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BT and B4RN lock superfast rural fibre broadband horns in Lancashire

The UK’s biggest ISP BT and grassroots project B4RN have locked horns over plans to deliver FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) broadband to rural Dolphinholme, Lancashire. 

BT has announced plans to make FTTP broadband available to customers connected to the exchange in the historic village. This would see residents able to sign up for a 300Mbps £50/month broadband service, recently announced by the retail arm of BT. 

Dolphinholme is also on the rollout map for B4RN, Broadband for the Rural North, a project that aims to bring 1Gbps fibre broadband speeds to 15,000 homes by 2019. So far, B4RN has connected four villages on its network capable of delivering 1Gbps broadband for £30/month. 

BT and B4RN lock superfast rural fibre broadband horns in Lancashire
‘I spy with my little eye…’

Read Recombu Digital’s guide to Rural BroadbandWhile it’s great that two next-gen fibre broadband networks will be breathing faster speeds into a remote corner of the country, there’s a problem regarding funding, specifically money that’s come from the government’s Broadband Delivery for the UK (BDUK) fund. 

BDUK money is to be spent on bringing superfast broadband speeds to areas where the likes of BT wouldn’t normally invest in for commercial reasons. These areas are the ‘NGA White’ (NGA stands for ‘Next Generation Access’) areas defined by local councils as areas where there is currently no ISP offering or planning to offer superfast services. 

A BT spokesperson told Recombu Digital: 

“Lancashire County Council conducted an open market review back in January, which found that Dolphinholme was in an NGA White area – meaning it had no reliable prospect of getting commercially funded fibre broadband within 3 years.” 

A spokesperson for B4RN disputes this, saying that work is taking place in the village imminently and the first customers can expect to get services by the end of the year. Additionally, B4RN’s spokesperson says that Lancashire County Council was aware of its intentions to deploy in Dolphinholme and says that NGA White status. 

A blog post on Computer Weekly, where this news first originated, suggests that BT’s plans to deploy future-proofed FTTP in an area where B4RN will roll out is anti-competitive. 

BT’s spokesperson rejected this outright, saying: “The suggestion that BT is deploying fibre broadband in Dolphinholme to block competition is untrue. Following the review, BT and Lancashire County Council included the village in plans for jointly funded fibre broadband access.” 

While some more cynical observers might suggest that BT has cherry picked this specific village for FTTP deployment, it’s not the only example of BT targeting a remote exchange for an FTTP upgrade. Recombu Digital understands that the Isfield exchange in East Sussex is to benefit from a similar upgrade under the Go e-Sussex BDUK project. In Superfast Cornwall, BT revealed that new light overhead fibre cables led to them bringing FTTP to locations where superfast rollout would otherwise not be viable. 

Regarding concerns that not everyone in Dolphinholme would get FTTP, BT added that planning is still in the early stages and that any suggestion that BT won’t provide FTTP to everyone is pure speculation. 

Note that whenever Openreach lists an exchange as being ready for FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) or FTTP, this doesn’t automatically mean that every house or premises connected can get fibre-based broadband. It’s often the case that premises are connected to the fibre footprint on a phased, rolling basis. 

SamKnows features accurate postcode data on exactly where FTTC and FTTP connections are available so residents should be able to piece together the rollout from here. 

Lancashire County Council has yet to provide any comment. 

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