End of the year. That’s the estimate for when we’ll hear whether and how Withiel’s broadband problems are to be overcome. It seems that however much time passes the answer is six months off, but that’s what Superfast Cornwall’s Julian Cowans told the Bodmin Community Network Panel meeting in July.
Parish Councillors Janet Shearer and Pat Malone attended the meeting, in Blisland. We heard that the £131 million main phase of Superfast Broadband is winding up with 95 percent coverage for Cornwall. That leaves 30,000 households with primitive broadband or none at all, and many are in the Bodmin area. Follow-on funding of £6 million is expected, enough to bring another 8,600 homes into the modern era. Will Withiel benefit? End of the year…
“Fibre to the premises” – FTTP – is one option, but it’s costly to take fibreoptic cable to every house. This has been done in parts of Rock, where homes were charged up to £3,000 each for the installation. Part of the problem is that BT can’t put fibre on Western Power telegraph poles. This is because when Western Power asked BT for access to their poles, BT set the price so high that it was unviable. So when BT wanted access to Western Power’s poles, Western Power quoted them the same price. Instead of banging heads together the government makes matters worse – the Health and Safety Executive dictates that whenever a pole is worked on it must be brought up to a whole new “safety” standard – distance from trees etc – so even touching a pole has become punishingly expensive. And the satellite broadband alternative never took off because providers charged too much.
Some panel members questioned whether public money was ever intended to be lavished on areas of “low hanging fruit” where commercial broadband was already eminently viable, but that was a policy issue that was decided years ago. One member suggested our salvation may lie in “dark fibre”, where companies are simply allowed to make use of the existing BT fibre infrastructure without taking all the expensive electronic ‘bells and whistles’ that the monopoly saddles them with. But while Ofcom continues to make noises about breaking up BT, any action is some way off and will probably make matters worse.
If you have experienced inefficient repairs to your broadband service by Openreach or are unhappy with the slow broadband speeds, please email Janet Shearer <email@example.com> and she will forward a list of households locally who have had such problems to Julian Cowans who says he will take the matter up with a senior colleague at Openreach.
Richard Martin from the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner’s office attended to urge us all to sign the ‘fair funding’ petition on their website. Government gives police forces money on the basis of a complex formula which takes no account of the influx of the vast number of tourists to Cornwall in the summer, which the Commissioner’s office says is unfair. See www.devonandcornwall-pcc.gov.uk <http://www.devonandcornwall-pcc.gov.uk> .
The next Network Panel meeting is on October 14th, venue TBA.