Table of Quick Links
Broadband in Herongate and Ingrave
Broadband News – The Buz Network Announcement
Broadband Project Progress Report
Broadband – The Way Forward
Our MP Offers Assistance In Getting Better Broadband
Progress Reports from Essex Broadband Development Group
Things are beginning to move on the Broadband Front
Some News at last on the Broadband Roll-Out
This table lists documents in the Broadband Project page in chronological order with the earlier items at the top.
Some News at last (albeit disappointing) on Broadband Roll-Out
It is now over two years since our campaign for better broadband began. Back then the news was grim indeed; we were told by BT that there were no plans to upgrade our broadband service, nor even any possibility of a review of that position, within five years.
Since then the Government have taken an interest in the economic disadvantage that utterly inadequate broadband brings to rural areas. A result of this study produced a decision to provide some money to act as seed funding to the rural counties. The plan being that County Councils should match the Government’s investment and start a project to work with technical partners (who would also provide some cash) to bring forward the implementation of “superfast broadband” countrywide.
Essex County Council chose to take advantage of this scheme and eventually selected BT as their technical partner from a list of options provided by Government. The SuperfastEssex Team was set up to progress the programme based in County Hall.
The next step was for the Superfast Team to establish the levels of interest in improved broadband across the County then to assess the demands of the business community that overlays domestic needs. The last step, that has just been completed, is to use this information to develop an initial roll-out programme to get maximum benefit from the investment made.
The roll-out has specified that work on upgrading the Herongate Exchange and its network, to give Herongate and Ingrave better broadband, will begin in fourth quarter 2015. This makes us 189th priority in the plan! The whole programme is scheduled to commence in second quarter 2014 and to be finished in second quarter 2016.
This is a very disappointing outcome for all the efforts of the broadband users in Herongate and Ingrave to demonstrate the extreme need in this area for a more adequate broadband. To put this level of disappointment into perspective it is worth noting that we shared first place with Manuden (in Uttlesford) for the highest number of declarations of interest, by premise, in the whole of Essex. Also, Brentwood has been chosen as the last Borough in Essex to have its broadband brought up to “superfast” level and the Herongate exchange area is to be the last area in the Brentwood Borough to be upgraded.
You may be led to deduce from the preceding three paragraphs that we must have been let down on the business need for better broadband. However, we can confirm that this is not the case because our input to the Superfast Team was able to confirm that business usage contributed an exceptionally high proportion of the proven demand for adequate broadband in the Herongate Exchange area.
Needless to say we have used all normal channels to try to establish the logic that the SuperfastEssex Team used to give us such a poor outcome. To date there has not been a single useful word forthcoming from any source to answer our questions. If you share our disgust at the lack of perceptible transparency in the building of the roll-out plan please write to the relevant politicians asking for their assistance. They are Eric Pickles MP (firstname.lastname@example.org), Roger Hirst, County Councillor (email@example.com), Linda Golding and Sheila Murphy, Ward Councillors (firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com).
This summary of our position was derived from information published by the Superfast Team recently. Listed below is the documentary evidence that provides the background to these notes. Please click on each heading to bring up the relevant document.
Registrations Count results mapped for the whole of Essex
Initial Broadband Roll Out Map
Detailed Parish Timeline for Broadband Roll Out
Current & Future Broadband Coverage
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Things are beginning to move on the Broadband Front
A Report from the Broadband Improvement Campaign Committee
During the last three months our chances of getting access to better broadband have improved markedly. It has now become clear that the SuperfastEssex project is the most likely way to get the necessary upgrading work completed.
BT has confirmed that it would not be viable for it to fund the work without subsidy from an outside source. The Government funded Broadband Development UK (BDUK) has been announced with the objective of providing such funding to permit the development of superfast broadband facilities in rural areas. Essex County Council has been allocated a share of this money; a Team has been set up to investigate, assisted by BT, how best to achieve a quality broadband service in Rural Essex.
