back to article UK's Superfast Broadband programme delivered value for money, says report, just don't ask about rural deployments

An independent review of the coalition-era Superfast Broadband programme published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) today argues Britain received value for money, although some rural areas are still waiting for the cable guy. The Superfast programme aimed to improve connectivity to 5.5 million …

  1. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Superfast?

    '"superfast” isn’t a technical term, but rather was conjured to refer to connections with download speeds between 30Mbps and 300Mbps.'

    On the edge of one of the most commercially intensive towns in Hertfordshire (UK), which is hardly "rural" we have a 30Mbps VDSL account that delivers about 6Mbps at best (sometimes down to 1Mbps).

    1. Shadow Systems

      Re: Superfast?

      I'm in a similar boat WRT living on the outskirts of Silicon Valley where gigabit fiber is so prevelent that it only makes news if you find a property without it. Yet "out in the sticks" as I am I can't get DSL (the telco refuses to upgrade their copper to support it), satelite is only an option if my neighbors agree to chop down all their trees to give me line of sight to the horizon, or Comcast which charges me up the wazoo for barely 3MBPS. If I try to get FTTH then I'd need to win the lotto first to be able to afford it. When I hear radio ads that $Company offers fast internet in my area I wonder what brand of crack they're smoking 'cause it's not available 'round these parts. Not unless the cows are hogging all the bandwidth to look at milk porn.

      *Cough*

      Anyway, competition would be nice - it would actually force those companies to get up off their arses & offer reasonable speeds at reasonable prices. As it is now we get raped for crap & are expected to thank them for the priveledge. Bah.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Superfast?

        Don't think starlink needs horizon access...

        It's looking ever more likely to be the competition that is needed.

        1. Shadow Systems

          Re: Superfast?

          Unless the satelite passed directly over my home so that the antenna dish pointed *straight up*, all my neighbors have sufficient trees to block LOS to the horizon. Two of my neighbors have orchards, so it's not a small job to clear a path even if I *could* convince them to do it. =-j

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Superfast?

            They might not object to you constructing a fire lookout tower (on which to mount your dish)...

            1. Shadow Systems

              Re: Superfast?

              Ah, but a fire watch tower would require someone atop it to do the watching. I'm fairly certain a blind fire watcher might be a bit less than adequate. =-)p

              "Fire? I don't see any fire. Everything's fine! ... Hey, do I smell smoke? Crap! The tower's on fire!"

              *Cough*

              That's actually a good idea. I'd have to get city clearance to build it, plus hire someone to attend it, but having a fire watch tower to help spot them & notify the fire department as early as possible might just be something the city would go for. Getting a satelite dish on top, plus turning it into a cell tower would enable me to get the telco to pay ME to carry their traffic instead of me paying them to use their network.

              Oh man, that's an awesome idea! Here, have a KEG on me in gratitude! You may have just made my year!

              1. Roland6 Silver badge

                Re: Superfast?

                >would require someone atop it to do the watching.

                Potential to replace person with a camera with image analysis software to identify smoke etc. then the dish is justified as providing the backhaul. Now for power...

                > plus turning it into a cell tower would enable me to get the telco to pay ME to carry their traffic

                Could persuade them to erect one of their artificial tree tower's, to blend in better.

    2. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: Superfast?

      So go ask Virgin Media for some service then.

      ... and ask your ISP for a monthly refund. vDSL delivers more than that. That’s worse than standard broadband.

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: Superfast?

        "ask your ISP for a monthly refund"

        They're clever. The "broadband" component of our £35-odd monthly package that includes obligatory phone is just under £2. Consequently any refund would not be worth having and would certainly apply no pressure on the provider to improve the service.

        When they've got you by the balls they can do (or fail to do) anything they like.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Superfast?

      "On the edge of one of the most commercially intensive towns in Hertfordshire (UK), which is hardly "rural" we have a 30Mbps VDSL account that delivers about 6Mbps at best (sometimes down to 1Mbps)."

      Full disclosure: I am an escalations manager for an ISP.

      If you have 30Mbps sync then you should get close to 30Mbps over that line. However....

      There can be line issues which don't affect sync speed, but do affect throughput usually visible from the router as a high rate of errors. And yet it's amazing how often I will encounter end users who complain that their line has always been slow, but they've never actually had an engineer investigate the line. Sometimes this is because the customer has never reported the issue to their ISP, sometimes it's because the ISP has offered an engineer but advised the customer that the visit may be chargeable if no fault is found and the customer decides just to put up with the issue.

      With FTTC the old "hot VP" problem has pretty much been eliminated. Openreach actually did a decent job of capacity planning. So contention at a cabinet level is very seldom a problem. Which means if there are any contention issues not actually caused by the line then they tend to be beyond the Openreach handover point. It's hard, if not impossible to test this however if your ISP has their own speed test servers run a test to them and then to another speed test server off the ISPs network. If there is a discrepancy then you're probably looking at an issue on your ISPs network rather than on Openreach's network.

      So if there's no performance issues up to the OHP then it's your ISP who are to blame. But even then I tend to find that the problem is more likely to be a customer premise issue.

