We always welcome a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers. If you have something you’d like to share, get in touch. This one from Thomas Cowley. Ed
Dear OnTheWight readers,
Today, with the post came an A3 leaflet promoting the Big BT Broadband Sale. Particularly of interest to me was the Infinity offer – £7.50 a month for the first six months for speeds up to five times faster than my current 2.5mb BT ADSL connection. With Infinity, for the first time since Blockbuster in Newport closed, I would be in a position to rent films and stream them to my TV!
As those who have watched the progress of the funding for broadband enablement will know, the IWC is in the process of giving £3m to BT so they can enable ‘superfast’ broadband across the Island. Surely with this new cash injection now secure, BT would be pressing on with enabling their customers across the Island?
My own experience of BT’s promises about superfast broadband enablement may well serve to illustrate possibly what the Island is going to experience as the BT project to enable faster speeds progresses.
This is I’d describe it as broken promises, delays and no improvement whatsoever.
In Northwood we were first promised superfast broadband enablement in March last year. As someone who works in the technology sector, the date rather stuck in my mind. It was as exciting as when my house in Newport was ADSL enabled in July 2003.
Reasonable excuse for the delay
Unfortunately when I went to look, once the date had passed, I was disappointed to find it had been moved to September. Thankfully we had engineers on our road, replacing the poles, so I went and quizzed them.
Apparently a duct had collapsed in the road, which was necessary to get the fibre to our (already installed) cabinet. I’m a patient kinda guy, so I waited – it’s an understandable problem and one they would surely resolve fast enough, right?
Another missed deadline
The duct was replaced, last summer. We reached the end of September and……. The date was pushed out to October. Since then as we have passed each month end the date has been moved out another month, until the end of December, when the enablement date moved two months, to the end of February 2014.
Despite all of the promises we understand BT have made to the IWC, is it possible that so many of us are going to see this sort of elastic timescale for enablement? To me, it seems pretty likely.
Choice of tens of providers?
One of the key things BT were trumpeting during their charm offensive for the superfast broadband enablement, was that their network would enable a choice of tens of providers to offer broadband to our properties and businesses.
Unfortunately all the evidence suggests this also isn’t really happening. Of the 22 potential providers who could be present in the Cowes exchange, only four have stepped up to put equipment in the building.
As it turns out (unsurprisingly) even the town-based exchanges on the Island simply don’t serve a large enough body of customers to stimulate investment by the alternative internet service providers (ISPs).
Instead we’re just choosing who bills us for BT to provide the wholesale service underneath.
Even looking at the list of four, they represent represent the most terrible of customer experiences available when trying to resolve a fault. They are the providers I would most pointedly avoid if I wanted a good quality service.
A disappointing verdict
In light of the challenging financial circumstances delivered to the council by both the previous administration and the current Government, the decision to take the opportunity to place over £3.65m of Council Tax funds into BT’s corporate coffers in the hope of better services for residents and local businesses remains a disappointing verdict.
It also appears the results of the project are likely to continue to disappoint, too.
Local ISPs will suffer
Aside from contributing to the funding crisis we are facing, the worst aspect of the whole scenario is that it leaves our local ISP businesses such as WightFibre and Click4Internet in a position where they will struggle to make a business case for improved coverage and speeds because of the unfair competition they face from state-funded BT.
If the money hasn’t been handed over to BT, maybe it’s time to put a stop to the plans before the IWC finds itself out-gunned by BT’s corporate lawyers? No doubt they will be demanding payment despite the service not meeting targets as they will say they have made ‘best efforts’ to deliver the service.
Protect core services AND local employers
I’m subject to BT’s best efforts at the moment and unfortunately they show no improvement in customer experience or available bandwidth in over a decade, when the Cowes exchange was initially enabled for ADSL.
Tough times call for tough decisions. Not spending £3.65m that is unlikely to deliver its objectives anyway should not be a tough call when looking to make savings to protect our core services AND protect local employers. Come on IWC – do the right thing and pull the funding!