Update - Jan 2015

Happy New Year!

Here's the latest update from the Rotherhithe Broadband Group:

BT Trials
BT has several technologies currently on trial that may potentially help resolve the issues with slow broadband in Rotherhithe. In December BT announced a couple of new pilots:

A ‘new form’ of Fibre-to-the-Basement / Building (FTTB) broadband technology pilot in the City of London,
A trial of Fibre-to-the-Remote-Node (FTTRN) solution in Rotherhithe.

We have no details of when or where in Rotherhithe this trial is taking place. Unfortunately BT has not had a good track record of trials in our area. Promising a pilot last year to explore how it could implement a hybrid-fibre solution at Greenland Dock turned into a commercial project expecting developments/customers to pay upwards of £30k.

Further details are the technologies involved can be found on the website. Since the article was written FTTRN is now being commercially implemented in several areas around the country.

BT Meetings with Southwark Council
Since May, the Council and Val Shawcross (London Assembly) have had several meetings with BT to see what could be done to improve broadband in Rotherhithe. While council have been reluctant to discuss these meetings, Val has at least told us about them and shared some of the detail (BT would have insisted on commercial confidentiality). Val has also been blogging on the issue:

The latest we have is that the Council and Val met BT in October. BT talked about some of the pilots they are doing and how these would help solve the issues in Rotherhithe. BT said they were reviewing the commercial decision not to upgrade the area and promised to report back. We understood that this would happen in November. Disappointingly, 8 months on from the Councils initial meeting, BT has yet to report back on any commercial plans to improve broadband in Rotherhithe.

Southwark Broadband Technical Report
In June 2014, Southwark Council commissioned a report from Atkins Communications to look at the broadband issues in Rotherhithe; the causes, what the current provision is, what the future requirements will be and what could be done to improve access and speeds. As part of this report the Rotherhithe Broadband Group was consulted over the community broadband proposals. We met with Atkins on the 25th September and then responded, in detail, to a number questions about the project in October. During the consultation Southwark assured us that this report would be made public. The council received the draft in November and assurances were made that the report would be published in December. After many requests we have still not seen the report.

Virgin Media
Work is now well underway to extend the Virgin Media network across Spitalfields, Bethnal Green, the Isle of Dogs and West Ham. Extension in Poplar, Stepney, Bow, Stratford and East Ham are now starting. This is the largest single expansion of its service since the company launched in 2007. Virgin Media have looked at Rotherhithe and while they have no current plans to extend their services here, Liberty Global, Virgin Media US owners, have intimated that further investment is on the way. Maybe expantion in Rotherhithe is not too far away!

Relish 4G Broadband
Relish (UK Broadband) been granted an indefinite extension to its spectrum licence for use of 40MHz in the 3.4GHz band that is being used to deliver it's 4G (LTE) service. Late last year they started to look at how they could extend their service to Rotherhithe. Unfortunately a large number of complaints about quality of service were raised by customers in August. This continued into the Autumn with customers still complaining about the high frequency of disconnections. They have still been having issues with the latest outage on the 10th Jan that appears to have affected the majority of customers. While the technology looks like a good interim solution to our connection issues we would be wary of the current technical issues Relish appear to be having.

Community Broadband
We are still moving forward with the proposal for a community-run fibre solution. Thank you to all those who wrote to the council asking for help to fund the business plan. Unfortunately we had no response from the Council.

In December, organised by Simon Hughes (MP), we has a productive meeting with a number of local businesses looking at how we could move forward with the business plan. Several of the businesses have pledged to support us both financially and with expertise. This support is gratefully received but we still need to raise further funds to complete the plan. If you’d like to contribute – let us know!

We are about to start the first stage of the plan which is to let everyone know that the community project exists and then to carry out a survey to find out what people want and the level of support for a community fibre solution. We were holding off on this until we knew the contents of Southwark’s and BT’s reports but as assurances on publication have been and gone several times we cannot hold off any longer.

Our plan is to initially let the whole community know about the project by leafleting all residences. This would be followed up by the survey which would be a combination of doorstep interviews, online survey, focus groups and a presence in the shopping centre. We would also have posters available for places like the library, businesses and residential noticeboards. The survey is a key part of the planning process as this will let us know what people are looking for and how popular a community solution would be.

We are now looking to the community for help with the following:

  • Graphic designer to help with the publicity materials.
  • Someone with marketing experience to help with publicity.
  • Help deliver leaflets to your street or residential block.
  • Interviewing individuals or resident groups.
  • Putting up a poster on a relevant noticeboard.
  • Participating in a focus group.
  • Encouraging neighbours to do the survey.

If you are interested, let us know what you would like to help with by dropping us a line to shout@energise16.co.uk