Each Rural area that demonstrates a demand for better broadband will be dealt with separately. Consideration will be given to the strength of demand, the availability of a viable technical solution and the acceptance by BDUK that the expenditure is justified by the benefit that will accrue in each case. These stages of decision have been set up to ensure that priority is given to the most urgent cases.
Following meetings with both BT and SuperfastEssex we have a far better understanding of where we stand in this competition. It is accepted by both BT and the Essex Team that the broadband service provided by the Herongate exchange is inadequate. BT has stated, but this has not yet been confirmed by the Essex Team, that fibre optic technology would provide the best solution in the case of the Herongate exchange area. This technology is currently used in Brentwood to provide superfast broadband.
As we hope you are all aware, we have been making considerable efforts to demonstrate to the Essex Team that there is a strong demand in the Herongate Exchange area. This is done by registering each individual broadband user in our area with the SuperfastEssex website. Registrations on either BT or OpenReach sites are no longer counted, so it is imperative, if you did that, that you now make registrations on the new Essex site.
Domestic registrations are very important but business registrations are even more so due to the close relationship between the availability of fast broadband and the vitality of commercial organisations. The campaign is making every effort to contact businesses in our area but we would be very grateful for any assistance you can give to help us make contact.
If every broadband user in your home has not yet registered for better broadband please visit www.superfastessex.org and complete the survey for each person. SuperfastEssex start deciding soon, please move fast to make sure we are recognised as needing the highest priority.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any queries or can help with business contacts.
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Progress Reports from Essex Broadband Development Group
BDUK Project Update
20 Feb 2013 V0.7
On 4 February 2013 the Essex BDUK Project started Stage 2 of the Procurement Framework process, set out by the Department of Culture, Media and Sports. This stage will help us determine which premises do not have access to fast broadband infrastructure and therefore which areas would be eligible for support under the project.
We are working towards submitting a contract award recommendation to the Cabinet on 17 July 2013 by accelerating some of the activities in the project, allowing us to take advantage of the summer for project mobilisation and implementation.
We are also being realistic about the challenges of the timetable, working closely with the national BDUK team who are part of our project board. If we are unable to accelerate the timetable the contract award recommendation will be submitted to Cabinet for a decision on10 September 2013.
The Open Market Review currently under way will collect information from telecommunications companies about their plans for investing in broadband infrastructure. This information is commercially sensitive and will be managed accordingly to ensure their full co-operation. Following this stage there will be a formal public consultation before we enter into the tender stage with the suppliers on the BDUK Framework Agreement. The project team can provide details of the timetable if you require them.
We have managed to bring Essex forward from the original estimated procurement start date in May 2013 and contract award in December which would have cost almost a year in terms of implementation, now giving us a good chance of starting to improve our broadband infrastructure this year.
The project is supported by the ‘Make the Connection’ campaign to drive demand registration across Greater Essex. Residents and businesses are encouraged to participate in the on-line survey on the recently launched website – www.superfastessex.org. The project team is currently visiting parish council meetings to brief the community on the project and to manage expectations.
[Note: The writer of this update, Mr Navin Sankersingh, spoke at the meeting of the Herongate and Ingrave Parish Council on 26th March 2013.]
BDUK Project Update
28 Nov 2012 v0.1
This project update serves to provide key information to those interested in the Essex (superfast broadband) BDUK Project with emphasis on key announcements made recently – State aid approval and Essex ready to procure.
Essex rollout plan speeds up
Essex is now expecting to award contract in late July if all goes smoothly, a marked improvement from our earlier expectation of late August/September. This means that we are potentially able to commence works during the summer period, desirable for utilities based activities of this type and also offering scope to align with other works like highways maintenance.
State Aid Resolved
State aid has been granted by EU on 20 November 2012 which clears the way for the roll-out of broadband infrastructure across the UK. This grant is for the UK’s rural broadband programme and acts as an umbrella cover for all BDUK Projects that come under this programme. Each project will need to carry out an Open Market Review and consultation to define its intervention areas that will be subject to public spending. An application will be prepared and submitted to DCMS for compliance and as a requirement of the procurement process and state aid rules.
