Broadband Update (Agenda Item 6)
To receive a presentation from Karen O’Kane, Norfolk County Council, and John Cullum, Better Broadband for Norfolk BT Openreach lead.
Karen O’Kane (Norfolk County Council) accompanied by John Cullum (Better Broadband for Norfolk, Open Reach Lead), gave a presentation (copy attached) and explained the next stage of the roll-out and changes to the way in which information would be provided.
The main aim of the project was to achieve maximum coverage for the money. No community would be favoured over another.
The first contract had achieved 80% coverage. The second contract would be in two stages. The first stage would use money from the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the County Council and the Government to increase coverage to 90%. The second stage would use the underspend (currently about £10million), clawback money (about £5million) and the money contributed by the District Councils to increase coverage to about 95% in Norfolk.
The way in which information would be provided and how the public would be able to access a mapping tool for address level checks on what coverage they could expect, was explained. Information on speed and access would be available to the public. More detailed information would be provided to District Councils quarterly, some of that information would be confidential.
The Chairman asked about the accuracy of the information and Ms O’Kane explained that 15,000 lines had been tested and feedback from the public had been collected to provide the figures. Some of the data was out-of-date and in those cases it was likely that properties would have better speeds than listed.
Councillor Bambridge noted that Lyng had got reasonable speed for Broadband but it had severe problems with internet and telephone landlines not working. As the village had no mobile coverage and no phone box some families were cut-off at times. Ms O’Kane said that she would look at Lyng as it sounded like there was a fault. She stressed the importance of people reporting issues to their service providers. The service providers would contact Open Reach if there was a fault. She explained that service providers gave different speeds. That might be due to the number of people sharing Broadband access. She encouraged people to ask their neighbours what speed they were getting. If people using different service providers were all suffering from low speeds it was likely to be a problem. If they were receiving different speeds it might be worth people changing provider. The ‘Think Broadband’ website had lots of useful information. Speed could also be affected by how far a property was from the box.
Councillor Joel asked about Old Buckenham where there were three exchanges but some areas of very poor Broadband speed. Ms O’Kane advised that it was likely that 94% of the village would be covered by high speed Broadband and anyone that had made an enquiry would be contacted with that information.
The first contract had provided 680 additional cabinets. More would be needed for smaller communities, but they required a lot of work and forward planning as they involved road closures.
Councillor M Chapman-Allen asked about Blo’Norton. It was less than two miles from Garboldisham which had a major exchange, but it received slow Broadband speed.
Mr Cullum explained that Garboldisham was not a fibre-enabled exchange and that Attleborough was the primary fibre enabled exchange for Blo’Norton. There were 159 local telephone exchanges in Norfolk of which 18 were fibre enabled. They used different infrastructure.
Ms O’Kane advised that three quarters of Blo’Norton would be included in the next tranche of roll-out. The two contracts were being amalgamated to produce an optimum plan for the roll-out. It was being done in the most efficient order to reduce costs which was why they had got a £10million underspend.
She concluded the presentation by advising that those areas which had a red dot on the mapping tool would not be covered. However, there was a basic Broadband scheme and there might be a wireless solution which would be covered by the Government’s voucher scheme, as well as satellite provision.
Councillor Sharpe asked if the Council’s contribution had been spent and which areas had gained from that money. He was told that the Council’s money would be spent last, probably in 2019/20. At the moment the money was still held by the Council.
Councillor Joel asked about Broadband provision for a new school and Mr Cullum explained that developers were encouraged to register their sites. It they were over a certain size they would be offered fibre access. Below that threshold the developer would be required to provide a financial contribution to enable access.
Councillor Jermy thanked Ms O’Kane for her presentation and said he was impressed by the level of her knowledge, not just for Breckland but for the whole of Norfolk.
Mr Milner (Old Buckenham Parish Council) also thanked Ms O’Kane for responding to the many e-mails she had received about Stacksford. He asked why Open Reach did not consult residents as they could provide a wealth of knowledge of local anomalies and issues.
Ms O’Kane explained that Open Reach was prohibited from speaking directly to end users. That was why she urged people to contact their service providers as they then contacted Open Reach.
Councillor M Chapman-Allen asked if the Council would have any input on where its money was spent. She was advised that the money was likely to be spent under contract three when there would probably be more claw-back money as well. However, there would have to be a full-blown procurement exercise to make a robust value-for-money case.
The Chairman thanked Ms O’Kane and Mr Cullum for attending.