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Update on Broadband for Tunstall...

18 November 2014

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The following message has been received from Better Broadband Suffolk on 18th November 2014:

Sorry to hear of your struggle; something which is echoed in many places across the county, and of course the very reason we are investing so heavily in the improved infrastructure.

The areas of the parish which are not set to benefit as a part of our first contract (which runs to Autumn 2015), will be targeted with our second contract, which kicks in late next year and runs through to 2017/18.   We do hope that this will in fact be delivered ahead of schedule, in the same way that we are ahead of delivery on the first contract.   We should have detailed timings for the second contract around the middle of next year, before it starts rolling out.   The reason for the delay in the detailed timing is that essentially, so far, we have agreed to a contract with BT which raises our 85% coverage target to 95% for a fixed amount of cash.   This is essentially a desk based tender response, and what now needs to happen is for BT to refine this tender response into a fully committed rollout plan.   This will then give us the certain view of dates for your upgrades to be completed.   The basis of this is that we really want to avoid telling you (for example), Q2 16-17 you will have fibre broadband, absent any real understanding on our part about how it will be delivered and indeed if that timescale is remotely accurate.   We are also very much on the cusp of being able to model in new innovations to the deployment plan which will boost coverage and speed further, so we want to allow these to be integrated into the plans too.

The question about prioritising one area over another is something we are asked on a daily basis by communities all over Suffolk.   The programme is targeted specifically at those rural areas which would not otherwise receive fibre broadband via commercial upgrades; around 45% of Suffolk premises.       With the sole exception of Superfast Broadband coverage of the Enterprise Zones (which is Government policy, and a condition of BDUK funding), we have not set any other place-based priorities in order to enable the network design and deployment plan to maximise coverage within the available funding envelope. We have specified, however, that deployment should not start in one part of the county and rollout from there, i.e. all areas of Suffolk will benefit from early phases as well as later phases.     Note that the imposition of specific place-based priorities would distort the economics of the network design and deployment, resulting in a reduction in the total coverage achieved within available funding, and hence a reduction in value-for-money.

We are very much aware of the need for upgrade, and doing all we can to keep ahead of the game nationally, but also to ensure the local Openreach delivery team continue to keep ahead of target, and are able to continue pulling things forward.   As with all infrastructure programmes of this scale, it does take significant investment and time, but we are ahead of target and committed to getting to everyone as soon as we can.