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Aylesbury Vale Council Hands FTTH Broadband Network to UK ISP Gigaclear

The Aylesbury Vale District Council has handed control of the Aylesbury Vale Broadband ISP (assets / network) to Gigaclear for an undisclosed sum, which will continue the operator’s rollout of “full fibre” (FTTH/P) ultrafast broadband services to rural villages in Buckinghamshire.[1][2][3][4] The project, which was initially supported by around GBP700,000 in the form of a publicly funded commercial loan from AVDC that itself acted as a 95% shareholder (most of AVBs directors work for the council), has been steadily building its network out to serve around 2,000 premises in several villages (e.g. Hoggeston, Granborough, North Marston, Swanbourne, Soulbury and Stewkley).

However over the past year or so AVB has also run into the odd overbuilding challenge with Gigaclear[5] (here[6]) and a local fixed wireless broadband provider or two (e.g. Village Networks[7]), with the latter even prompting a competition complaint to the European Commission[8] (here[9]). Concerns over the financial stability of AVB have also been raised by various councillors (nobody ever said doing FTTH[10]/P was cheap). More recently some locals have criticised AVB for a lack of deployment progress and a few have demanded their deposits back.

At the same time others have been frustrated by “technical” (slow speeds etc.) or support problems on the network. Suffice to say that few were surprised when we reported on 11th November that AVDC had been actively “exploring expressions of interest” in the company (here[11]). AVB then issued the following update.

AVB Statement – 12th November 2017

Sorry for the long silence but we assure you we’re listening! We apologise that some customers are struggling with low or variable speed connections. We know it’s frustrating and promise we’re working hard to resolve the issues.

As reported elsewhere, we’re in the process of restructuring the business which is a delicate exercise and ask you to bear with us a little longer while we get things back on track. We’re concerned that some people have commented on problems contacting AVB support by telephone. We’ve looked into this and found a fault with our call handling process that meant a few calls have been missed.

Again, we apologise and now we know there’s a problem we’ll fix it but, in the meantime, we’ve been responding to email support requests as normal. Moving forward, our immediate priority is providing a stable, high performance service to existing customers before we grow the network further and we’ll be contacting customers who’ve paid deposits in due course to discuss their options. On a positive note, we have many satisfied customers and a great infrastructure that’s brought fibre broadband to rural areas in Aylesbury Vale that previously had no prospect of receiving it.

Because of the sensitivities we cannot discuss specific issues further on a public forum like this but ask that you give us just a few more weeks to secure a long-term solution.

At the time of our last article we speculated that Gigaclear might be in the frame for a deal and today’s news confirms it. On top of that AVDC has recently announced that they intend to conduct an independent inquiry into the AVB project, which will also examine the difficulties with conducting proper scrutiny of council funded schemes (here[12]).

Janet Blake, Aylesbury Vale Broadband, said (customer email): We are delighted to announce that we have agreed the sale of the Aylesbury Vale Broadband Ltd (AVB) network to Gigaclear plc, the leading supplier of ultrafast full fibre broadband to rural locations.

Since 2015 AVB has provided ultrafast broadband to seven Aylesbury Vale villages, but there are other local communities that AVB cannot reach without significant additional investment. Gigaclear is a company with the resources and expertise to continue the good work started by AVB and their commitment to growing the network in Aylesbury Vale was an important consideration in the shareholders’ decision to sell AVB’s assets. We are extremely proud of everything AVB has achieved.

When we started the company, our primary aim was to bring high speed broadband to rural parts of Aylesbury Vale that, otherwise, had little likelihood of being connected. We now have one of the most advanced broadband infrastructures of any rural district in the UK. Having stimulated the market, the time is right to pass the reigns on to a company with the resources to grow the network quickly and benefit many more residents.

Like us, Gigaclear want to provide a great service and we’re confident they will build on the foundations that we’ve laid. Gigaclear has purchased the assets of the business, rather than the AVB company itself, which means that you will need to sign up with Gigaclear if you want your service to continue. You will shortly receive a letter from Gigaclear explaining the next steps you will need to take.

Gigaclear will keep supplying your service during the transition phase which will last until 31st January 2018. At that point, if you have not signed up to an agreement with them and given them your payment details, your current broadband service will cease. Your Direct Debit with AVB will be cancelled with effect from 31 January 2018 and we will then remove your payment details and personal information from our records.

Gigaclear has already built a “full fibre” (FTTP/H) network in Great Brickhill, Soulbury, Botolph Claydon, Calvert Green, Marsh Gibbon, Grendon Underwood and Piddington.

The ISP has also committed to “completing the network builds” by end of Q3 2018 in Stewkley, Oving, Drayton Parslow and Swanbourne (this should cover the “majority of residents” in these areas). Apparently they will then start evaluating other areas in Aylesbury Vale for a future deployment. In terms of deposits, AVB has pledged to refund any deposits it holds for people awaiting connection to the network and “will contact you soon to arrange this“.

However it’s worth noting that customers who switch to Gigaclear will find that they charge a higher price for the same service speed than AVB.

On AVB the popular 100Mbps service was GBP38 per month and this jumps to GBP46.85 with Gigaclear (not factoring setup fees).

