Clearing up the EO broadband confusion

Trying to get information about the availability of super-fast broadband, through the programme publicly funded by the Scottish Government and its partners, is proving an almost impossible process.

Enquiries about the date when a particular property will be enabled are met with suggestions that you check the line checker, or with a bland statement that the aim of the scheme is to connect 95% of lines by 2018.

Still waiting for superfast broadband in Kintore

So, piecing together information from various sources, here is my understanding of the current status. It appears that around 1,500 homes in the Kintore area are now able to get fibre broadband. That leaves about 25% of homes still to be enabled.

One of the hold ups has been homes that are connected direct to the exchange. Fibre was initially enabled for those subscribers who are connected to the green distribution cabinets that are a common sight in the built-up areas of Kintore.

But, like many longer-established towns and villages, Kintore has a high proportion of direct connections, known as ‘Exchange Only’ or EO lines. As BT and OpenReach delight in telling us, these EO lines are technically more challenging. But, for those who live in the vicinity of the Kintore exchange, there is good news.

Three new cabinets have been completed for EO lines and a fourth is being built. As far as I can establish, these new cabinets will be installed at the Kintore exchange and the fibre broadband signal will then be sent to the premises using the existing copper wire telephone line.

But, if the premises are more than 1,200 metres from these cabinets, the losses incurred in the copper wire network will mean that there is effectively no speed benefit from fibre.

So, if like us, you are on an EO line outside that 1,200-metre radius, where does that leave you? This is where it gets even more confusing.

Last year we were told our line was likely to be enabled in January this year. When that did not happen, we made more enquiries and requested an indication of when fibre broadband would be available to us.

The replies were non-committal in the extreme.

  • We received repeated statements that the aim was to connect 95% of subscribers to fibre by 2018. (Thanks, we already knew that.)
  • Aberdeenshire Council, who are investing £16 million in the programme, seem unable to get any answers as to when, or even if we will be connected.
  • Even the Scottish Government, through enquiries to MSPs, were unable to provide any answers.

Just today, Scotland Superfast told us: “…there is work going on to connect EO lines in the KIntore area. However it is likely that rural properties that are some distance from Kintore are unlikely to benefit from this work as the distance between the property and the cabinet will be too great for there to be any speed increase by upgrading to fibre.” Then they referred us to… yes, you guessed it… the availability checker!

If you go to that availability checker all you get is the perennial message “technology pending”. But the technology to connect more remote EO lines not only exists, it appears to be already installed in parts of Aberdeen!

If you take the road from Clinterty across to the Five Mile Garage you will see fibre splitters, like the one pictured below, fixed to telephone poles around Rivehill and Clinterty.

broadband box - 1

So, can I suggest to Digital Scotland, BT and OpenReach, that – rather than confusing us – how about giving us some real information about the programme.

  • When will the pole-mounted fibre splitters start appearing in the rural areas around Kintore?
  • And approximately when can we expect our addresses to be enabled?

After all, between the Scottish Government and Aberdeenshire Council, there is a lot of our money invested in this programme.

On that basis alone we deserve to get some more informative answers.
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