I think I’ve discovered the person who did the Openreach quote for our broadband. A chap I know is the manager of a local coffee shop. To help them survive they’re working with one of the delivery companies. Some of the orders are quite big, they had one that totted up to £50, which helps. But he had one person who just ordered a cup of tea, which with delivery, cost £5. All my life I’ve been selling to the wrong customers.
Anyway, people may remember I explored getting better broadband. This involved me applying to Openreach under the Universal Service Obligation. Given we are barely three miles from the exchange I didn’t expect anything outrageous, and there’s a £3,500 grant to help pay for any work. (We’re a business, it’s £1,500 for a private household.)
Thus the quote of £104,311.20 rather took me by surprise. But am I daunted? No, I decided I would approach Openreach, but this time under the auspices of the Openreach Community Fibre Partnership. There are seven households in this ‘community.’ So I talked to them all, and they all felt that they were happy to have their names go forward on the grounds that each extra household would allow the scheme to pull down an extra grant. I did ask about putting in extra money. Here I met ‘consumer resistance.’ After all we have neighbours even further from the exchange than us who’ve been given 50mbps fibre broadband at no capital cost. They just have to pay a bit more to use it. As it was, people generally felt that they’d put in, a grudging ‘couple of hundred quid just to make the scheme a goer if need be.’
And now I’ve got a quote back from Openreach. Well actually I’ve got two.
The first quote is for twenty-six premises which included some they felt I’d obviously overlooked. Actually these premises aren’t part of ‘my community.’ They’re just houses or buildings alongside the main road between two BT Openreach cabinets. Basically they’re the ones BT never bothered connecting when it had the chance.
I had overlooked them for two reasons. One was I hadn’t a clue what their broadband was like and whether they could even be served from our scheme. The second reason is that a global pandemic is not a good time to knock on the doors of total strangers asking about their broadband and wondering if they were interested in joining a scheme put together by somebody they didn’t know from Adam.
But still I looked at the suggested twenty-six. Four of the addresses are of houses that are empty because they’re in the blast radius of a gas terminal. Two of the addresses are the North and South gas terminals. The south terminal is currently being demolished so is unlikely to be interested in broadband. The North terminal will long ago have got itself sorted. One of the addresses, ‘The site office’ may be the demolition contractor who’s taking apart the South Terminal. I suppose his lads might fancy watching Netflix on a wet afternoon but I suspect I’d struggle to interest him. Still this scheme for the twenty-six will cost £128,755.
But assuming that of the twenty-six there are eighteen left to be interested, the grant we’ll get from the Government’s gigabit voucher scheme will be £31,000 on top of which we may get £7000 from the Borderlands Inclusive growth deal. (This assumes two businesses, and also that the Borderlands deal is capped at £7,000 a scheme.) Which means I’ve got to convince these people to stump up £5000 each for something their neighbours got given free.
The second quote is just for the seven households that actually make up the ‘community’. The quote for this was £81,352.00. Now these seven people I have talked to. We should get £19.500 in grant funding (assuming 1 business and the Borderlands Inclusive growth deal.) This leaves each household having to find £8,836. Again, when I talked to them, they were happy enough to put their names down so I could create a ‘scheme’ and they could pull down the £1,500 grant. But remember it’s going to be a cold day in hell before they cough up that sort of money. These are not the sort of people who will cheerfully pay £5 for a cup of takeaway tea delivered to their door.
What did intrigue me was that to connect us here (we’re perhaps the central point in the group of seven households) would cost £104,311,20 under the Universal Service Obligation. But you could connect us and six extra households for a mere £81,352.00.
I have said to Openreach I would like to talk to somebody about the way they do their estimates. I may have intimated that licking a finger, sticking it in the air, and pulling down a figure at random is not entirely consistent with best business practice.
But I’ve talked to all sorts of interesting people. I discussed the possibility of 4G mobile with one of them. Their comment was that this is very much an interim solution until gigabit capable connectivity can be provided. The person went on to say that BT, under their USO obligations should be able to offer a solution that uses an external antenna (the receiver) that connects to an internal router. If the antenna is located in the right place outside of the property (accepting not everyone will want an antenna on their house) then that can significantly improve the 4G signal. BT seem a bit reluctant to provide (and pay for) this solution, but it should be the first thing that they check if the price of full fibre is more than the £3,400 per premise cap. Now obviously I want to check this out further, but it look as if BT Openreach and I could be having a frank and open exchange of views!
Who knows, is this the real life, is it just fantasy?
Fantasy I can do
Hired to do a comparatively simple piece of mapping work Benor should perhaps have been suspicious when the pay seemed generous.
Will he ever get to the bottom of what is going on?
How rough is the rough justice of rural Partann?
How to clean out a privy with a crossbow. Welcome to the pastoral idyll.
Benor the cartographer is offered a job away from home with unusually generous pay. It all has to be done on the quiet, too. Something’s up. Benor has a murder to solve. I thought he had, but there’s more to come. This story is a murder mystery and a comedy of manners, set in a world of fantasy. If you like a genre mashup, this is brilliant. The characters and their relationships and banter would make it worth reading even if it didn’t have a plot – but it does. Another winner for me.