Ready to Procure
The Essex BDUK Project has obtained approval from DCMS on 28 Nov to commence procurement in early February 2013. DCMS have said that the back-log of projects who have awarded contracts and that have been held-back by state aid is now ready to implement. The need to unlock these projects due to the recent state aid announcement has pushed back projects waiting to enter procurement. DCMS have advised that this delay has no reflection on individual projects and that Essex, via submission of evidence, has demonstrated it is ready to proceed. The ‘go-ahead’ from DCMS means that the Essex Project will award the contract and begin works in summer 2013.
The project is mindful of taking advantage of most of the summer-time to mobilise the works and implement the project. In saying this, the project will keep a ‘watchful eye’ on any opportunity to advance the procurement process to secure an earlier start date in summer 2013.
Investment in Broadband
DCMS has asked local projects to behave more akin to significant investors of funds rather than procurers of goods or services – whilst recognising you are in procurement. Local projects should expect suppliers to behave similarly, whilst recognising the potential competitive nature of the procurement. This is what the project is demonstrating to stakeholders so that there is an understanding of the commercial issues involved – such as a gap-fund model.
The gap-fund model means that the supplier will own, maintain and operate the infrastructure which was partly subsidised by public funds. The project will deliver a wholesale solution which will then be retailed to ‘Internet Service Providers’ by the supplier. DCMS are saying the project is about wholesale access not availability. They are quoted as saying – ‘The supplier has to ensure 2Mbps is available to buy (at an affordable price) rather than to ensure everyone has it’
The project also has to manage expectations in that it does not over estimate speed and coverage and does not set expectations in advance of the procurement process and key milestones and announcements. Consistent messages for citizens and other stakeholders on coverage and speed are usually communicated to the public which include – ‘The one thing we can’t do yet is say when specific areas will be upgraded because it will be subject to the detailed plan that will form the basis of contract delivery…’
Make the Connection
The broadband survey which has received more than 3500 responses to date is being encouraged to get more responses from residents and businesses to register their demand for broadband. The data gathered is critical to our success as it will assist in guiding the project and the supplier to where there is most demand for broadband, ensuring commercial viability and an alignment with project priorities. If you haven’t done so yet, register your demand at www.essex.gov.uk/ruralbroadband and encourage others to do so too.
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Our MP has offered his assistance in getting better Broadband for users of the Herongate Exchange
Following talks with Officials from BT, the Broadband Delivery Group at ECC and the Leader of Essex County Council on the problems of slow broadband in the rural areas of his constituency, Mr Pickles has requested (in the Gazette of 24th October) that people affected by poor broadband performance make contact with him. He is trying to identify the worst affected areas by counting the number of contacts he receives from each exchange area in the Brentwood and Ongar Constituency. This follows a similar request from the 19th September.
The response to the earlier call included “many people from West Horndon, Ingrave and Herongate”. All these names were passed to the Broadband Delivery Group (BDG) at ECC who are tasked, in cooperation with BT, with choosing who should receive the benefit of a grant from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funds to upgrade the local exchange to fibre optic standards. The most deserving cases in Essex, as judged by the BDG, will have their broadband problems resolved considerably earlier than without this subsidy. At present BT have no plans to upgrade the Herongate exchange which serves all of the 81xxxx telephone numbers in Herongate, Ingrave, West Horndon and Childerditch.
Would any broadband user, both residential and business, please contact Mr Pickles so that he fully understands just how many people and companies in our area need his help. He has asked that we use his email@example.com email address or write to him at Westminster. His full postal address is: The Rt. Hon. Eric Pickles MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA. Please ensure that you include your name and address in emails – your location is vital as he will be getting emails from all over the Constituency.
Those people who contacted Mr Pickles on the previous occasion do not need to write again but they might consider actively encouraging their friends, colleagues etc., who have 81xxxx telephone numbers, to do it this time.
Contact David Harman on 812177 if you have any queries.
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Broadband Project Progress Report
There has been a considerable degree of progress in our campaign to improve the broadband service for users of the Herongate Exchange. When we took up the project more than a year ago, we had but one hope of significant improvement in the poor service that we have to tolerate. It was necessary to convince BT/OpenReach that the exchange should be upgraded thus allowing it to provide an adequate service.
