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News

Not Good News

Chris Priestley (Openreach) and I scheduled a telephone call at 12 noon today to go over the issues with CFP 52531 (the Sun Lane Scheme) and my report of the conversation follows.

Last week I received a confused EMail written to a different FTTP scheme but quoting our reference number and implying that the DCMS had rejected part of the proposed scheme as ineligible for funding. The call was scheduled to clarify the situation.

Chris first confirmed that he had, last week, intended to write to me and that it is the New Alresford scheme that has a funding deficit of £83K due to DCMS declaring part of the works ineligible for voucher funding.

I queried him as to what part of the work was ineligible. He told me that costs related to the "Main Fibre Leads" were to blame. He clarified this as adding more fibre in the upstream part of the network in order to provide sufficient capacity to support the properties covered by the scheme. He was not clear as to the exact location of this work, but seemed to agree that it was between the exchange and the cabinet. It appears that the DCMS have claimed that essential work to deliver a meaningful service as "ineligible".

If nothing is now done, the scheme will go into the Project Gigabit Phase 1b procurement starting 14/1/22. However, it is not guaranteed to be picked up here as the same issue may apply. In terms of timescale, Chris told me that Cornwall has just gone through a similar process (Phase 1a?)  to that which Hampshire is now entering, and there it took 8 to 9 weeks to determine which projects got picked up by the procurement. We are thus looking at around late March before we know the outcome of the Phase 1b selection process.

When asked whether there was time to get additional funding before the 14th January date, he was not hopeful about there being any time left, and claimed this would have been the case even if last week's confusion had not happened. We seem therefore to have been left "high and dry".

Checking the DCMS T&C, they are effectively judge and jury when it comes to deciding what is eligible for funding, but there was no indication about what might be ineligible. Chris claims that they too (Openreach) are learning about what is acceptable. You could be cynical about this and take the view that the DCMS' aim is to make it as difficult as possible to get voucher funding rather than to promote the take up of FTTP.

I also discussed with him the impact of the Taylor Wimpey development on Sun Lane given that the proposed industrial estate and housing will also require further fibre capacity for the same area. As previously discussed, they have a different point of contact to Openreach, but the same issues will apply and there should be an opportunity here to involve them.

The was contact last summer to see if Taylor Wimpey might be interested in contributing some funding. That went cold given that Openreach had already put our application in. I will talk to our local councillors about whether it is worth progressing this route.

However, it does seem like all the hard work has come to nothing. If you wish to write to our local and national representatives to vent your frustration then I would not stand in your way. I too am fed up with what seems to be financial "nit picking" at the DCMS rather than to have any apparent enthusiasm for implementing the Government's election pledge on fibre deployment.

Tony Whyman

FTTP 4 Alresford

Response from Openreach

I have been trying to get an update on the progress of our application for Gigabit Voucher funding and have had the following response from Openreach.

Hi Tony

I am afraid there are delays in processing these. There is a large backlog. We are seeing this clearing at the moment but I would expect yours to still take a few more weeks I’m afraid. I will see if I can give it a nudge though

 regards

 Chris Priestley

 Rural Engagement Manager

Wales/Shropshire/Herefordshire/Worcestershire/Gloucestershire/Hampshire/Berkshire

Openreach

 

Draft response to the DCMS Request For Information

I have prepared a draft response to the DCMS Request For Information that is part of the public review process (19th August 2021 to 20th September 2021) for Project Gigabit - Hampshire and Isle of Wight. This may be downloaded from the following link.

Draft response to the DCMS Request For Information

The purpose of this submission is to inform the DCMS and BDUK of the information learnt by the campaign about the local area, its broadband infrastructure and the attitude of residents towards both broadband itself and issues involved in broadband rollout. It is hoped that this information will be of use in planning the rollout of broadband under Project Gigabit, both in Hampshire and other areas.

I would welcome any comments and suggestions for the response prior to submitting it. We have until 20th Sept. However, I would like to submit it at the beginning of September and I would anticipate a large number of corporation responses at or near the due date.

Tony Whyman

August Update

At present, we are still waiting for a formal response from the DCMS to The South East Alresford Gigabit Voucher Submission. This was submitted at the end of June with the expectation of a reply within 6 weeks. That has now been exceeded. However, the August holiday period may well have affected response times and we are aware that the Martyr Worthy Gigabit Voucher Submission is still waiting for a reply after more than 12 weeks - so this delay, while undesirable, is not necessarily unexpected. The DCMS has also been finalising its Project Gigabit procurement strategy for Hampshire and this may also have put Hampshire voucher submissions on hold while it was doing this. I intend to start chasing our submission at the end of the month.Otherwise, there have been three recent developments:

1. Hampshire County Council have approved a further £1M of funding for Gigabit voucher top up funding. An EMail has been received from HCC confirming the following:

"On 13th July the cabinet approved an additional £1m of top up funding for the voucher scheme, to be issued on a first come first served basis.

The voucher scheme is administered by BDUK (the government department responsible) in direct liaison with the supplier, there is no need for a separate application to HCC.

The top up fund increases the maximum voucher value for residential properties from £1,500 to £3,000.

Further details can be found on or website: https://www.hampshiresuperfastbroadband.com/alternative-solutions/gigabit-broadband-voucher-scheme/"

This should ensure that the South East Alresford scheme is fully funded.

2. The DCMS published its Summer Update to Project Gigabit on 2/8/21.

See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/project-gigabit-delivery-plan-summer-update

This document provides more detail about the Project Gigabit Rollout and, specifically, Phase 1b, which includes Hampshire. It confirms that the procurement start date for Hampshire is not until Feb 2022, with award of contract in Jan 2023. If the voucher submission is not successful then it may well be that we would not get FTTP here before 2024/2025.

However, the document also goes on to state that

"Now that we have started delivery through other Project Gigabit measures - Local and Regional Supplier procurements - we are specifically looking for new voucher projects to :

offer the potential for better pace than Local / Regional / Cross-Regional Supplier procurements, particularly in premises which cannot currently access superfast(>30Mbps) speeds or are otherwise priority areas. Therefore, and especially in areas where a Local Supplier or Regional Supplier procurement is planned imminently, we will need to have confidence that vouchers will be requested promptly and that consumers can expect the relevant voucher supplier/s have the necessary commitment, capacity and capability to deliver promptly."

which should be encouraging in terms of getting our submission accepted.

3. The DCMS (19/8/21) launched a UK Gigabit Programme: Hampshire and Isle of Wight Public Review, seeking “information and supporting evidence about gigabit-capable broadband infrastructure within the Hampshire and Isle of Wight area.”

See https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/uk-gigabit-programme-hampshire-and-isle-of-wight-public-review

The review document states that

“BDUK’s goal is to ensure the parts of the country that need government investment are accurately targeted. Each contributor to this public review will help to optimise the use of public subsidy in helping to provide faster and better connectivity across all parts of the UK.”

My current intention is to reply to the review on behalf of the campaign.