Broadband in Brightling and Netherfield
There is some good news, but unfortunately it is completely vitiated by the bad news. The good news is that our vouchers (to help pay for upgrading the Brightling and Ashburnham exchanges to 100% full-fibre broadband) have been issued by DCMS. The bad news however, is that BT Openreach are not immediately pushing on with the plan to get the vouchers pledged and the network built (as they had originally promised they would do). This is the information that we have received from Jessica Bita (Openreach Rural Engagement Manager, South East):
“Due to unprecedented demand for our Fibre Community Partnership [FCP] scheme, we’ve take a decision to momentarily pause registrations while we work through current requests. We’re continuing to connect those communities already in progress and will seek to align any new schemes with our wider build programme to make sure we reach the most people possible.”
There is a bit of “corporate-speak” which I will attempt to interpret. “Momentarily pause registrations” is clear enough but “seek to align any new schemes with our wider build programme” means that they have gone back on their promise. Previously the plan was that (a) as soon as the vouchers were available, then we would start to raise the money (by voucher pledging) and (b) as soon as enough vouchers had been pledged, the build would start (and would be completed within approximately 12 months). Now we learn that not only is stage (a) going to be “momentarily paused” but also that stage (b) will not start as soon as possible, but rather will have to take second place to the “wider build programme”.
To find out what had happened to our voucher application, we took the following steps: we contacted our MP, our MP contacted the Minister of State at DCMS; the Minister of State investigated and replied to our MP, and the MP replied to us. That was a rather roundabout process to get the information, but at least we got it. However, the present difficulties will be much harder to overcome, since they are the direct result of government policy (to provide vouchers, but leave it to “the market” to deliver). This is my personal opinion.
It is almost exactly a year since we made our application for the CFP scheme. Andrew Hoad and I have turned everything round very promptly; none of the delays are of our making. I have no doubt that eventually we will all get full-fibre broadband, but that wasn’t our plan. If we just wanted to get it “eventually” then all we need to do is to wait. Rather our objective was to get it by mid-2022 at the latest.