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Standard User scottypick
(newbie) Sun 08-Jan-17 22:12:48
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Broadband Not Spot discrimination in Birmingham B31

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Imagine being a prospective home buyer in early 2013. Your looking to buy a house for your young family and based on the financial crisis you have to look towards new build houses just to get onto the housing ladder.

You see a new development on some old council land where the houses are a reasonable price, but there’s two house builders. So, you make your choice based on the quality of the house build, the layout of the house and the value for money of the overall property.

Also, owning a telecoms and IT business, you take into consideration the connectivity speeds available from broadband in the area. Both builders confirmed during initial discussions that there was no Virgin Media in the area and that the local provider was BT. So, based on the fact there was no overriding factor for connectivity from either builder, it was a case of choosing the right house and waiting for Openreach (The national monopoly) to enable our local cabinet for superfast broadband.

We bought our house from the builder of the smaller development in March 2013.

Once you move in, you get your landline connected and you hold your breath once the broadband is live to see what sort of speeds you can achieve based on the quality of the copper of your line and the “indicated speeds” from your provider.

Speeds of less than 2MB download and 0.3MB upload are completely not practical for anything other than basic web browsing these days, so to find out this was the maximum we could get was not the best news I’ve ever heard in my life considering we thought we would get anywhere up to 6MB download on provider estimates.

So imagine in an ever increasing world of online and digital dependence you cannot use your SKY on demand or catch up TV, you can’t Skype your family in Northern Ireland, you can’t download films, you definitely cannot use your Xbox for online gaming or film / TV streaming, you can’t use online WEBEX’s, Microsoft Office 365, IP telephony, remote access to your companies computer systems or a plethora of other services.

To add to this, our telephone lines are connected to a cabinet which is over half a mile away across the housing estates which suffer from voltage issues which means broadband constantly goes down to a point where you must have an Openreach visit just to get it back up and running. Even when your line is up and running, imagine never consistently getting the depressing download / upload speeds which render any type of usage on your broadband pointless.

After 2 years of having to take a 22 mile round trip to my offices, wasting on average 2 hours of my working day just to get any sort of decent connectivity I began to despair at the fact that there was still no sign of Cabinet 18 being upgraded by Openreach. Going onto their “Where and When” online tracker was a weekly moment of despair.

I tried working from my local gym whose Wi-Fi always managed to drop out at the most horrendous times. This was a double whammy as my Vodafone signal for my mobile wasn’t great there either. So only a two mile round trip to try and work, but even more stress when the connectivity just didn’t work.

Towards the end of 2015 I turned into our housing estate via the larger house builders section to see a joyous site in front of me, a Virgin Media van.

Giddy excited I approached the engineer working on a cabinet and asked him was Virgin Media coming to the area? He looked back at me completely confused. “Its been here for ages mate” he replied. I was completely stunned as I consistently checked the Virgin Media “Cable my Street” website and our road wasn’t on their schedule. I asked him if he was sure, he replied “100% mate, except for that small pocket of houses over there, their house builder wouldn’t give us access to their ducting so they don’t have it.”. Basically, he was suggesting that Galliford Try - the owner of Kier Homes who built our house had denied Virgin Media access to their site and therefore robbed anyone in our development of up to 100MB broadband.

I was absolutely furious and sent an email to Keir Homes which was never responded to. I couldn’t believe that the sales person at the other house builder didn’t know they had given Virgin Media access to their ducting to provide their services which would have been a clear reason to buy one of their houses.

As I pulled onto my drive way, my neighbour was just coming out of his house and I told him about what had just happened. At this point he told me about all his efforts in writing to our local MP Richard Burden who was doing all he could through Digital Birmingham, Galliford Try and Virgin Media to resolve our situation.

To make matters even worse, within weeks of finding out about Virgin Media on the bigger development we found out that a BT Openreach cabinet only 50 Meters from my front door had been upgraded to superfast broadband.

So basically, at one end of our street was 100MB Virgin Media fibre and at the other end of our street was 70MB superfast broadband whilst we had broadband which hardly reached 2MB when it was working.

My broadband became so bad that after being completely offline from 23rd February 2016 through to the 30th March 2016 I just cancelled my service completely. What was the point of paying for something that hardly ever worked?