Our plan to achieve this end was to persuade as many broadband users as possible to register their interest in better broadband with BT/OpenReach. A large number of internet users have done this but at present we have no idea how many because BT is unwilling to tell us. We also plan to gather real evidence of just how bad the service actually is. A good number of local people have responded to our request to collect this information. It is intended to gather the data over one full week at the end of September once the holiday season is over. Once we have real proof of the general level of service we are subjected to the two Parish Councils affected will take the data directly to a suitable level of Management within BT/OpenReach to get something done.
You may ask just where the progress has been; I’m sure that your broadband is not working any better as yet! In fact over the schools’ summer holiday period it has been the worst ever. However, the good news is that three new organisations have promised to provide the possibility of an improved service in Herongate, Ingrave, West Horndon and Childerditch.
The TalkTalk Development
The first is the TalkTalk Company which is leading the way and is already installing up-to-date equipment in the Herongate exchange that will provide a better service to their customers, at no extra cost. This is very good news to those broadband users who buy their services from this Internet Service Provider (ISP). The announcement speaks of a 50% improvement in performance but it is unclear which parameters are being improved, connect time, average speed, reliability or overall performance. We do know however, that this is not the super fast fibre optic service that BT has made available in Brentwood. The first installations will be complete by the end of August we will know more after that.
Buz Radio Network
The second is a company called Buz who are planning to offer a broadband service based on a radio network. A similar Buz network has gone into service in the Epping area during August. Buz have recently signed a partnership agreement with Brentwood Borough Council to cooperate in implementing a system for our Borough.
A Buz Radio Network would offer a service comparable in performance to the BT Infinity system currently available in Brentwood. Because it is a radio network without need of cable or fibre optic connections, once implementation begins, a service could well be available in a matter of months. The Buz Radio Network would not offer a telephone system.
Essex Super Fast Broadband
The third organisation is Essex County Council. The County Council has received a Government grant to promote the growth of adequate broadband in Essex over the next few years. The plan is for ECC to go into partnership with a Technical Partner to define and implement the best solution for the various parts of the County. It is believed that no one solution will meet all needs adequately. Clearly this option is likely to take rather longer than the others due to the necessity of choosing the best Technical Partner, then prioritising the various parts of the County, developing the necessary solutions deemed appropriate and finally carrying out the implementation of these solutions in the planned sequence.
To summarise, when the project began we had but one possibility for an adequate fast and reliable broadband system; that which BT/OpenReach might one day be persuaded to install for the Herongate sub-exchange. It would involve the use of fibre optic cables to speed up the network and a significant upgrade of the exchange equipment. This is the BT “Infinity” system that is currently on offer in Brentwood. This system is currently offering up to 80 Mbs to subscribers in Brentwood.
Now we have two further fast broadband possibilities, the Buz Radio Network and the Essex Super Fast Broadband system. The Buz Network could be available relatively soon and the Essex systems on a rather longer timescale.
On a more immediate basis TalkTalk are installing an improvement on their present offerings (all currently provided by BT on a wholesale arrangement) which might reasonably be hoped to provide both faster and more reliable broadband at a similar cost. This development will still provide a service at less than the present 8Mbs limit, the level of download speed will depend on a number of factors but predominantly on your distance from the exchange.
Clearly the situation is far better than when we began this campaign but only the TalkTalk development is here and now (if they are your service provider), there is still much work to do to ensure that solutions to suit us all are made available to us in a reasonable time frame.
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Broadband – The Way Forward
Such significant change in prospects of adequate broadband coming to Ingrave, Herongate, West Horndon and Childerditch demands a modification in the path we are taking to encourage the implementation of new systems.
