Superfast broadband finally comes to (some of) Brightling

20151215_074309On 15th December, at 7:43am – in the pre-dawn gloom and drizzle –, I encountered two workmen working on the BT cabinet opposite the Village Hall.

After first putting the men at their ease with a little light conversation, I then asked them point blank what they were doing.  It turned out that they were making the final connections to activate the “superfast” (FTTC) broadband connection for Brightling cabinet 2.  They also confessed to being the people responsible for the overnight closure of Cackle Street the previous week (so that was nothing to do with the water company).

The next day I used the checker at www.btwholesale.com/includes/adsl/adsl.htm [NB enter your phone number with no spaces] and I saw that Brightling cabinet 2 had started to offer FTTC (giving “faster” or “superfast” broadband) services.  I sent out a round robin email and I know that several people have already signed up for the new services.

That’s the good news.  The not-so-good news is that not everyone can actually get the new FTTC services.  The big problem with this roll-out, as I see it, is that the people who already got a decent service from the previous (ADSL) connections will get a really good FTTC service; the people with a barely adequate ADSL service will see little improvement from FTTC; and the people with a lousy ADSL service cannot access FTTC at all.  From the communications that I have had from various people, the biggest losers in Brightling seem to be those along Brightling Road, beyond Oxley’s Green.  These properties seem to get around 1Mbps if they are lucky, with still no FTTC option.

All this comes from East Sussex County Council’s e-Sussex scheme.  There will be a second phase of roll-out (“contract 2”) and this may address some of the “not-spots” in the present coverage, going live sometime up to summer 2017.  I have been able to determine that Brightling is included in contract 2, but further details are hard to find.

I understand that on completion of contract 2, about 97% of the premises in East Sussex will have access to faster or superfast broadband.  However, that is an average for the whole county, and it is reasonable to assume that the figure in villages like Brightling will be considerably less.  There are no specific plans at the moment to push this beyond 97%; East Sussex say that they will “continue striving to find solutions for the remaining premises that are not currently benefitting [sic] from the commercial or public investments.” – which I would translate as “we are hoping that if we wait long enough, something will turn up”.

I will be giving a brief talk on rural broadband at the January meeting of RALC (Rother Association of Local Councils) and we hope to create a consortium of parish councils which can exert more pressure on East Sussex.  I have also finally managed to arrange a meeting with Huw Merriman MP at which Peter Miles of Mountfield, and myself and a few other people will attempt to brief him on the specific problems of rural broadband.