Fibre comes to Norfolk - perhaps

I am beginning to think that the abbreviation BBfN doesn't stand for Better Broadband for Norfolk. I reckon its Bye Bye for Now!

As you will see elsewhere on this site I currently use satellite broadband because I live in the country. I was very surprised to learn that between January and March 2014 fibre will come to my village as part of BDUK. This blog will tell the story. I abandoned my phone line in 2011. The telephones worked but broadband was next to useless. Due to a poor quality section - never found - the landline quality was poor. At best I got 1.4 Mbit/s but speeds were often lower and it failed completely at least once a year.

20 Jan 2014 No news yet. I see OpenReach vans in the area but not very close. Apparently this is what a fibre cabinet looks like. I can't miss it when (if?) it arrives!


February 9th

Heard nothing so I decided to check progress on Norfolk's web pages. The delivery date has slipped from end of March to end of June. It now says "services should become available from ISPs from ...". How will we know?

This is what the better broadband for Norfolk site says about speeds:

Many premises connected to the new roadside fibre broadband cabinets will be able to receive high speed broadband (24 Megabits per second and above), and we still aim to ensure that 83% of Norfolk premises can receive these speeds by the end of 2015.

How fast your broadband connection will be depends on how far your home or business is from the cabinet. Generally speaking, premises within a 1 kilometre radius of the new cabinet can expect to be able to access speeds in excess of 25Mbps. Premises around 1.5km from the cabinet should be able to receive broadband speeds of around 12Mbps. For customers greater than 2km from the cabinet, broadband speeds could fall to less than 2Mbps.

Remember, we intend to make sure every premises in Norfolk can receive a basic broadband service (2Mbps) as a minimum as a result of the Better Broadband for Norfolk programme. Where this isn't possible or viable through the 'fibre to the cabinet' solution referenced above, we'll find other 'in-fill' solutions to make this happen.

Update 14 February 2014

It has started! The grass verges on one of the lanes to my house are being cabled up. This is about 1 km from my house. Lets hope it comes a lot closer. The blue string is encouraging. Looks like it is going a bit further on.

A rather blurred picture of a cable joint.


20 February The tops have been put on and sealed up. Here are the two promising-looking boxes.


Nothing else yet. The strange thing is that I can't see where the feed to the boxes is routed. No other verges have been dug up. Though there is a more direct route across fields to the exchange I haven't seen any work and wayleave would add to the cost. Perhaps the boxes go in first and then are connected back? Maybe the cable will run overhead on the existing poles?

I have taken another look at local phone poles and seen that some carry connectors like the ones below advertised by for repairs. The one in the ground shown above looks like a double-ended version. Perhaps OpenReach has been cabling up without me noticing? It seems that these things are called 'fibre optic splice closures'.


Update 26 April 2014

Looks like my skepticism was justified. All references to my area being connected have disappeared and just one village, different from the original ones, is now named as being connected by September 2014. Of course it might be that my installation is now almost ready so no longer listed. However for other areas the words 'BBfN has delivered better broadband to parts of ...' is included. No cabinet has appeared anywhere. Hi ho! Good job I've got the tooway satellite, now averaging at well over 11 Mbit/s.

Update 21 May 2014

Openreach is putting in some new telephone posts at the far end of the lane along which the signal should pass. Some rather heavy-looking cables have been strung further back. Tempting to think this might be a good sign. Still not back on the Bye Bye For Now er... Better Broadband for Norfolk page though.

Update 5 July 2014

I spotted a fault ticket dated January on a BT pole near to my house. Have they found the fault that has always been there and is this the reason for the delay?


Update 13 July 2014

Local opinion is veering towards us becoming one of the difficult areas that will be the few percent that is not economically viable. Naturally I hope not but being dropped off the plans suggests that this might be so. Let's see.

Update 26 July 2014

Things are starting to look very unpromising. Various technical news services tell us that local councils are becoming thoroughly disillusioned with the BDUK programme. You read things like 'the money just seemed to disappear' and 'even though we are next door to a connected area we look likely to be missed by current funding'. Why am I not surprised? It seems we can find countless thousands of millions for a high-speed railway line but not enough millions to connect everyone in the country with genuinely high-speed fibre. I suppose politician's mates will make money out of the railway but not the BT-led projects. Me, cynical? Don't politicians schemes always work?

Update 30 July 2014 from Computer Weekly

By the end of July 2013, 29 councils had already signed contracts with the telecoms firm and BDUK, BT and the local authority have details of where the fibre would reach – and where it would not.