Where we do not need to change our approach
However, we do not need to change our approach in all areas. TalkTalk have made the decision to invest in the Herongate Exchange and have already started rolling out their new, improved, system to their Customers. It is highly likely that the number of broadband users in our villages who registered their interest in better broadband to either BT or OpenReach will have influenced positively the decision to go ahead with this investment. Such a move could not possibly have been decided without the closest possible consultations with OpenReach. Remember it is OpenReach who are doing the necessary work in the exchange; TalkTalk are providing the money.
At this point it is for users of broadband on the Herongate exchange to decide if they are interested in this new offering. It is a step forward but couldn’t justify the term super fast broadband. News from early users suggests that it is more stable, more reliable and somewhat faster than the previous system on offer, at the same price or somewhat cheaper. To TalkTalk’s present customers it will be provided in due course as the rollout continues. Users of broadband from other Internet Service Providers will need to decide whether the new service is attractive enough to change to TalkTalk; needless to say TalkTalk are relying on enough people doing so to justify their investment.
Similarly Buz have already decided that they wish to offer a fast broadband service to our four villages. Again we need to take no additional action apart from making sure broadband users are aware of the availability of this offering when the time comes.
Where change is necessary
The Essex Super Fast Broadband Project is a different issue; in this case it is both a matter of who gets first priority across the whole of Essex and who fits the profile for the adopted solutions. Clearly this is another situation where we must make very clear to the decision makers in Essex County Council the extent of the problem we have and the level of demand for a solution that exists locally. The capabilities of the ECC planned offerings are likely to be similar in potential to the full upgrading of Herongate Exchange to BT ‘Infinity’ standards. A very attractive product indeed, when compared to our present situation. Fortunately, Essex County Council has provided a website which allows interested Essex residents to register their interest in Super Fast Broadband. It can be found at www.essex.gov.uk/ruralbroadband.
All residents, who use broadband in our four villages (i.e. who have 81xxxx telephone numbers) should make sure that they register on this website. This will ensure that we have the best chance of being considered favourably by Essex County Council when priorities are set and recipients of the appropriate solutions are chosen. This is all about keeping our options open – if we don’t register then this option will be denied to this area.
How does this affect BT/OpenReach
With the introduction of the new TalkTalk offering on the Herongate Exchange, for the very first time, there is an alternative to BT’s products. Remember, although previously we had a choice of many ISPs as well as BT, in practice every single broadband service was provided by BT (on a wholesale basis) only billed through your chosen ISP. This, of course, explains why when you have had major problems it usually needed a BT engineer to fix it.
The TalkTalk upgrade has forced BT to provide its service in a different way; it has now enabled “unbundling”. “Unbundling” is a rather too technical subject to be explained here but it is well described in various places that Google will happily find for you. The important issue is that it is now possible for any of the other ISP’s to do what TalkTalk has done; thus, potentially, taking more broadband business away from BT.
These changes signal that the erosion of BT’s absolute monopoly has begun in the provision of broadband to our four villages. The monopoly will be eroded further with the arrival of the Buz Radio Network or one of Essex County Council’s products. Inevitably this increase in competition will force BT to rethink their response to the broadband market dependent on the Herongate Exchange. Hopefully, they will decide to upgrade the Herongate exchange to the “Infinity” level which is the only technology they have available to them that will make them competitive once more.
It is for this reason that it is imperative that we broadband users continue with our efforts to remind BT that they do not offer an adequate service at present and that there is a strong demand for a better and faster product. The way to do this has not changed; every broadband user should register on the OpenReach website (http://www.superfast-openreach.co.uk/expression-gen.aspx) their interest in a faster and better broadband system. Additionally, we must go ahead with collecting the proof of the inadequacies of the present broadband offering and through our Parish Councils bring them to the notice of BT/OpenReach.
What we all must do
Remember it is vital that dissatisfied broadband users of the Herongate exchange wherever you live should make your wishes known to both OpenReach and Essex County Council. Use the websites shown above and make sure that each separate user in your building (whether commercial or residential) registers their interest in better broadband.
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Broadband News – Buz Network Announcement
Brentwood Borough Council has very recently signed a partnership agreement with Buz Broadband Ltd which could result in a new broadband service for our area. This system would be radio based and capable of providing a superfast service.
