The Caston Blog

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Mobile & Internet Communications In Caston

by Alistair Skipper - 09:29 on 08 September 2014

            I read with a great deal of interest your statement reported at the Parish Council meeting that Fibre Optic Broadband otherwise known as Super Fast Broadband (24.0 Mb/s) is coming to Caston. I wish that this was the case, but sadly I think that this may be just a red herring.

            For sometime I have been appalled and frustrated by the lack of mobile communications in Norfolk. I cannot obtain an indoor mobile signal for a telephone and much of Norfolk has no 3G signal, which is particularly useful for business customers. Likewise the actual Broadband download speed is very slow. Great Ellingham for example was only getting 0.5Mb/s until a year or so ago. Only now I am actually beginning to get the published speed of 8.0Mb/s after having to pay for an inferior service for years. This is particularly galling as friends and family have been achieving 24.0Mb/s for many years.

            Not being prepared to be “ripped off” by the communications industry, I have already done some research and lobbying. The person responsible for the improvement of Broadband in Norfolk is Ms Karen O’Kane, Programme Director, Better Broadband for Norfolk (BBfN), which works under the auspice of Norfolk County Council. In the lengthy correspondence with her, I quote her response dated 7th July 2014, “I am sorry to have to tell you that your property [Caston] which is currently connected directly to the local telephone exchange, is not currently planned for upgrade as part of the Better Broadband for Norfolk rollout.”

            Your readers should be aware of the following: -

1) The contract to carry out this work is almost exclusively in the hands of BT, a private contractor, whose principle aim is to generate profit for it’s shareholders. It is also one of the most complained about companies in the country according to the Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2590032/BT-tops-poll-Britains-COMPLAINED-broadband-provider-Orange-named-favourite-mobile-service.html. This is backed up by the well respected magazine PC Pro http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/broadband/387826/bt-becomes-uks-most-complained-about-isp and confirmed by Ofcom http://media.ofcom.org.uk/news/2013/most-complained-about-providers/

2) The suspicion is that BT is using money obtained from the Government i.e. us taxpayers to actually fund development and advertising of it’s media sports channel. The whole situation gets even worse when it paid £246 million just so some people can watch 22 people kick a football around for 90 minutes! http://mediablogged.mediaweek.co.uk/2012/06/19/how-much-will-bt-spend/ Just think what £246m would achieve if it was used for providing Super Fast Broadband? I am not the only one to query this http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2014/02/bt-denies-underspend-gbp2-5bn-uk-gea-fibre-broadband-rollout.html

3) Investigation of BT’s on website, http://superfast-openreach.co.uk/rural-broadband/

shows that Norfolk & Suffolk have the lowest targets for Broadband coverage in the whole of the UK. BT is only offering 80% by 2015! All other counties who have targets set for 2014 & 2015 are above 90%! Very rural counties such as Yorkshire and Cumbria are offering 90 – 97% and locally Cambridgeshire, which is not too dissimilar is offering 98%!

            The reality for Norfolk and Caston is that it is seen as a rural backwater and not worth worrying about. My own personal opinion is that Caston will never receive Super Fast Broadband. Once everywhere else has been upgraded, money will then be prioritised for the next big technological advance, which will naturally commence with development in London followed by other cities.

            The effects of the strategy adopted by BT and the Government planners can at best be described as a, “postcode lottery,” or more accurately as a form of, “social engineering.” To illustrate further the impact of poor quality Broadband has, consider the following: -

1) House prices are lower in areas with poor Broadband so it is harder to sell your house.

2) It is harder to recruit doctors, nurses, teachers etc into areas where there is poorer Broadband.

3) Businesses are put at a disadvantage compared to their competitors, especially as more and more business is being done online.

4) Children and students in rural areas are disadvantaged because they either do not have adequate access to the Internet. In some instances they are forced to rely on more traditional means e.g. go and visit their local library and this involves their families in more expense, time and trouble.

            Whilst there is no harm is registering interest on the BT web site although personally I feel it is a complete waste of time, I suggest that the residents of Caston follow my lead and have a dialogue with their MP (George Freeman) who incidentally won an award from the British Computer Society several years ago. They should also challenge Norfolk County Council to get much more from BT so that Caston and Norfolk move into the 21st technological century.

            Yours sincerely,

             Alistair Skipper

           

Comment from Frank Brown at 09:56 on 26 September 2014.
I am still working in my consultancy business [just] which is international not domestic and I will write to Norfolk County Council [O'Kane] and the local MP as first class broadband and mobile signal are essential tools. I recommend fellow village residents do the same.
Comment from Graham Edwards at 08:29 on 10 October 2014.
At the parish meeting about fibre optic broadband at lot of people asked the same or similar questions. I have one question and one comment from experiencing fibre optics. If we get broadband in the village and the cable is underground to the dwellings this will mean on one side, the cable will have to go under a stream is this a problem
When living in London we had cable TV which was underground fibre optic cable when it rained it stopped working for many hours because water got into the junctions it never got solved completely
Comment from Tom Joyce at 21:55 on 18 December 2014.
Hello! A Rocklander here... Caston is my exchange too. Unfortunatley due to the way in which fibre optic cable works, over distance the 'signal' becomes very weak. The problem we have here is a lack of local exchanges, like the one in Caston. I think BT are solely looking at the amount of houses that will benefit as opposed to the amount of money to install/profit. This is a massive blow to me as I rely on a decent broadband connection. I have just moved here from the North however... so what right do I have to complain!?
I have registered my interest, however I suspect that eventually 4G will be the way forward for rural household, as they develop the network in the future.
Regards.
Comment from Bev Dennett at 00:53 on 17 January 2017.
During December 2 fibre boxes appeared in Caston. This development intrigued me greatly as I'm a shropham worker and as soon as the boxes appeared there everyone was able to contact their broadband providers and switched to fibre. Our office benefitted immediately from this reliable source. I too have been in touch with Norfolk CC and email Karen quite often. Her last communication mentioned that Caston wasn't on the list yet and 2018 was likely to see fibre at my postcode on the street. However it is my intention to recheck now that 2 fibre boxes have appeared within 100 meters either side of my property. Let's keep the pressure on and email Karen and keep registering for fibre in the BT site. I'll keep you posted.

(Our latest information is that fibre will be available at some point this March but keeping the pressure on can do no harm. Ed.)

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