      So far this year I have dispatched engineers to customers where no performance issue has been found on the network at all. In some cases the engineer could get perfectly good performance connecting to the customer router with his phone. In other words it's the customer's devices or often a single device that is causing the problem. In other cases the engineer found poor wifi performance often due to interference. Which is why ISPs always ask that you run performance tests wired to the router wherever possible, but it's amazing how many people tell you that they are wired when they're not or who tell you the performance issue exists even when they are standing right next to the router and when the engineer attends they find the issue only exists in the attic while the router is in the basement. Sometimes wifi problems are caused by the end user messing with the router config and a quick factory reset mysteriously resolves the fault. Then there are the people who have bought their own "high performance" router and reverting to the ISP supplied router resolves the fault.

      The worst thing about all the End User Faults is that ISPs usually make sure that they have asked all the right questions and the users have claimed that they have done all their own testing and they are 100% sure it's a network fault. Then the poor old ISP gets shouted at by the user when the engineer returns the job RWT and the end user gets charged.

      Yes there are problems with the Openreach network, but they can usually be fixed by a simple fault report. There are however many more issues on customer premises and ISP networks, but Openreach get the blame. Especially by unscrupulous low rent ISPs. These are often the ones who don't even by directly from Openreach but resell a larger ISPs services.

      All of the above explains why I am seldom sympathetic when people tell me their slow broadband stories.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surprised rural resident here

    Small village (about 200 properties), and Superfast went active on the 25th Jan. We were in a trial area - which is luck, as there's no way to get anything better as mobile is virtually useless.

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "only five contracts have been terminated"

    Five contracts, by the same local authority to the same provider, terminated for the same reason.

    Um, after the third time, wouldn't it have been an idea to look for another provider ?

    Of course, when you're living with the cows, you don't always have the choice.

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: "only five contracts have been terminated"

      To be fair the five contracts could all have been awarded at the same time....

      I'm only being fair until i see evidence that contradicts my *generous* assumption.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UK's Superfast Broadband programme delivered value for money ...

    UK's Superfast Broadband programme delivered 'value' for money, specifically where 'value' is supposed to be a number greater than zero and less than infinity.

    There is a word missing from in front of the word 'value' which belongs to the set ['Good', 'Bad', 'Some', NaN]. :)

    P.S.

    Don't look at the rural needs or progress because they 'don't count' and make the metrics quoted to govt to justify all the money required slightly more meaningless.

    1. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: UK's Superfast Broadband programme delivered value for money ...

      “ During the lifetime of the programme, £815m from the public purse was spent, which was significantly lower than the estimated total cost of £1.9bn.”

      ... and correlation between the meagre benefits and reductions in the budget ??

      I can only imagine this was driven by the DCMS welching on the anticipated budget and not BT/Openreach.

      Where were Sky, Virgin Media, Vodafone, Talk Talk, O2, EE, 3??? Not even any interest or contracts bid for. Speaks volumes.

  5. hairydog

    I live in a rural village. Our FTTC broadband was fed from a cabinet a kilometre away, getting slower and slower as take-up grew.

    Then a new fibre cabinet appeared in the centre of the village, about 180 metres from my house. Great: that'll give far better speeds.

    But no. Seems that Openreach will only connect you to the new cabinet if you don't already have a wire (active or not) connected to the old cabinet.

    An hour spend checking estimated speeds on the checker identified two buildings that can benefit from this, because they've never had a BT phone line. One of these buildings is derelict. The other has not taken up the service available.

    Even if you are willing to pay for a new line, Openreach will not put in a new line if there's an old one they can reuse.

    So that's a few thousand pounds of public money "spaffed up the wall". It's not even as if Dido Harding was in charge!

    So the community money that went into this cabinet is wasted.

  6. AGeezer

    Its all about the money...

    Rural or not rural it does not matter. Superfast will be rolled where they can then generate the most revenue/profit first, that is to the cabinets that are full of subscribers (wires, customers). Then they will roll out to other cabinets based on their subscriber count, ensuring that they can make as much profit, as early as possible. Remember the government, therefore the taxpayer, therefore you, are funding this profiteering; does this sound like state sponsorship to anyone? I have been considering trying out a freedom on information request to prove this out…

    Obviously, I have an axe to grind here. I am not rural, 800 meters from the exchange, copper connected to a cabinet with 30-40 subscribers in my road, surrounded by many other streets benefiting from Superfast/FTTC, and the only option I have is good old ADSL – yes, I have looked at the Gigabit voucher scheme and USO, neither are options.

    1. Caver_Dave Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Its all about the money...

      Yes. in my county the grant money was spent on a few villages with rural exchanges, but not the other villages connected to the upgraded exchanges ....

      .... and a waterside development in the centre of the county town!

      And my MP was decidedly silent on this matter when contacted :-(

  7. Roland6 Silver badge

    Good! Report findings not skewed by CoViD19

    "COVID-19: The data deployed in this analysis ran to mid-2019 and does not allow for an analysis of the impacts of the programme in relation to COVID-19.

    ...

    These issues will be considered in a future assessment of the programme, as part of the final round of evaluation. "

    That final evaluation will make some interesting reading as it should permit some before and after analysis...

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