Local Government boundaries – update December 2015

Following comments last month, Rother did take our concerns on board, and their final recommendation is that (for local government purposes) Brightling will become part of a new ward, to be called “Burwash and the Weald”, comprised of Mountfield, Brightling, Burwash and Etchingham. The Local Government Boundary Commission for England will take this recommendation into consideration and publish their proposals in March 2016. Members of the public, parish councils and so on, will then have an opportunity to comment on these proposals before a final decision is made.

That’s the current situation regarding the Rother District Council ward. I am not sure what the current situation is regarding East Sussex County Council boundary changes. I will try and find out and report back here. All this is quite separate from parliamentary constituency boundaries, which are handled by a different commission.

Defibrillator #2?

The recently acquired defibrillator, mounted outside the entrance to the Village Hall
The recently acquired defibrillator, mounted outside the entrance to the Village Hall

Hopefully most people know by now that we have a defibrillator mounted on the wall of the Village Hall, and that it can be used safely by anyone without any training.   According to the British Heart Foundation, after a cardiac arrest, every minute without CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and defibrillation reduces someone’s chance of survival by 10 per cent.   To be useful to everyone, it has been suggested, defibrillators should become as widespread as fire extinguishers, or lifebelts at the sea side. Brightling being a fairly scattered village, we could benefit from having more than one, and we are now looking for a second location – Oxleys Green has been identified as a likely spot. We would need to find somewhere to mount it.

If you have any thoughts, please feel free to use the comments box below.

Problems with the waterworks – December 2015

SouthEastWaterLogoThere have been a number of problems with water supply, ie complete absence of water for several hours on Tuesday 24th and Sunday 29th November, and Wednesday 2nd and Friday 4th December. This is generally followed by discoloured and/or smelly water when it is reconnected. There may have been earlier episodes as well but we don’t have exact details.

There were emergency road works in Cackle Street recently which may also have had to do with the water supply. In which case it may be that things will now go back to normal.

We discussed this at the Parish Council meeting on 7th December 2015 and resolved to contact South-East Water with our concerns. If we continue to get on-going problems we will invite someone from South-East Water to come to a Parish Council meeting and ask them what they are going to do to improve our service. My own feeling is that we should wait and see if things get back to normal; if they don’t then we can certainly follow up in this way.

I think it is always worth phoning up South-East water each time you get a problem – even if you think someone else has done so. If you do that then they will (usually) phone you back when service is restored. If we do get on-going problems then will be very useful if we can build up a list of specific dates and times, so do please feel free to use the comments box at the end of this post to record the details if it happens in the future. The same applies to any breaks in electricity supply.

South East Water contact details.

Broadband

Where are we with super-fast broadband? is a question that I get asked from time to time, and it is a good one. We (Brightling) were promised our upgrade by December 2015, so the deadline is pretty close! Here is what I know.

BrightlingFibreOpticCabinet2
Openreach Fibre-optic cabinet opposite the Village Hall

Brightling has two cabinets. Cabinet 1 is at Darwell Hole crossroads, and Cabinet 2 is outside the Village Hall. Anyone in Brightling with a landline service is wired to one or the other of these cabinets.

Both cabinets are now connected back to the exchange by fibre-optic cables, but at the time of writing, a couple of weeks before Christmas 2015, only cabinet 1 has actually been turned on.

So if you are connected to cabinet 1, you may already be able to get “super-fast broadband”, or at any rate “faster broadband”. What’s the difference? “Super-fast” is defined as 24Mbps or above. But being connected to a fibre-enabled cabinet does not necessarily mean that you can get super-fast: it depends how close you are to the cabinet. If you are really close, you can get up to 80Mbps download speed. If you are a bit further away you may get something better than 24Mbps, ie super-fast. A bit further away still and you will get less than 24Mbps but more than the previous ADSL service – people in this band are described as getting “faster broadband”. A bit further away still and you will get no benefit from the fibre-enabling of the cabinet at all – you might as well stay on the ADSL service. (I should explain that ADSL is the service that uses copper wires all the way to the exchange, following the voice line; ADSL is what we were all on until the advent of fibre optics, and of course many of us – including all the Brightlingers on cabinet 2 – are still on ADSL).

By the way, don’t assume that because you live near Darwell Hole, that you are therefore connected to Cabinet 1. In fact as far as I can see, cabinet 1 serves people up Netherfield Hill and towards Woods Corner, and houses on the Penhurst side of the crossroads, but people in Riverhouses and further up Cackle Street seem to be served by Cabinet 2.

The best place to find out if you can get super-fast or faster broadband is to put your phone number into this web page: www.btwholesale.com/includes/adsl/adsl.htm If you see the magic letters “FTTC” (which stands for Fibre To The Cabinet) among the “Featured products” then hooray! you can get superfast or faster broadband, and you can see your maximum theoretical speeds. If you only see “ADSL” and “Fixed rate” then no luck yet.

Just because FTTC (delivering superfast or faster broadband) is available to you doesn’t mean that you will get it automatically; in fact you will stay on ADSL unless or until you make a specific decision to upgrade. If you do decide to upgrade, you do not have to use BT as your supplier. Even if you get your phone service from BT you are not obliged to get your broadband from them: there are other suppliers. Whoever you go with, the underlying technology is still supplied by BT Wholesale (Openreach) but the level of service from different suppliers does vary considerably – things like how helpful they are when you have a problem.

Experience in Mountfield when they got their upgrade earlier this year is that the results were very mixed. Only those people living very near to a cabinet get the full superfast experience; quite a few have seen no improvement whatsoever and there is considerable frustration about this.

I recently met with two East Sussex County Councillors to discuss the concerns following Mountfield’s experience. ESCC are responsible for implementing a project which is now supposed to deliver superfast broadband to 96% of the county by 2016. This figure is across the whole county, so the percentage in rural areas will be much less. This can be contrasted with the promise, made in an ESCC press release in December 2011, to deliver superfast broadband to “everyone in East Sussex” by the end of 2013. Two years after this deadline has passed, they now prefer to describe this as an “aspiration” – meaning that they would like to do it (of course) but there are no specific plans, budget or timescale for achieving it.

Broadband is about a lot more than downloading those cute cat videos a bit quicker. Increasingly services are delivered “digital-only” – for example we no longer get printed copies of planning applications, we have to download them over the internet, which can take a very long time indeed with the present standard of connection. More generally, high-speed broadband is crucial in attracting and retaining businesses in rural locations. Even something like a holiday cottage can be downgraded if it has poor broadband.

A couple of weeks ago I contacted our MP to request a meeting to discuss concerns about rural broadband. I got an acknowledgement that my email had been received. If I get an actual response to the meeting request, I will write about it here.

I would be very interested in hearing of people’s experience of broadband speeds, both before and after any upgrade. A good place to check you speed is at http://www.speedtest.btwholesale.com/ This site measures the actual speed of a test download on a specific computer at a specific moment in time. That is in contrast to www.btwholesale.com/includes/adsl/adsl.htm which tells you what your phone line is theoretically capable of delivering.   Your actual speed will probably never reach the theoretical maximum but if you are getting less than 75% of it then there may be something wrong with your set-up.  But this is a complex subject, and I may have over-simplified it.

Please feel free to use the comments box at the end of this post to record the results of your speed tests – before or after upgrading – and any other thoughs on this subject – it would be very interesting to try and build up a picture of different people’s experiences round the parish.