines in city centres where FTTP is now planned, but as with Virgin Media and CityFibre roll-outs we are waiting for the complaints about roadworks, since while Openreach has duct access in many locations, pavement chambers may need expanding or blockages need clearing. In terms of market competition the speeds will take Openreach and its customers head to head with Virgin Media, but once DOCSIS 3.1 is properly launched they should be able to easily offer even higher speeds, the big question mark is what will the relative performance of the two competing platforms be.
The congestion and other issues at Virgin Media is already causing those where performance is important e.g.
gamers and twitch broadcasters to switch to services that have lower headline speeds but are much more consistent in terms of latency and the actual speed they get at peak times.
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Plans to hold virtual court hearings could be scuppered by the patchy broadband speed in East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire, ministers have been warned. Many rural communities will be unable to use the new online innovations because their internet is so slow, Labour’s Madeleine Moon said. Burton has been hit particularly hard since the closure of its magistrates’ court last September, with defendants, victims and witnesses being forced to travel to Derby or Cannock to hear the outcome of their cases. The warning comes as a string of reforms – including powers to deal with rail and tram fare dodgers in online courts and for rape victims to pre-record their cross-examination evidence – contained in the Prisons and Courts Bill are debated by MPs in the Commons.
Labour MP Madeleine Moon, who represents Bridgend, said: “All this transfer (to) online communication is wonderful if only you have the ability to get quality broadband.
“So, in parts of my constituency, communities are getting broadband as slow as 25 per cent of capability. How on earth are people going to be able to access justice when they cannot possibly do anything online because of poor broadband?”
Broadband could prove a problem for people wanting to plead online (Getty Images)
Rural areas of East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire also still struggle to receive high speed broadband. Justice Secretary Liz Truss said those who want to take the trip to a physical court will still be able to. She said: “We are doing a lot to improve broadband across the country. The online system is not mandatory, the paper process will be available.
“But I have been looking recently at virtual hearings that are taking place across the country, and in some areas of the country, like the South West of England, there is very high take-up of these hearings because it does help people in rural areas who do have long distances to travel to get to court to be able to use broadband.
“The West Country is leading the way at the moment, but what we are looking at is how can we encourage courts across the country to do the same thing.”
Conservative MP and former attorney general Dominic Grieve raised concerns that moves to allow witnesses to pre-record their evidence could undermine the ability of lawyers to change their questions according to what emerges in court, and therefore undermine a fair trial. Mr Grieve, representing Beaconsfield, said: “I support the thrust of the intention behind this, in the case of victims, of course, normally victims are the first witness for the prosecution.
“But where you are dealing with witnesses, is there not a risk and how are we going to factor in the possibility that the question which you may wish to ask the witness is changed by the evidence that precedes the witness giving that evidence? And we are going to have to have a system in place to deal with that if a fair trial process is going to be maintained?”
Ms Truss stressed that “a fair trial is at the heart of our justice system”. She added: “We already have rules committees, we are establishing a new online rules committee as well.
That will be managed by the judiciary and they will be looking at these issues in detail to make sure that a fair trial is always paramount in these cases.”
Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said new technology in courts could raise new barriers to accessing justice. He said: “As the chair of the Bar Council, Andrew Langdon QC, has warned, the fact that online courts – in his words – might encourage defendants to plead guilty out of convenience, when in fact they may not be guilty of an offence, no matter how small, risks injustice.
“We have to be mindful of that.”
Mr Burgon also cited Law Society warnings about poor access to legal advice as a result of the technology.
Making pleas online
The Ministry of Justice conducted a trial after speaking to defendants who had turned up to court, ushers, legal advisers and magistrates. And by observing court hearings and looking at the type of paperwork being sent out to defendants it was possible to build a picture of why people were turning up to court.
The discovery phase found that people were confused by all the paperwork they’d been sent and were having to turn up in court just so someone could tell them what to do.
So, through research and user feedback, a new form was developed explaining that defendants could make a plea online, see their plea sent to the court (and receive email confirmation) and then wait for the court to inform them of the result and what to do next.
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