Surrey County Council’s Open Market Review (OMR)

The current political landscape:

Superfast broadband should be covering all of Surrey by now – that was the ambition of Surrey County Council back in 2014 – with promises of 99.7% being able to get 15Mbps or above.   That promise had a caveat that wasn’t mentioned by Surrey Council… that they aim to only enable cabinets –  not all residents‘ homes.  Those living more than 2km from a cabinet won’t be getting Superfast. That leaves large numbers of residents of Surrey discovering that they can’t get Superfast broadband and there is no plan for them to be enabled in the immediate future.  In our area there are homes to the East (Vann) and North of Hambledon (Merry Harriers area) that are beyond 2km from the cabinet on the Petworth Road – Superfast Surrey (Surrey County Council) say they are reviewing this (see letter below).  Areas of Milford and parts of Godalming are also excluded.  The problem is county wide – Effingham, Albury, Ewhurst, Chiddingfold, Mickelham – to name just a few resident groups that have campaigns.

The GU8 project team have been contacted by many other campaign groups from Surrey (as well as groups outside the County) as our project is seen as a pilot in Surrey as we were one of the the first to realise we were outside the scope of Superfast Surrey’s intervention areas.  We have been asked to advise groups who are just embarking on finding an alternative solution to being left in the sub-2Mbps boondocks.

There is a faint glimmer of hope for those left behind – and it signals a slight change of tack from Surrey County Council. They have announced their OMR (Open Market Review) – a plan to see who is left behind without Superfast capability.   Whatever the result of an OMR, there is currently very little money left to mop up and enable areas excluded from Superfast. Naturally the money will be spent to give best value, and the cost per premise test will likely mean most of the hard to reach, wider spread homes will prove too expensive relative to clusters closer to cabinets.

In response to one of our determined residents in Vann, Superfast Surrey sent this letter below. That resident also urges everyone to spend 30 seconds filling in the form to tell Openreach that they haven’t got Superfast capability: http://www.superfast-openreach.co.uk/faq/contact-us-form.aspx

Surrey County Council has now finished the main phase of its Superfast Surrey Broadband programme to bring fibre broadband to those areas in the county not included in commercial roll outs.
In December 2014 it was decided that before any further decisions could be made with regards to the outcome of slow speeds review, the Superfast Surrey team had to focus on the completion of the main phase of the contract and identify options for using any remaining funds to enable a decision to be made on the future scope of the programme.
Options were developed that not only acknowledged Openreach’s analysis of premises with slow speeds in the Superfast Surrey deployment area but also took into account feedback from residents and businesses in the commercial rollout area that were not covered by the fibre network or who were on slow speeds.
As a result, and to ensure that Surrey County Council fully understands the extent of the remaining challenge, Surrey County Council is now embarking on an Open Market Review (OMR). This is the only way to establish a clear understanding of the latest position regarding existing and planned fibre coverage throughout the county. The review will identify all premises throughout Surrey without a fibre broadband connection or those covered by the fibre network but unable to access a fibre service.
Surrey County Council will be seeking State Aid Approval for plans to further extend broadband coverage across the County within the constraints of available funding following a process laid down by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). The first stage is to request current and future broadband coverage information from existing infrastructure providers in an Open Market Review (OMR).  Once the broadband coverage and speed responses are analysed, a map will be produced and uploaded to the Superfast Surrey website as part of the public consultation process.  This stage, which is likely to be during Autumn 2015, will be the opportunity for residents, businesses as well as any other infrastructure providers to contact the Superfast Surrey team by email to provide additional information that may further inform the understanding of broadband coverage across the County.   
   
Following the public consultation phase, the Superfast Surrey team will then agree with BT Group, as part of the existing contract and within the constraints of available funding, how to target those areas identified as not having current or proposed broadband coverage or access to download speeds of 15 Mbps or above. The proposed deployment must be signed off by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) as being compliant with State Aid Funding regulations before any deployment can commence.  
   
The OMR, analysis of responses, mapping, public consultation and development of a new deployment plan will take many months and whether or not residents who are currently unable to access a fibre service will benefit from any subsequent deployment will not be known until the above process is completed.
If residents or businesses are not keen to wait for the outcome of the OMR, options could be to look at satellite services or for businesses to consider a Fibre on Demand Service. The third option may be for communities to contact Openreach and collectively fund a community initiative. There is already an established process in place via the Openreach website for enquiries from residents who are interested in investigating options for self-funded initiatives. It is not possible to obtain a quotation or speak to an Openreach representative without following this process due to the significant amount of administration and number of different variables that need to be considered.  This form (http://www.superfast-openreach.co.uk/faq/contact-us-form.aspx) would need to be completed with the community representative’s details. The Details of Enquiry box should include a description of how many residents would be interested in helping fund the initiative and installation etc and needs to include a list of all the names and landline phone numbers of those interested in funding the initiative.  It is very important that details regarding all interested parties are included on the form. Once the form has been submitted, Openreach would be in touch to discuss this in more detail. 
Katie Brennan, Engagement Manager, Superfast Surrey Broadband Programme, Chief Executive’s Office, Surrey County Council

There is greater insight to be found in a Surrey CC report.  Please note that in Annex A of this document Surrey CC refers to THP – this is Total Homes Passed. This refers to homes that are on lines that are coming from a Cabinet that is fibre enabled.  This does not mean those homes can get fibre services.  This makes their % Delivery figures of around 99% fairly meaningless – the true measure of enabling Surrey residents is the number of homes actually able to get more than 15Mbps.   This doesn’t attempt to estimate how many in BT Commercial Roll-out Areas are able to get >15Mbps.   Judging by the number of campaign groups popping up all over Surrey I would suggest that % figure for all Surrey homes that can get fibre is much lower.

Homes passed definition:    The number of “Homes Passed” is the potential number of premises to which an operator has capability to connect in a service area, but the premises may or may not be connected to the network.
Superfast definition:    On this site we use greater than 15Mbps as the definition of superfast broadband. That is the definition used by Surrey County Council – which is rather unambitious as both the UK Govt. and the EU define 24Mbps as Superfast.

Analysing premise by premise data that we have access to, corroborated by our own comprehensive neighbourhood surveys we can say that the Surrey CC headline data is misleading.   Of the 6000 homes in the GU8 postcode (Chiddingfold, Hambledon, Dunsfold, Elstead, Hascombe, Milford, Thursley, Witley), only 4900 are able to get Superfast (ie their speeds are >15Mbps).  That equates to 82% of homes if using the most optimistic projections of speeds – and we all know that our rural lines are in poor condition and theoretical speeds are often well above reality – a more realistic figure, based on “impacted” lines for GU8 would be between 64% and 82%.   In Hambledon Parish the reach of Superfast is only to 49% of residences even after Surrey CC’s intervention in upgrading cabinets.   Our data is summarised below.
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