Skippetts Gardens (Basingstoke PCP116) with a familiar story…

Under our campaign, we have principally focussed on:

  • our own new-build site, Everest Park, and its Openreach cabinet, Basingstoke PCP 102;
  • two cabinets on other nearby new-build sites which seemed to be part of Openreach’s commercial superfast fibre broadband programme  but were delayed – Basingstoke PCP92 at Marnell Park, and PCP 95 at Limes Park.
  • another 19 cabinets across Hampshire which also had been part of Openreach’s commercial programme and have seemingly been delayed time and again.

The problem for cabinets that are part of the commercial programme is that the Hampshire County Council / Broadband Delivery UK partnership cannot then look to deliver these cabinets, and some have been in limbo for a number of years.  The good news is Openreach are now actively addressing this, and delivered a number of the 19 during 2015/16, and plan to deliver another batch in 2016/17.

However a few cabinets seem to fall between the commercial and HCC/BDUK programmes, with both claiming the cabinet is the others responsibility;  those supplying new-build sites developed between around 2010 and 2013 being the likely to be the worst offenders – as was our very own PCP 102.  We did have some evidence showing it had at times been part of the Openreach commercial programme, but Openreach claimed this had not been the case.  Certainly the HCC/BDUK team pointed the finger at Openreach.

The case for Basingstoke PCP 116 supplying the Skippetts Gardens development  is less clear;  it may never have formed part of the commercial programme.  However the response to residents of the development on Twitter from the HCC/BDUK team is that their area falls under commercial delivery.  Looking on the Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme website map, that doesn’t appear to be strictly true, the area is devoid of any colouring implying it is not part of the commercial programme, nor waves 1 or 2 of their programme… therefore falling into the final 4-5% without any provision.

Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme map showing "whitespace" over Skippetts Gardens, implying no superfast broadband provision at all
Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme map (captured 02/04/2016) showing “whitespace” over Skippetts Gardens, implying no superfast broadband provision at all

For a relatively dense, urban development surrounded by properties with superfast options from both Openreach and Virgin Media, this looks like bad planning.  What is particularly disappointing is that the Chief Executive and the Director of Culture, Communities and Business Services of Hampshire County Council published this report on the status of the Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme in January 2015, and Basingstoke PCP 116 serving Skippetts Gardens was specifically mentioned in it, under section 3.8 Retrofit.  This details the largest 30 recent new-build sites without superfast broadband in the county, and states “A number of these developments may be viable for commercial investment, but there are few signs that this problem is fully recognised by the private sector or that solutions for residents will come forward in a reasonable timescale”.

One particularly concerning aspect is that the section opens with the statement “Not included in the count of premises remaining unserved in the Intervention Area are some 4,800 new homes on existing phases of housing developments where the developer and broadband providers have not so far arranged the provision of superfast services through commercial investment”.  This appears to imply that the final 4-5% once the Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme has delivered Wave 2, will actually be 4-5% PLUS these addiitonal 4,800 properties, and the properties are essentially missing from the statistics!

Worse, the report goes on to provide a number of properties on each site, but for Skippetts Gardens this is listed as just 67;  and for Basingstoke PCP 102 which was also in the list, 124.  Both developments were long since completed when the report was published so the figures are significantly out of date, as the actual number of properties served by PCP 116 at Skippetts Gardens is 162, and at Everest Park is just over 400.  If these inaccuracies were repeated across the county, there could be well over 10,000 properties in this state – and being ignored from coverage figures.

Following the HCC/BDUK assertion, we have asked Openreach to confirm whether PCP116 is in or out of their commercial programme, and are currently waiting for a response.  However unlike PCP102, we’ve not seen any evidence of it ever being in the programme.  The Superfast Openreach website currently displays the following message, implying they have no plans to commercially enable the cabinet.

Superfast Openreach website confirmation that PCP116 is NOT in their commercial programme at this time
Superfast Openreach website confirmation that PCP116 is NOT in their commercial programme at this time

So what can residents do?  At least their current broadband speeds are better than those experienced in Everest, Marnell and Limes Parks, where speeds maxed out between 2Mbps and 4Mbps;  the estimates for Skippetts Gardens are up to a lofty 8Mbps.

The first thing is to get as many residents as possible to register demand for superfast broadband on the following websites:

  1. Openreach – http://www.homeandwork.openreach.co.uk/expression-gen.aspx – Openreach have just changed their Superfast Broadband website, this is the latest link to their registration form to say “enable my area”
  2. Virgin Media – https://cablemystreet.virginmedia.com – Virgin are undertaking a multi-year multi-billion pound network expansion, so it is a good idea to register interest with them also.
  3. Openreach again – http://www.homeandwork.openreach.co.uk/help-and-support/fibre-broadband-availability.aspx – fill out the form to ask Openreach when fibre will be available.  With requests from multiple residents, Openreach should respond.  As a community you can also ask for a gap-funding quote.  Openreach have commercially enabled cabinets in Hampshire and Basingstoke with less connected properties (though the majority are above the 200 property mark), so it may be they have just not assessed the true number of properties affected, and at that time may decide to enable it commercially.
  4. Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme – http://www.hampshiresuperfastbroadband.com/get-involved/ – if all residents register the HCC team may more readily spot the problem.
  5. Email the Hampshire Superfast Broadband team  – broadband@hants.gov.uk
  6. And tweet them…. twitter.com/superfasthants

Also contact your local borough and County Councillors and ask them to get involved.  Our councillors, and in particular our County Councillor Jane Frankum, has been particularly helpful.  Skippetts Gardens is in Basingstoke Grove ward, and the local councillors are Cllr Stephen Day and Cllr Ron Hussey. The County Councillor is Cllr Brian Gurden.  Our MP, Maria Miller, would be another good person to contact.

Once Openreach have confirmed the cabinet really is not in their commercial programme, the first goal has to be getting Hampshire County Council to recognise that position – we will certainly forward any emails.

Whilst the figures are not as stand-out as PCP95 in Limes Park for example, where maximum ADSL speeds have been around 2Mbps, and where take-up on completed cabinets is the highest in the county, or like Everest Park where the number of properties (400+) can easily be seen to be commercially viable, much of the BDUK work is enabling cabinets supplying 100 properties or less, and many areas have far higher ADSL speeds attainable than at Skippetts Gardens.  Therefore it should make sense for the Hampshire Superfast BDUK Programme to support delivery of FTTC to the location.

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