The signing could become a very important component in resolving the broadband issues from which we suffer. However, it is still very important that we continue our efforts to publicise our need for a better service from BT and OpenReach until we actually have the option of a cost effective, superfast, reliable broadband service in Ingrave, Herongate, West Horndon and Childerditch.
In spite of this good news please make sure that you and all your friends, colleagues and acquaintances, who have an interest in using the internet, register an interest in the option to have faster and better broadband as described in the details of the Broadband Project.
Further details of the Buz Broadband services can be found at: http://www.buzcom.net
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Broadband in Herongate and Ingrave
The levels of performance and reliability of broadband has, for a very long time, been a source of dissatisfaction in our villages. There are two ways to improve the poor service that we are experiencing every day.
The first is to improve the equipment installed in the Herongate sub-exchange so that it can cope with the loads that we collectively produce, most days, at peak times. It is likely that this loading problem is aggravated by the poor condition of telephone lines into many individual houses and offices. These issues manifest themselves through the very slow download speeds that we so often experience.
Secondly, our villages need the option of the Super Fast Broadband that is offered elsewhere in Brentwood. This offering requires the upgrading of the sub-exchange to handle data speeds of some ten times that currently accommodated. It also needs the use of fibre optic technology to link the exchange to the green distribution cabinets through which our telephone lines are connected to the exchange.
We understand that, at present, BT/Openreach has no plan to upgrade the sub-exchange or network to achieve the levels of service needed to resolve either issue. BT regards these matters as purely investment decisions, in competition with many others, so we have to convince them that the investment in the Herongate Exchange is justified.
What actions can we take to address this state of affairs? The Parish Council believe that both issues can be addressed by bringing to BT and Openreach the evidence that all broadband users attached to the Herongate sub-exchange (including broadband users in West Horndon) experience an inadequate level of service.
The first issue, the loss of satisfactory performance when broadband is most needed, can be addressed by unhappy users regularly measuring the actual download speeds they are receiving, at the good times as well as the bad. This can be achieved through use of one of the websites that offer this service.
A good example is http://www.broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk/ which seems very satisfactory provided you are careful to ignore all the adverts! It has the advantage that it will collect previous measurements and re-present them over as long a period of time as you wish. There are, of course, many other websites that offer similar services, including BT.
Individual complaints via myriad service providers do not convince Openreach of the real magnitude of the problems we share. Total failures get repaired but problems with performance and poor availability have so far not reached the critical mass needed to convince BT and Openreach that major investment is needed.
If a series of measurements collected over, say a month, were aggregated and then submitted to Openreach by the Parish Council “en masse” the evidence would have far more effect in achieving the action we need.
Would broadband users, both residential and business, please indicate their willingness to join such an evidence capturing exercise to Cllr. David Harman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Once enough volunteers are in place we will develop a plan, with suitable timings, details of the data collection process etc., for distribution to those who can help.
Our task to achieve the provision of Super Fast Broadband demands a simpler approach. Openreach have implemented a website which allows all broadband users who are interested in having the option of super fast broadband in Herongate and Ingrave to register this interest. Once an adequate level of interest is demonstrated in this way our sub-exchange has the best possible chance of being prioritised for the needed investment.
If you would benefit from improved broadband please follow these simple instructions to register your interest in a satisfactory broadband service for Herongate and Ingrave.
- Visit this website. http://www.superfast-openreach.co.uk/expression-gen.aspx for the Openreach expression of interest form.
- Complete the form about yourself and the property concerned.
- Click on: Submit
All broadband users in the household or business premises should register individually, the more users who register the more notice Openreach will take. Please encourage all your friends and acquaintances to register as well. There is no firm commitment to BT or Openreach associated with expressing an interest in this way.
If you have previously registered an interest on the BT Infinity website please reregister as above. BT has discontinued that registration method so your registration will no longer be counted.
When we can convince Openreach that there is good reason to invest the benefits that can be expected are:
- Reliable connection and stable broadband speeds
- Super fast download speeds of up to 40Mb/s
- Improved performance when the broadband is shared by more than one computer.
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