I even had a visit from Openreach who blamed my internal extension wiring for the voltage faults on my line, which then led me to disconnect my internal extensions from the main Openreach socket. I found out 3 days after I had done this that at least 3 other people in our street where suffering from the same issues and I had disconnected my internal extension wiring for no reason.

So, as I write this blog, I haven’t had home broadband for 10 months (Jan 17).

There was a small saving grace for a month. When I upgraded our Vodafone contract in my business at the beginning of April, Vodafone gave us unlimited data for a month as a “data trial”.

Over the Vodafone 4G mobile network, we were receiving 45MB download and 15MB upload speeds. So for one beautiful month, we could watch catchup TV, Skype our family in Northern Ireland, update all the devices in the house which needed a software update, stream live TV anywhere around the house, join WEBEX’s and access all my companies IT systems without issue.

Unfortunately, although Vodafone’s 4G network is amazing where we live, you cannot buy a tariff big enough to run your houses internet usage on, therefore once we got to May 2016, it was back to the dark ages.

So back to the main issue at hand.

Our house and all other houses on the two developments are built on land previously owned by Birmingham City Council (so I’m told).

Virgin Media who are in the area have confirmed to Birmingham City Council that they would like to provide their services to all the houses in our street and would need to dig up the foot paths to achieve this. Game on, thank you Virgin Media.

However, Birmingham City Council who owned the land have stated that the road still hasn’t been handed over from Galliford Try so it can’t be adopted. However, I have seen information to state Galliford Try have handed the road back over to be adopted.

Once the road is adopted (even though this should have happened over 12 months ago im led to believe) the council can grant Virgin Media access to provide the services to our house. Wait for it – I have seen correspondence that when the road is adopted that they won’t allow Virgin Media to dig up the footpaths unless they return them to the standard they found them.

So Virgin Media rightly it seems will not dig up the path as its unviable for them to provide the services and then pay for the footpaths to be recovered with tarmac for only 18 houses or so.

Openreach – the national monopoly has decided its unviable for them to upgrade Cabinet 18 to superfast broadband due to the fact Virgin Media are in the area and therefore they won’t get enough customers to make their money back……

Now the plot thickens even further!

Birmingham City Council who still haven’t accepted the adoption of our road and won’t let Virgin Media dig the foot paths up to provide much needed broadband services to us have “LET” Virgin Media dig the footpaths on a road which runs parallel to us and was part of the same development as ours. The houses on this road were completed on one side, then nearly two years later the other house builder completed their houses on the opposite side of the road. The road on this street was finished to the same standard as ours before the new construction started so it shouldn’t have been adopted based on the principal of our road and therefore why should they grant access to Virgin Media to dig up the footpaths on that road but not ours????

So after nearly 4 years of absolutely shocking broadband we are left with the following situation:

a) Galliford Try our house builder allegedly finished the road over 12 months ago to be adopted by Birmingham City Council who still haven’t completed the process
b) Virgin Media want to provide services to our road but Birmingham City Council will not allow them to until the road is adopted
c) Its alleged that Birmingham City Council will not let Virgin Media dig the road up even when it is adopted unless they recover all the tarmac on the footpaths
d) Virgin Media cannot afford to provide the services to our road when the road is finally adopted due to it costing too much to recover the tarmac of the entire footpaths
e) Openreach – the national monopoly has decided that because Virgin Media are in the area it is uneconomical for them to provide services
f) Openreach will not rewire our houses to the cabinet which is 50 meters away from our front door which has Superfast broadband.
g) Birmingham City Council have now let Virgin Media dig up the footpaths on an adjacent road which was completed to the same standard as our road by the same house builder but won’t let Virgin Media dig up our footpaths
h) We have 100MB Virgin Media at one end of our street and 70MB superfast Openreach broadband at the other

It feels right now our street is clearly being discriminated against by Birmingham City Council due to services being allowed to an adjacent` street. Apart from burning cars at the end of the street or donning a Batman suit and scaling the roof of our houses with banners to drum up some local press attention, I have absolutely no idea what to do next.

The infrastructure planning in our country leaves a lot to be desired. How can two house builders on essentially the same development have completely different communication providers, which leads to the situation that our street is dealing with right now?