However, little of the information about these locations has been published, keeping residents and businesses in the dark over whether they will have access and delaying smaller, local providers from deploying their own networks to bring superfast broadband to areas left out of the BDUK project.

Andrew Ferguson, editor of said: “Rural districts will not feature in the top 10 best broadband locations. These rural places will still be the poorer cousins to the bigger cities and this will undoubtedly have an impact on the growth of small businesses within these areas.”

“Many people have seen the repeated announcements about rural broadband investment. In reality, the pressure to ensure value for money and the limited pot of funding means the improvements are going on in areas where it is cheapest to provide the upgrades, rather than starting with the hardest and slowest areas.”

Shooting in the foot update 1 December 2014

BT and others have announced large increases in the monthly fee for landline rental. BT is disappointed in the rate of uptake for Fibre To The Cabinet services when eventually they are installed. It will be even lower now. I don't want a landline. Mobile and skype services do all that I need. When a landline was around £11 a month I might have tolerated paying for it. Not now. Taking monthly line rental and charges from a decent ISP together there would be little change left from the £40 I pay tooway. Tooway gives me just under 12 Mbit/s and this is rising steadily. I might well get less than that from fibre and I won't know till I sign a contract for a year.

Update 12 January 2015

This is the information that I just extracted from BBFN:

For information, a new pair of cabinets is planned for your area ... during the final phase of the rollout of the first Better Broadband for Norfolk contract (by the end of 2015). This is a more complex solution, as it involves re-routing existing copper lines to a new copper cabinet, which in turn is connected to a new fibre cabinet. Until the detailed design is complete, it's not possible to predict available speeds at individual properties.

Update 21 May 2015

A white van with Superfast Fibre Broadband in large letters on its side was parked by a post a couple of hundred metres away. BBFN tells me that more of this area will be up and running in September. This is what the post now looks like. I am sure there wasn't all that gubbins there before. And there is an undated notice.


Update 5 October 2015

Still nothing has happened. The following is an extract from an email conversation about satellite that I had with Karen O'Kane who is Programme Director of BBFN.

Me: My headline download speed is 20 Mbit/s. However this is usually only achieved during the night. During the day the speed varies a lot and can be as low as 1.5 Mbit/s. The average for 2015 is currently just over 9 Mbit/s but recently has been regularly below 5. You are not going to be able to provide even the modest 'superfast' of 24Mbit/s using satellite (unless you plan to launch your own satellite).There is a more serious problem. I pay £40 a month. For that I get only 20 Gbit data allowance. This is now lamentable. Higher limits are available but are much more expensive. I have to be very careful with downloads and updates and of course cannot use any video streaming services. For some companies the limit will be an even more serious problem.

Karen: The alternative technology scheme is being developed centrally as a solution for properties with access to less than 2 Mbps. The government has opted to approach this via a single scheme. Any public subsidy has to meet various European Union State Aid, and procurement rules. Satellite has been chosen as it fulfils the State Aid rules and formed part of the original procurement, it is also the only technology that can reach every property. It is not intended to provide Superfast solutions.

Me: This is a profound admission of the failure of the scheme. Just as you are about to contract for satellite it is becoming obsolete. The speed is poor and the data allowances unacceptable. Those who are at or just above the ludicrously low threshold of 2 Mbit/s won't even be offered satellite. The EU once again interferes in the way we want to manage our affairs. I would expect nothing less than this from a government with an obsessive hatred of anything publicly owned and paid for, however sensible and desirable. Thatcher might be dead but her poltergeist is still rattling the furniture.

Update 1 December 2015

No. Nothing about fibre yet of course. I got an interesting email from Derrick Mulvana, for which thanks. This is what it said " the new black box on the pole is a DACS unit.. an item to allow 2 (non broadband enabled) phone lines to use one copper pair. The A1024 tag is to indicate the A/C (aerial cable) has battery faults on it.. aka damaged cable." So at least two users in Bradfield are sharing a phone line! Interesting to know one of the coded messages used by OpenReach. 'Battery fault' means crummy line. Like 'Code Red' in Cabin Pressure.

Update 4 January 2015

Zilch. Nix. Nothing. Zero. Bugger all. Ho hum. Why am I not surprised? This notice appeared on a tree a couple of hundred metres away in the opposite direction to the wayside boxes. My translation is "Renew three spans [cable between posts?] using 20 pair aerial cable from post coded CP1 to post DP77." Thanks to Derrick for explaining AC. It's a recent date so maybe something is happening. I really must stop being optimistic. Must look for labels on the posts.



(C) Peter Scott 2013

Last edit 4 January 2016