Many thanks to everyone who contributed to Hambledon’s superfast broadband survey and to Jon Petersen for analysing the results. For those of you who are interested, they can be found at http://www.hambledonsurrey.co.uk/superfastsurvey/. For what happens next, read on.
Peter Howell-Davies, the Hambledon Parish Clerk and Tim Forrest (representing Chiddingfold Parish Council) have met Peter Martin (Deputy Leader, Surrey County Council) and members of his Superfast Surrey team to discuss progress to date and the problems facing Hambledon and Chiddingfold. BT claim that 96 per cent of Surrey premises can now access speeds of at least 15 mbps but this is not borne out in practice. It takes no account of variations as between urban and rural areas – for example, the recent Hambledon survey of premises which get their broadband via Cabinet 6 shows that the superfast guarantee applies to only 61 per cent of them. Data issued by BT seem to bear little relation to what is happening on the ground as revealed by the actual experience of individual users, and might not therefore be the best basis from which to determine who should benefit from further Surrey Superfast intervention or BT up-grades. The results of the Hambledon survey are therefore being passed on to Superfast Surrey.
Once data produced by BT (and, we hope, others such as Hambledon Parish Council) has been analysed, intervention work to make good shortfalls in coverage has to be approved by the EU. Only when this has been done can Superfast Surrey and BT move on to recommending which premises should benefit from intervention. Proposals to this end then have to be submitted to one month’s public consultation before they can be signed off.
Whatever intervention package is proposed, it will have to show that it represents value for money and fairness. The latter criterion could prove particularly difficult in the case of what are currently estimated to be up to 20,000 disenfranchised rural premises across the county, given their location and, in some cases, the distances between them. Intervention may also be required in some urban areas.
The most optimistic time frames are that the EU will rule sometime in April whether intervention can proceed. If it does, and so long as no new or additional conditions are imposed, work could start in 2017. In the meantime, the future of the 39 per cent of out-of-range Hambledon premises remains uncertain. Some may want to take immediate action to access superfast via satellite, wireless and/or mobile services (although none is fool proof). Others may prefer to wait and see whether the forthcoming intervention programme holds out any hopes for them. If it does not, it may be necessary to consider possibilities for individually or collectively funding an own-initiative with Openreach or another service provider.