Based on an average of two trips a week for nearly 4 years I have managed to waste 4576 miles, 416 hours, £2,288 in driving costs along with an average of £2,400 in extra mobile data charges. Not to mention the potential loss in value of my house compared to other houses on my estate due to everybody wanting decent broadband speeds when they buy houses now.

We are not asking for much, just some common sense, maybe some compassion and the right to have services nearly everyone else within half a square mile of our location has.

Please get in touch if you could offer any advice to help us in our quest to get superfast broadband for our street.
Standard User lee111s
(experienced) Sun 08-Jan-17 22:25:07
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Re: Broadband Not Spot discrimination in Birmingham B31

[re: scottypick] [link to this post]
You bought a house knowing the state of play.

If it's that important, I suggest you kick off a community funded partnership with Openreach.

They're a private, profit generating business, not a charity.
Administrator MrSaffron
(staff) Sun 08-Jan-17 22:37:01
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Re: Broadband Not Spot discrimination in Birmingham B31

[re: scottypick] [link to this post]
When developers build it is private land so no telecoms firms have a right to access with out permission.

The road adoption issue has and will always be a major issue for many things not just broadband and is one of the reasons why many house hunters don't buy new build.

The author of the above post is a thinkbroadband staff member. It may not constitute an official statement on behalf of thinkbroadband.

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Standard User scottypick
(newbie) Sun 08-Jan-17 22:44:36
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Re: Broadband Not Spot discrimination in Birmingham B31

[re: lee111s] [link to this post]
thanks lee, makes perfect sense.... maybe you should negotiate the Brexit??? I'm just looking forward to Openreach in general being taken to task by Ofcom over their split from BT and providers getting access to their ducting so fibre is available to the majority as its a fundamental right these days I believe.
Standard User scottypick
(newbie) Sun 08-Jan-17 22:51:34
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Re: Broadband Not Spot discrimination in Birmingham B31

[re: MrSaffron] [link to this post]
Hi Andrew, its a fair comment of sorts....

Essentially 4 years ago, most house buyers didn't have access to Fibre Broadband on mass so your argument is kind of flawed as a lot of households where waiting to see if their cabinet would be enabled. The information on if your cabinet was going to be enabled was inherently poor until Openreach updated their "When and When" checker which now gives useful information out. My beef is with the council, not Openreach as such as if they would let a provider do what they did on an adjacent road then we would have had fibre a year ago. Our general laws for comms providers (mobile operators too) are way behind the continent. Ive debated this with senior management within the UK's biggest telecoms providers.
Standard User AndyHCZ
(committed) Sun 08-Jan-17 23:29:00
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Re: Broadband Not Spot discrimination in Birmingham B31

[re: scottypick] [link to this post]
PIA is a complete waste of time. OFCOM hopes it will drive competition and improve coverage, but tell me one thing: Which companies have actively stated they will build nationwide fibre networks using PIA?

The fact is, BT is a private company. It makes no sense for any private company to make an investment in an asset if it does not see a ROI that meets its strategic targets.

In my view, the government should have (and could have) legislated for all new builds to be required to have superfast broadband access years ago. This would have avoided the issue now that we see where developers basically took the cheaper option and did not want to pay the additional premium for superfast broadband access.

I would contact the BT Community Partnership scheme and see what it would cost for super/ultrafast access.
Standard User mlmclaren
(knowledge is power) Mon 09-Jan-17 01:47:29
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Re: Broadband Not Spot discrimination in Birmingham B31

[re: scottypick] [link to this post]
wow can't believe this is still ongoing.... I would of thought BCC and Virgin Media would have sorted this by now....

I think binning off the phone line was a good idea to be fair.... I doubt you used much data on it anyway.

Have you looked at satellite broadband solutions.... not great but better than 2mbps thats for sure.

Or you could look at EE... I know they did a 50GB home broadband thing which looked half decent...


