The Council’s Finance and Delivery Policy and Accountability Committee last night included an item I had requested Superfast Broadband rollout across the borough and was attended by a representative from BT Openreach.
Given the high density of our borough we should be leading the way – yet we are below the London average. 94.3 per cent of our properties have access to Superfast Broadband in London overall it is 95.3 per cent.
BT Openreach had plans to roll it out to another 6,600 homes in Hammersmith and Fulham, which is in fact only 20 street cabinets. They have, however, formally suspended any further rollout as a result of a dispute with the Council. The dispute relates to the Council’s categorisation of the street works which are required to provide the cabling for the cabinets. This in turn depends on the interpretation of the New Roads and Street Works Act.
The Council says the works would be major works, which require a certain period of notice and a fee of £326, whilst Openreach say they are standard works, which would require a few days’ notice and a fee of £130. On non-traffic sensitive streets the fee difference is even less (£223 for major works and £75 for standard works). It therefore comes down to a monetary difference of less than £4,000 and a dispute about principle (which both sides say would set a precedent for other utility companies or for other boroughs).
The Committee expressed its frustration about the fact that 6,600 homes were going without access to fibre broadband because of this pretty pathetic dispute. Both sides agreed to talk about it further. More significantly, they both agreed with a suggestion from Cllr Mark Loveday that they should consider mediation if it could not be resolved quickly.