At least now locals should be able to take some comfort from the fact that the long-running uncertainty over AVB has finally been resolved and the network expansion looks set to continue.

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References

  1. ^ Aylesbury Vale District Council (www.aylesburyvaledc.gov.uk)
  2. ^ Aylesbury Vale Broadband (avbroadband.co.uk)
  3. ^ Gigaclear (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  4. ^ FTTH (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  5. ^ Gigaclear (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  6. ^ here (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  7. ^ Village Networks (vnwww.vnworks.net)
  8. ^ European Commission (ec.europa.eu)
  9. ^ here (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  10. ^ FTTH (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  11. ^ here (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  12. ^ here (www.ispreview.co.uk)

Thousands more online in Aylesbury Vale by 2019

More of us around the Aylesbury Vale will have broadband access by 2019. Aylesbury Vale District Council are investing ?400 000 so that 3 400 homes and businesses can get online. It’s part of Connected Counties, a joint project between local authorities, business groups and BT.

The project is also part of a wider investment in broadband access of ?5 million across Buckinghamshire from a variety of parties. Tracey Aldworth, AVDC Director, commented:

“Fast and effective broadband is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity in our modern world. Here at AVDC we’re doing our bit to ensure residents and businesses get the provision they need.

“We expect our investment to bring improved broadband to over 3,400 premises across the district.

“We’ll have further details about timings and the exact areas covered once BT have fully surveyed these locations.

“However, what is certain is that this project is a real boon to the local area and takes us one step closer to making complete fibre broadband coverage for the whole Vale a reality”.

Thousands More Online In Aylesbury Vale By 2019

90% Of Bucks On Super-Fast Broadband

90% of homes and businesses in Buckinghamshire now have broadband, after a huge project across the county.

And that’s being celebrated because most of this was done on-schedule and was cheaper than expected. High speed broadband is an essential for modern life, which is why BTVLEP has made it one of its top priorities. So much so that the Connected Counties project, a partnership involving Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire County Councils, Herts and Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnerships, Buckinghamshire Business First and BT, has achieved 100% of its targets for the first phase of rollout of superfast broadband to cover 90% of premises in Buckinghamshire.

Not only that, this rollout to more than 45,000 homes and businesses in Buckinghamshire was achieved on schedule and under budget. Michael Garvey, Board Member of Buckinghamshire Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership and Joint Chairman of the Connected Counties Broadband Project Board, said:

“We are delighted with the progress of the roll-out of broadband across Buckinghamshire as high speed fibre broadband is essential if local businesses are to remain competitive.

“As one of the most productive economies in the country we want to continue to provide the conditions for businesses to thrive at the beating heart of the national economy.”

90% Of Bucks On Super-Fast Broadband

What do businesses think?

Superfast broadband provides many economic and social benefits, including job creation, online education, remote health care, support for intelligent transport and mobility and so much more. One businessman who has seen the impact of superfast broadband is Simon Clark a consultant for the oil and gas industry living in Whiteleaf, Buckinghamshire who said:

“I made contact with the Connected Counties team to see if we were going to be upgraded as part of their programme.

“Thankfully it was and now we get an amazing 75Mbps download speed, which is more than 12 times faster than what I had before, it’s amazing.”

Philippa Batting, Managing Director of Buckinghamshire Business First, said:

“Buckinghamshire has one the largest concentration of small businesses in the country, many of whom work from home or are in rural areas so it is essential that we work together to ensure all businesses across the county can benefit from superfast broadband.

“Thanks to the Connected Counties programme delivered by Buckinghamshire Business First on behalf of Buckinghamshire County Council and local partners, we now have plans in place for almost 95% of the county to receive superfast broadband.”

‘An essential, not a luxury’

Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council, said:

“High speed broadband is a modern life essential, not a luxury, for every resident and business.

“That’s why it continues to be one of the County Council’s top priorities.

“It’s good to see that we’ve made great progress connecting residents and businesses in areas that commercial providers would otherwise consider uneconomical, but there’s more work to do to ensure that everyone has access.”

More on the project

90% Of Bucks On Super-Fast Broadband

The Connected Counties Broadband partnership started connecting the first premises in Buckinghamshire to fibre broadband as part of the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme just over two years ago. Since then, engineers from Openreach, BT’s network business, have installed over 200 new road-side cabinets across Buckinghamshire to facilitate coverage across the county. Bill Murphy Managing Director of Next Generation access for BT, said:

“The achievement of this key milestone shows the great progress that has been made by the Connected Counties partnership.

“This highly successful partnership is overcoming the engineering challenges posed by a rural area to get superfast fibre broadband to some of the county’s most remote locations.

“The arrival of this exciting technology is a major boost for local communities because whatever you do online you can do it better with fibre broadband.”

With this momentum in place the project now has plans in place for 95% of the county to receive superfast broadband by 2017.

This second rollout of superfast broadband in Buckinghamshire will start later this year and we are working to extend coverage via the Government’s Superfast Extension Programme (SEP), supported by a package of local funding.

To see if superfast is available in your area, use the Connected Counties availability checker.1

90% Of Bucks On Super-Fast Broadband

References

  1. ^ Are you connected? (www.connectedcounties.org)