Connected at home and on the move by Virgin Media.
Standard User WWWombat
(knowledge is power) Mon 09-Jan-17 02:57:54
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Re: Broadband Not Spot discrimination in Birmingham B31

[re: scottypick] [link to this post]
New builds - messy. (TLDR? Don't buy without a guarantee over broadband, backed by a financial penalty written into your contract. The best penalty is to tie it to completion. Next best to withold some money at completion. If you can't get this into a contract, don't buy)

Oops - You owned a telecom business, yet in 2013 you moved into new build without checking, with certainty, your broadband requirements were met? Why? What would you have recommended to clients?

If you came on here, this was the kind of commentary going on in 2013. Or this.

Yes - Adopting roads is a convoluted and time-consuming process. There is nothing to incentivise a council to act quickly, and everything (via their lack of money) to incentivise them to not adopt a road until it is in perfect condition. They insist on reinstatement because they don't want to assume the financial liability for poor roadworks. Assume it will take years, as arguments ensue over fixing things ... but there is nothing new about this related to broadband.

VM might be gaining access to the other street with permission from the developer, rather than the council. Your developer, however, has no properties left to sell, so has no incentive to allow VM to rip apart the streets; they just want to minimise remedial work, and get the road adopted ASAP.

Key: The time to best incentivise a developer is before they get hold of your money.

No - Openreach do not treat VM's presence as a disincentive to invest. It can even be considered as an extra incentive. In the commercial rollout, BT reached 67% of the UK. Within that portion, 36% overlapped Virgin, 31% didn't overlap Virgin.

No - Openreach are not a national monopoly. They are forced to be the USO provider, even if they make a loss, when no-one else can be bothered, But that still only gets you 28kbps dial-up, and adoption might get in the way anyway.

Yes - Copper re-arrangement can be a costly process, as it requires ducts to be added, or to be used in a way that isn't a natural flow of cables ... important to remember that BT have to continue maintaining the infrastructure for 50 years. They do do it when subsidies are available ... but Birmingham have never made use of their BDUK funds, and have no BDUK project.

I have absolutely no idea what to do next

Really? With a telecom and IT business?

One of the most obvious possibilities is to team up with someone on the covered part of the estate, install a BT or VM line over there (or just share their connection), and run a point-to-point wireless connection back to your house.

There's some discussion of Ubiquiti equipment over on this thread:

If more houses care, then share that, via a ptmp setup. Or investigate a community fibre partnership. The adoption issue might cause problems, but might not.
Standard User WWWombat
(knowledge is power) Mon 09-Jan-17 03:05:15
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Re: Broadband Not Spot discrimination in Birmingham B31

[re: scottypick] [link to this post]
In reply to a post by scottypick:
I'm just looking forward to Openreach in general being taken to task by Ofcom over their split from BT and providers getting access to their ducting so fibre is available to the majority as its a fundamental right these days I believe.

You think that will help?

I expect that a split will cause BT to take their eyes of the ball WRT completing superfast, at minimum. I expect their attention will be placed firmly on fighting the split legally.

I expect PIA2 to perhaps interest a few (very few) providers, which will aim at a 10-20% coverage, over time. That'll be the most competitive percentiles, and a lot of years.

I'm not sure it'll get to you in a hurry.
Standard User B31
(member) Mon 09-Jan-17 07:39:57
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Re: Broadband Not Spot discrimination in Birmingham B31

[re: MrSaffron] [link to this post]
I also live on this estate. I was given a false speed estimate when I moved in. 6-7Mbps if I recall correctly. That sounded reasonable and i assumed fibre wouldn't be far away. I got 1.4Mbps for the first 3 years.

Technically the developer has never owned the land/road - it was council land and the developer was working in partnership. There's nothing to adopt really, there is/was an mou/shadow s38 agreement.

Via my MP we've been to director level at the council. They say lessons must be learned from this - but no one seems to want to sort out this mess.

I mostly blame the council - so what if the pavement looks a bit messy, just let VM dig - there's already patches and repairs along the road from various other services e.g. water etc.

I'm not sure how viable a community funded solution would be, as a lot of houses on the small estate are not owned. It's a small amount of houses anyway and a long way back to the Exchange.

BT ADSL customer getting 3.8 Mbps (0.7 Mbps up) on a new road / new build development
(It was around 1.6 to 1.9 Mbps when I moved in)
CAB not FTTC enabled, not part of the 66% commercial plan. Not a BDUK area. Hoping the council will let VM in-fill.
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