Friday, 14 August 2015
£410m has been committed to help Scotland access Superfast internet by 2017 and Fife has set a target to ensure over 98% of premises can access speeds up to 80Mb by then. Things are well on track and we have helped a vast number of our clients benefit from these upgrades already. However, there are still businesses left limping along on sub-standard speeds with no clue as to whether or not they are going to be able to access these speeds.
As ‘Superfast broadband’ (otherwise known as Fibre To The Cabinet or FTTC) is a residentially led product, many business areas have been ‘skipped’ during the initial phase of the rollout as BT would say that businesses should not be relying on a residential type product to run their business and that they should be getting Ethernet services with guaranteed service levels. It is worth noting that private Ethernet services are available to all giving up to 100Mb speeds, but for smaller businesses (less than 10 employees) these are not an affordable solution. My previous article Broadband – speed vs reliability discusses the pro’s and cons of Superfast vs Ethernet.
So, for smaller businesses looking for Superfast as a solution, why is it so hard to find out if and when it is going to arrive? There are a couple of reasons:
1. Exchange vs cabinet info
Much of the information regarding the rollout is available by ‘exchange’, however as the name suggests (fibre to the cabinet) it is also important to know when your ‘cabinet’ is being upgraded. Online checkers are now giving cabinet-level info but there is often very little indication as to if and when it will arrive if it is not already there. Look out for boxes like this springing up at the end of your street. The new checkers provide information by cabinet but it can be hit and miss so it’s always worth double-checking with us or your current provider.
2. Providing a level playing field to service providers
We have tried through many avenues to find out, or get a ‘heads up’ on when an area will be enabled for Superfast but have been told by all parties that they cannot provide this information as they cannot give preferential treatment to one provider over another so the information must be gained through publicly accessible routes.
3. Openreach rollout vs Digital Scotland rollout
BT Openreach have their own plans to rollout Superfast broadband where they believe it to be financially viable to do so and this information is available easily on any broadband checker website. However, details of the government funded rollout (where BT deem it financially unviable) do not show up on Openreach’s checkers as Digital Scotland hold this information.
4. Over promise, under-deliver
Although it may be financially viable for the number of users on the cabinet from an Openreach point of view, these other factors can affect installation of cabinets so Openreach and Digital Scotland do not release confirmation of ‘when and where’ until very late on in the process, so as to not fail to provide where they once assumed they would.
There are many factors that affect whether FTTC can be installed to a cabinet. This could be as simple as no power supply – fibre cabinets require a power supply whereas the older cabinets do not. Planning permission needs to be sought in certain conservation areas for the new green cabinet to be installed. The Openreach checkers can tell you very quickly if you can get fibre and this is quite straightforward do. However if you can't get it yet, finding out if and when it is going to arrive is not quite as simple.
Having tried to do this for numerous clients and businesses below is a 4 step process to clarify exactly when, if ever, you are due to receive fibre broadband:
1. Check Openreach's checker to see if you can currently receive fibre services here: http://www.superfast-openreach.co.uk/where-and-when/
2. If this is unclear, check with digital Scotland to see if they hold any further info: http://www.digitalscotland.org/superfast-broadband/where-and-when/
3. If this says ‘yes’ but not ‘when’, then e-mail digital Scotland with your address and telephone number to see if they can let you know when they are likely to bring Superfast broadband to your specific premises and confirm whether you are in their rollout plans. E-mail them on Superfast@scotland.gsi.gov.uk
4. As a last resort check Fife Councils planning applications to see if any applications have been made to install a new cabinet. You can check through this ready prepared search here. http://planning.fife.gov.uk/online/advancedSearchResults.do?action=firstPage
Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you would like help or advice on what broadband you have access to, and when superfast might be coming. You can reach Martin Kershaw on 0131 3000103 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Martin Kershaw - 09/03/2015