RESIDENTS spoke of their fury after workmen destroyed roads and footpaths while installing new internet cables. Angry homeowners have accused Virgin Media engineers of dumping concrete on their driveways while installing broadband equipment in Labworth Road, Atherstone Road and Beach House Gardens, Canvey1. Some parked cars have even allegedly been left covered in dust and dirt.
Martin Richardson, 51, of Labworth Road, has called for repairs to carried out on damaged roads, grass verges and footpaths. He said: “These workmen are destroying the island. Some people even found lumps of concrete dumped on their driveways and concrete dust covering their cars.
“I spoke to one women who could not access her driveway because workers had blocked it off with barriers while they carried out works and had left the barriers across her driveway.”
The two-week project finished nearly a fortnight ago – but the mess remains. Brian Baldwin, 71, of Beach House Gardens, said: “I think that Virgin Media should have replaced the roads, footpaths and verges so that they were in the same condition as before.
“They have just chopped the roads about to allow them to put their internet cables and equipment in.”
A Virgin Media spokesman apologised for the disruption. He said: “Virgin Media is currently expanding its network in Canvey to bring ultrafast broadband speeds to more homes and businesses in the area.
As we do so, we endeavour to minimise disruption and are working with our contractors to ensure that work is carried out with professionalism and at the highest standard. We apologise to residents for any inconvenience we may have caused and are working to resolve their concerns.”
A spokesman for Essex Highways said the superfast broadband project is ongoing. He added: “Essex Highways inspectors monitor the work almost every day to ensure that Virgin complies with legal standards.
The roads and pavements must be left in a good state, and if our inspectors determine that there is further work needed to reach that standard, then that must be done and paid for by Virgin Media.”
Broadband access tops the list of existential issues facing the North Country. While an entire generation has now been weaned on lightning-quick internet, many people in the state’s most remote region have never known anything but spotty satellite or dial-up service. As one North Hudson resident put it: “When we talk about streaming, we have to go outside and look at one.”
Some homes and businesses have nothing at all.
The state Broadband Program Office continues to make progress on their initiative to fully provide the state with high-speed internet by the end of 2018, leveraging $500 million in state investment with private funds. The final funds, augmented with $170 million in federal monies, will be soon be allocated to mop up the remaining areas — including our North Country communities. But as the deadline nears, the process has become bitter and contentious as local officials grind it out with the state.
Skirmishes have erupted across the region, from Dannemora, Saranac and Bellmont near the Canadian border to Willsboro and much of southern Essex County. While problems with a slow grant reimbursement process and flakey providers appear to have been licked, there remains a very real concern among local officials that many areas may ultimately be excluded from the final round of grants. Here’s why:
The U.S. Census Bureau maps used by the state to determine which areas have internet service are faulty, and falsely illustrate many communities as being wired when they are not.
As such, local representatives fear these places may be left out when bidders convene at the final auction this summer. While exact coverage details are difficult to pin down, nearly two-thirds of homes in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties, according to the state BPO, fall under the 100 megabytes per second threshold experts say is critical to economic development. Keep in mind internet speed is context sensitive. That number can vary wildly from locales with simply sluggish internet to those with no service at all — the difference between a decade-old Toyota Camry and a broken big wheel.
While the state reassures local leaders that all areas will be eventually be included, local officials are not convinced. How can they be? The state has not definitively illustrated how these oversights will be corrected.
As a Hail Mary, Albany has their fingers crossed that Charter Communications will swoop in to mop up the straggling areas as part of the conditions of their merger agreement with Time Warner. The promise seems reassuring, but it’s problematic. Local officials don’t have access to Charter’s current service area, which means they cannot stitch together maps of the “last mile” homes in their communities that would be served under the potential expansions.
Not only is there a lack of answers to give to their constituents, but other providers who may want to enter the market are hamstrung because they don’t want to move into a competitor’s franchise area and awaken a sleeping giant. Even if Charter did enter those markets, there’s the complaint New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed in February. Schneiderman claimed the provider’s long-term business plan is “built on deceit” and defrauded customers by falsely advertising broadband speeds and provided customers with “deficient equipment and a network that it knew were incapable of reliably delivering the promised speeds.”
As such, localities are stuck in a holding pattern.
Best case scenario: A local provider might bid on the parcels — provided the mapping problems are fixed. If not, the next best option is that a telecommunications giant under a cloud of state suspicion will provide overpriced service that may not even work because they’re selling modems that are literally incapable of delivering the advertised speeds. As these depressing realities begin to fall into place, local officials have taken the gloves off and are punching back.
