Project Update #14

EX16 Progress Updates

Feb 28  2021

It’s been a long 2 months since the new year, but the sun is back and spring is in the air.

We’ve broken most of the ground to reach across to Chipstable now and have most of the jigsaw to Waterrow in place, so while it has been slow, progress has been positive.

We’ve taken organising Council Section 50 permits for road crossings in house this year which is working very well, giving us control over the timing and planning for these crossings, and our bigger plow finally got to work in January.

The most important deadline now is the end of March – the current Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme ends for new applications and while we hope there will be a replacement this will depend on the budget next week and subsequently what DCMS / BDUK put in place.

Our strongest suggestion is that if you’ve not signed up with us yet and have your voucher validated and issued, now is definitely the time to get signed up. In addition if any of your neighbours have not signed up please make sure they know about the project and the voucher scheme as soon as possible! We’ll do our best to target any areas where we know people haven’t signed up and ensure that no-one misses out for not being aware!

If you have already validated a voucher, your funding is secured for upto 12months from the date of issue, so nothing to worry about.

Apart from the variable weather, we’ve had a lot of knockon effects from the Brexit transition, both with materials delivery and stock availability, but also more complex issues such as our fibre blower needing service in Denmark (normally a 14 day process to ship and return) on this occasion taking 6 weeks due to delays with shipping. Very frustrating.
As build accelerates again with the better weather, we’ll do our best to provide more frequent updates as we go.

Other Networks

There has been a fair amount of rumour and random activity across the project area, with various other network operators carrying out surveys / planning in the area. This is what we know:

Firstly, our plans have not been taken over by Openreach, not sure where that came from but it’s certainly not true.

Gigaclear had previously built around Maundown and Langley Marsh, but never activated this part of their network build. As we understand it they now have a backhaul connection and are planning on making this network open to orders in April / May.
No part of our build overlaps with their build, so this has no impact on our plans. Gigaclear dont appear to have any plans to build any further than they currently have.

Openreach – In the centre of Huish Champflower, those properties located close to a pole mounted Fibre CBT should be able to order a FTTP service around April / May from any ISP that uses Openreach FTTP. Often this isn’t available via their websites so you have to call to order.
We are currently connecting the last 2 properties we can reach in Huish Champflower and they should be live this week.

Openreach under their Gainshare contract with Connecting Devon & Somerset are also due to build around Brompton Ralph and some properties towards Clatworthy – some of you may have had Openreach surveyors and wayleave requests. The Gainshare contract is having some difficulties – namely Openreach is unable to get the build cost within budget due to “poor state of poles” and “trees”! Unsurprising really. There are some changes planned to the contract currently in process to ensure that Voucher Funding and Gainshare dont overlap by any major factor – this hopefully will mean that properties not currently in plans get a connection, and few properties get 2 fibre networks funded by the government.

Airband – Airband have been awarded the CDS contract (replacing the Gigaclear contract) for the area in West Somerset. This contract is for FTTP not Wireless like their ExmoorNP network. The exact coverage is not published, but again there is coordination to ensure that this state aid contract doesn’t overlap with Rural Voucher projects.
Currently there is some overlap showing around Clatworthy, where some properties could have our Fibre, Openreach FTTP and Airband Fibre, all part funded by the government! On the flip side, there could be properties where neighbours can get one of the above, but they get nothing, far from ideal.

In Summary, our plans for Clatworthy, Chipstable, Raddington / Petton, & Waterrow remain unchanged and build continues. Only Central Huish Champflower remains on hold and we are working on routes around washbattle bridge for the properties not in Openreach plans in the village centre.

Area Specific Updates

Upton – We are starting the build towards the remaining properties towards Wimbleball and Venn / Halstown this week – particularly as some of these vouchers are reaching their 12month time limit, while we dont anticipate any major issues we have time in hand to overcome any that do arise.

Chipstable – Any property that currently has our duct installed or close by, should be live in the next 2-3 weeks. We have completed the road crossing at Oldway so will be blowing fibre shortly and connecting properties in turn. The road crossing to the north and south of the village are in process and we hope to have these approved for later in march. As soon as our plows are completed in Upton, they will return to chipstable to install the ducts on the east side as well as heading south towards Waterrow.

Waterrow – Openreach finally completed work repairing their fibre along the B3227 to allow SSE to complete the fibre link back to Taunton. This was completed on Friday last week, so all being well the work to light this fibre can be completed both in Waterrow and in London Docklands. We can then build our Cabinet and bring that service into operation. The road crossing for the B3227 should be carried out by our contractors this week all being well, which then allows us to complete the duct from Chipstable to Waterrow and focus on building out Waterrow during April & May.

Raddington – access arrangements are progressing well and some of the properties under conveyancing are reaching completion which helps finalise planning here. We are hopeful that parts of this build can be started during April.

Clatworthy – negotiations with Wessex Water continue, but are not speedy until that part is agreed, we have few options to reach Clatworthy village and that side of the reservoir without coming back down from Raleighs Cross. Hopefully we can reach an agreement soon, particularly the on site visits which have been held up by lockdown I’m afraid.

Sperry Cross & Brown Lane Area (West of Clatworthy Reservoir)
We have had a few issues crossing to West Withy, but another attempt will be made this week now the permit has been agreed. We also have our contractors completing the crossing at East Withy this week. If everything goes to plan with these, we will be completing more duct installation while the larger plows are in the Upton area this month.

Any queries please do try to email rather than phone – we are all really busy out on the ground and can’t always get back to queries as quickly as we’d like.
Stay Safe and enjoy spring.