Village left out of final phase of superfast broadband

September 12 2018
Village left out of final phase of superfast broadband

Residents of Bibstone have been left out of all three stages of South Gloucestershire’s high-speed broadband rollout.

The ‘Bibstone Broadband’ group, which has been formed to tackle the issue, says it wants to know why some homes in the village haven’t benefitted from the government funded Broadband Delivery UK scheme which has seen three phases of investment in the county.  The rollout of phase 3 is due to take place by the end of this year. 

A spokesman for the Conservative group on the council said: “The Council’s partner, BT Openreach has confirmed a raft of areas that will be included within this phase of work, with the latest tranche bringing superfast broadband access to some of the more remote parts of South Gloucestershire, where it isn’t commercially viable for private companies to provide. Once the third phase of the project has been completed, an estimated 99 per cent of the area will have access to the superfast service.”

According to the Openreach website, Bibstone is on the list for the phase 3 rollout.  However, Matt Briggs, from the Bibstone Broadband group, told the Thornbury Voice that it’s some homes in the postcodes GL12 8AD, GL12 8AE and GL12 8AF which aren’t included.  He said: “The postcode GL12 8HU which is listed as work to be carried out as part of phase 3, is I believe for some very remote houses closer to Tortworth Court and Leyhill Prison and still wouldn't include us from my numerous enquiries.  We’re along the lower end of Tortworth Road surrounding the Royal Oak pub.”  

He blames poor infrastructure for Bibstone’s problems. Broadband is provided to the village from two exchanges, Falfield and Wickwar.  But for the group of homes on the lower end of Tortworth Road, the nearest cabinet is in Charfield, which is too far away to provide decent broadband speed.  

Fibre to cabinet upgrades were carried out a few years ago, but speeds are still only 10-20Mbps.  The telecoms regulator OFCOM defines ‘Superfast’ as 30Mbps and above.  As part of phase 3 improvements, a new cabinet was built on the Wickwar exchange only 400m away from where Matt Briggs lives. But he and other homeowners cannot switch to that cabinet because they are on the Falfield exchange. 

In an attempt to escalate the issue with South Gloucestershire council, the residents have met with councillors John O’Neill and Claire Young, and have since been promised a visit from the council’s Executive Member for Resources, Rob Creer. 

Local Lib Dem councillor for Charfield ward John O’Neill said: “Under the Conservative Council’s development plans, the number of houses in the Charfield area is due to increase dramatically in the coming years. With more people working from home it is important that there is good broadband connectivity, not just for the new communities, but also for the existing residents.” 

Matt Briggs said: “Anytime plans are mentioned for improving the village they never include ALL of the village. We have been desperately striving for parity for all of the residents but unfortunately don't seem to be getting anywhere. After we heard the news that we wouldn't be included under phase 3 we attempted our own Community Fibre Scheme through Openreach. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a whopping £98,000 for just 44 properties and therefore is highly unlikely we will be able to raise the funds.” 

Lib Dem Council group leader Cllr Claire Young said: “The superfast broadband rollout in South Gloucestershire has left pockets of poor service across our rural areas. Local people need the council to contribute to the solution. I’m pleased that Cllr Creer has now agreed to meet with us and local residents to hear what the council could be doing better.”

Cllr Rob Creer, Cabinet Member for Corporate Resources, said: “We continue to work extremely hard on broadband provision for the whole of South Gloucestershire including rural areas which have been highly patient in receiving this service.” 

“This latest phase of the service will see almost all of South Gloucestershire with a superfast connection, but we will not stop there and will continue to work towards further provision.”