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Wonky FTTC Broadband Rollout Confuses Aberdeenshire Village

Wonky FTTC Broadband Rollout Confuses Aberdeenshire Village

Residents of a rural village in Scotland have been left confused after Openreach (BT) deployed a new “fibre broadband” (FTTC / VDSL2) street cabinet into their area that appears to serve some properties, while leaving many of those who live closest to it unable to receive a faster connection.[1][2] The village of Durno is an interesting one, not least because it is split between a collection of new and old properties, some of which were only built a few short years ago. One primary example of this is the small new build development called Parkside Gardens[3], which is owned by Ardinn Homes and features a small number of “deluxe” 4 or 5 bedroom houses.

We should point out that this build was conducted by a small local developer without significant resources, which meant that planning and building has taken considerably longer. The original planning permission for the first 8 houses was granted as early as 2010/11 and the first house (show home) was completed in 2012. The development was finally completed in late 2015 and most people started moving in from 2014.

Unfortunately much of the village has long suffered from slow broadband speeds, which during 2014 resulted in some negative publicity for Openreach[4] and plans were then agreed to deploy a new ‘up to’ 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC[5]) network into the area. The good news is that the new FTTC cabinet finally went live in the centre of the village during late December 2017 but problems soon emerged.

Ed Morris, Durno Resident, told ISPreview.co.uk: “It has resulted in only some premises in my village gaining access to superfast broadband, not including myself, due to not enough capacity on the new fibre line.

The situation is utterly ridiculous, and we have been given no timeframe for resolution of this ongoing problem. My wife works from home and finds the internet connection speed a challenge for some of the work she has to do which involves the use large size files (100s MB). Often she resorts to sending things via recorded delivery on USB or travelling to the office in Glasgow, all because of our woeful internet connection speed.

Something simply has to be done to impel Openreach to improve their service provision as it is currently an utter shambles. I have spoken to people in the telecommunications industry, involved in local projects, and was not surprised to find that this is a common issue. This is not the first time that these people have seen new infrastructure being installed by Openreach which has inadequate capacity for the existing demand, let alone future proofing for new developments.”

As stated above, Ed was initially told by his ISP that the problems were related to a lack of capacity for new fibre lines in the area (full cabinet), although it soon became clear that some houses in the area were in fact still able to order and get the service installed.

Similarly Openreach’s database reported a hodgepodge mix of results, which is at least partly because some homes are still connected to a different cabinet much further away in Pitcaple. Ed has kindly drawn a rough map to help illustrate the wonky arrangement, which results in a bizarre situation where some homes that reside closest to the new cabinet cannot benefit from FTTC (normally these could expect the fastest speeds). Wonky FTTC Broadband Rollout Confuses Aberdeenshire Village

As if to add insult to injury, some of the residents who now find themselves rejected were until very recently being told, both by their ISP and engineers on the ground, that the new service would indeed reach them once it went live. “I find this absolutely ridiculous,” said Ed.

Ed Morris continued: “The situation is such that, my next-door neighbour, whose property is located within 20 metres of my house, is able to order superfast broadband, and yet I am not. In fact 5 out of the 8 houses on my development are able to order superfast broadband and yet I am not.

The cables connecting the rest of the village to the new roadside cabinet run past my house at the end of the drive, and yet my property (and others in the centre of the village), are not able to be connected to the newly installed fibre enabled cabinet. One of my neighbours on the main road, who had his driveway and homemade flood defence verges destroyed by the Openreach groundworks team has also been informed that he cannot access superfast broadband and the cabinet is literally located outside his house. I cannot come to any other conclusion, other than there has been negligence, or at least incompetence in the planning and designing of this infrastructure.”

The confusion around Durno’s deployment is one that we’ve seen crop up a number of times before, most often on either new build developments or after a complex network rearrangement has taken place in order to tackle the dreaded Exchange Only Lines (this can result in an awkward mix of coverage).

Using the example of new builds, one particular issue that we’ve covered before can occur when additional houses are built after Openreach has already planned to build the new network. This can be a particular problem when state aid supported roll-out schemes, such as the Digital Scotland[6] project, are involved because the new properties may not have been factored-in during the government’s Open Market Review (OMR) phase (i.e. checking the area to see what plans exist for future / existing broadband networks). Obviously if the houses hadn’t been completed at the time when such things are being considered then it can result in some premises missing out on the new service (example here[7]).

At least this appears to be what Openreach themselves are suggesting has happened.

A Spokesperson for Openreach told ISPreview.co.uk: “The fibre broadband rollout in Durno, Aberdeenshire, is part of the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband intervention project led by the Scottish Government. A small number of premises in the Parkside Gardens area had not been built at the time the intervention area was set, and were therefore not included in the rollout.

The majority of premises in Durno – more than 60 – should now be able to order services.”

Despite this Ed finds Openreach’s explanation confusing, not least because some of the houses on the development are able to get fibre, and yet some are not. This is not proportioned in the order in which they were built. For example, numbers 4, 5, 6 and 8 were all allegedly the last to move in, and yet they can order it.

Furthermore there have recently been two additional houses built in the village, which is on top of the first 8 house development, but interestingly Ed states that the last house to be built in the village is actually the first to report being connected to FTTC. Meanwhile some of the village’s much older properties are also unable to get the new service (going by Openreach’s checker), although it’s possible that this may be due to a different issue. Ordinarily new build home developers would take some of the responsibility for ensuring that the properties they construct can be adequately catered for via good broadband connectivity, although this can be much more challenging where smaller scale projects are concerned.

The same relationships with network operators, as exists among the large mainstream firms, may not be in place. The good news is that Openreach has promised to have their planning team “review” the situation in order to “see what more can be done“, although at this stage it’s too early to know whether or not this will result in any of the overlooked premises being connected. Some additional civil engineering work may be required but at least the relevant properties are practically within touching distance of the cabinet, in one case almost literally.

Meanwhile some other locals are still being told by ISPs that the new cabinet is full to capacity and thus cannot take any additional orders, which continues to confuse the picture for residents.

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  1. ^ Openreach (www.openreach.co.uk)
  2. ^ FTTC (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  3. ^ Parkside Gardens (parksidegardens.co.uk)
  4. ^ Openreach (www.openreach.co.uk)
  5. ^ FTTC (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  6. ^ Digital Scotland (www.scotlandsuperfast.com)
  7. ^ here (www.ispreview.co.uk)

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