Some criticism towards the state is warranted, much of it is not. The state has as much of an incentive to succeed as the localities. And by some metrics, the effort is already a success: The program has wired some of the state’s trickiest areas — including parts of Hamilton County, which doesn’t even have a traffic light.
Naturally in such a groundbreaking effort, there will be bumps along the way. To smooth over the tensions, the state has asked localities to engage in their own mapping efforts and develop reports detailing the true situations on the ground. Throwing the ball back in their court is a good idea. But in reality, these localities don’t have the resources to engage in comprehensive mapping efforts so late in the game.
Furthermore, they have argued that it isn’t their job. We agree. The state should have done this years ago. But localities also need to do more than counterpunch.
A better idea for local governments is to form a regional broadband task force. Doing so will not only make it easier to diagnose problems and flaws in the grant process, but also make the state and providers more accountable as we enter the endgame. Local officials should be the first to break the stalemate. And they can do so by continuing to publicly hold the state accountable — but also pairing it with action. We understand localities are frustrated.
But they need to do more than lob bombs. And the state, for their part, needs to do more than issue platitudes.
The Sun Community News Editorial Board is comprised of Dan Alexander, John Gereau and Pete DeMola. We want to hear from you.
Drop us a line on our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter, to share your thoughts.
Urban fibre optic ISP Hyperoptic has today reached yet another social housing agreement, which means that “thousands” of homes in Thurrock (Essex) will soon gain access to their ultrafast 1Gbps capable FTTP/B based broadband network. A special ?9 a month 5Mbps option will also be offered. The new service will initially be made available to 1,700 tenants across 12 of the council’s developments (see below), with the first installation work expected to start during this summer 2017 (prioritised by resident demand).
The 12 Buildings
* Arthur Toft, George Crooks and Lionel Oxley House
* Bevan and Morrison House
* Brisbane, Freemantle and Tasmania House
* Butler, Davall and Greenwood House
* Chieftan Drive
* Clayburn Gardens
* Cranell Green
* George Tilbury, Gooderham and Poole House
* Keir Hardie House
* Marine and River Court
* Perth House
* Seabrooke Rise
Hyperoptic typically offers a choice of three premium packages (20Mbps, 100Mbps and 1Gbps), although in this instance they’ve also designed a bespoke entry-level product (Fibre Light) specifically for Thurrock Council’s residents. The package costs just ?9 per month for a standalone 5Mbps broadband service and that’s just about the cheapest fixed line broadband service we’ve ever seen (except it’s only available to a tiny number of people).
Steve Holford, Hyperoptic’s Chief Customer Officer, said: “For digital inclusion programmes to succeed the priority must be the provision of ultrafast, reliable and affordable broadband – unfettered Internet connectivity removes barriers and enables limitless possibilities.
Our full fibre connectivity is world-class and the experience is second-to-none. Working with Councils to give their social housing tenants the UK’s best Internet experience is a strategic priority for us – we are pioneering the shift to Gigabit Britain and the public sector has a huge role to play in making this happen as soon as possible.”
Cllr Shane Hebb, Finance and Legal at Thurrock Council, said: “We are very pleased to be teaming up with Hyperoptic to help every resident in council accommodation have the same access the fastest broadband speed available in the UK today, as those living in private properties.
The Council is neither financially up nor down through this work, but it has supported Hyperoptic develop an affordable package to areas which are highly populated in a bid to keep hundreds of Thurrock residents better connected.”
All of this will help to support Hyperoptic’s goal of extending the reach of their network to over 500,000 UK “homes” by the end of
2019. The ISP tends to focus most of their deployments on big office blocks and large apartment buildings (i.e. Multi-Dwelling-Units with at least 50 units), although they are clearly branching out a bit.
Customers can choose from either a broadband and phone bundle or a standlone broadband-only service on a 12 month contract (attracts no connection fee). You can also get a “no contract” option of both but that attracts a one-off connection fee of ?40 and the monthly price is higher. All of the packages include unlimited usage, 24/7 support, an included wireless router and a dynamic IP address (CGNAT) or add ?5 extra per month for a Static IP instead.
Bundles (first 3 months free)
20Mb Fibre Broadband & Phone
Price: ?25 a month 100Mb Fibre Broadband & Phone
Price: ?38 a month 1Gb Fibre Broadband & Phone
Price: ?63 a month
Standalone (first 3 months free) 20Mb Fibre Broadband Only
Price: ?22 a month 100Mb Fibre Broadband Only
Price: ?35 a month
1Gb Fibre Broadband Only
Price: ?60 a month
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