Two years ago, we wrote on this blog about the promise of coming ‘superfast’ broadband connections – which would mean faster downloads and internet speeds on our computers. But poor old Draycott-in-the-Moors is still waiting…
One man who understands the frustration of the situation is David Elks. David, who is a bit of an expert about broadband matters, lives in this district. He decided to put pen to paper describing his feelings – and here is his article….
There’s nothing like a great internet connection – but the connection I receive from BT is nothing like a great internet connection!
Back in 2011, the coalition Government pledged £500 million as its commitment to making the UK’s broadband network the best in Europe by 2015. The aim was that 90 per cent of premises would have access to internet speeds of 24 Megabits per second (Mbps), and that all premises would have at least two Mbps.
Which sounded great. This market intervention was driven by the fact that almost 30 per cent of properties, largely in rural areas such as where I live, suffer from the double blow of poor broadband speeds and no real chance of seeing any upgrade from BT, Virgin Media or other commercial operators (because the big profits for them are in urban areas).
Work in progress…
After a tender process, BT won the contract to upgrade the ‘final third’ of exchanges; and its engineers have been working to swap copper cables for fibre-optic cables – which are much more efficient in carrying data and other telecommunication signals.
I’ve been counting down the days to the upgrade of the Blythe Bridge exchange (which services Draycott & Cresswell & Totmonslow) ever since February 2013 when the county council announced 43,000 properties would benefit from the £1.2 billion programme.
That date, in March this year, came and went and, yes, apparently the exchange has been upgraded.
Yet, I’m still struggling with poor, poor broadband. Why?
BT set up a website in order to keep customers up to speed with the upgrade process. Essentially, you write in your postcode and the website tells you whether you can access superfast broadband or not.
On this site, I saw the Blythe Bridge exchange go live, watched BT tweet out the fact on social media, and I even registered my interest in accessing faster services.
But almost four months after the upgrade, BT’s status information for my area has only changed to say that the roll-out of superfast services was subject to delays at one of its cabinets in Draycott.
It says: “We’re sorry that the work we are doing to bring fibre broadband to your area is taking longer than first planned. This can be for many reasons: that include blocked underground cable routes, issues with providing electrical power to the cabinet and issues with the cabinet’s location.
“Please bear with us while we work to resolve this which may take some time. We will continue to work on this and apologise for any inconvenience this has caused.”
I’m not upset with BT for the delays. After all, any major infrastructure project is likely to be subject to problems unforeseen at the time of commissioning.
Last July, an official report from the National Audit Office – the Government’s spending watchdog – admitted that the project was two years behind schedule and that only nine of 44 project areas would be completed by 2015. It didn’t help that the European Union took longer than expected to approve the UK Government’s plans.
What is frustrating though has been the lack of up-to-date information about when the work will be completed.
Increasingly, we all live in an age of digital consumables. Just 15 years ago, most people would probably buy or watch films on DVD and listen to music bought on CDs. But now streaming and digital download services (such as Apple’s iTunes, Google’s Play store or the BBC’s iPlayer) are increasingly consigning these former media to the dustbin. BT itself has also made a strong play into this market sector as it tries to move away from straight telecoms provider to becoming multimedia player.
Which is all great…. but pointless if a third of its customers across the country aren’t able to access services.
David Elks lives in Cresswell, and writes on all matters to do with IT and the Internet. He is the ‘digital publisher’ expert at the Sentinel Newspaper.
You can follow him on his Google Plus page
After reading David’s article, you may want to research the situation yourself. Here are some links to check out.
♦ Openreach. You can use the postcode checker on this BT website to see what the situation is regarding superfast broadband for your own home or business.
♦ Superfast Staffordshire. This website describes when and where superfast broadband will arrive in outlying areas, such as ours, with a promise of providing fibre-optic connection to virtually the whole county by Spring 2016. The project is sponsored by Staffordshire County Council, the Government and BT. This site is indicating that superfast should arrive here in Draycott very soon….
♦ Rural Broadband. This group is urging communities to start their own campaigns to get proper broadband connections. It is also suggesting that if you can’t wait for fibre-optic cables to be installed, you might switch to other types of connection, rather than wait! It also suggests that you lobby your local parish and district councillors to get them to take some positive action.
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